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Washington lawmakers look for ways to exit the eviction moratorium — and prevent the fallout

Published on February 8, 2021

Houses at the corner of 23rd and Yesler, Squire Park / Central District, Seattle, Washington.
Houses at the corner of 23rd and Yesler, Squire Park / Central District, Seattle, Washington. Image Credit: Joe Mabel (CC ASA 3.0)

Nearly a year after Gov. Jay Inslee stopped evictions for failure to pay during the pandemic, lawmakers now find themselves attempting to unwind an experiment of their own making.

Both Republicans and Democrats are looking for a way to end the eviction moratorium while staving off what some predict could be a “tsunami” of evictions once it is lifted.

They are split on how to do so. Some lawmakers have proposed a suite of bills that could immediately ease the growing financial burdens of renters. Other lawmakers seek to permanently reshape the balance of power between tenants and landlords.

In a remote legislative session with a cascade of funding needs, lawmakers may struggle to pass dramatic reforms. But funding bills like those raising money for rent assistance could stay in play through the end of the session.

Lawmakers should focus on quickly shoring up tenants and landlords who are behind because of the pandemic, not on permanent changes to the eviction process, said Kyle Woodring, who represents the Rental Housing Association.

Yet advocates warn that returning to the old way of doing things in the aftermath of a pandemic could usher in a wave of homelessness and instability for years to come. The bills are also a chance to address long-standing racial inequities in evictions, said Michele Thomas of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.

“This is an opportunity to say we’re not just going to get back to the status quo; we have to get to something better,” Thomas said.

Advocates and some legislators say that the pandemic has created a chance to fix evictions’ extreme and disparate impact on people of color.

University of Washington review of eviction data across the state found that in King County, one in 11 Black adults were named in an eviction filing between 2013 and 2017. In Pierce County, the rate was one in six.

“If you want to go back to business as usual, you’re talking about extremely excessive eviction rates among Black and brown households, increases in homelessness and declines in affordable housing,” said Tim Thomas, lead author of the study and now research director at the Urban Displacement Project at the University of California, Berkeley.

Continue reading at the Seattle Times.

Originally written by Sydney Brownstone and Heidi Groover for the Seattle Times.
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