Tenant Protections for Survivors of DV and Roommates; KC Metro Examining Potential Bus Reroutes, Testing Thursday; Senior and Disabled Persons Property Tax Exemption Income Level Raised; Delridge Comp Plan Amendments; Want to Name a Park?

Tenant Protections for Survivors of DV and Roommates

This week we had a first discussion in Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee on legislation I’ve sponsored to protect survivors of domestic violence from being held liable for damages incurred by an abuser, and to protect roommates and family members from categorical housing denials and evictions. I have been working closely with advocates with Washington Community Action Network and the Housing Justice Project to draft and advance this legislation.

Both of these bills were identified as priorities in the “Losing Home,” report. In several places, the report shows how domestic violence (DV) is often a “precursor to housing instability, especially for women” who may fall behind on rent after missing work due to domestic violence, or experience a change in income after reporting and/or separating from an abuser.

Another financial impact that survivors of DV face is outstanding costs of damages to a unit; under current law, tenants are responsible for paying for all damages, even if it was caused as a result of domestic violence, and outstanding debt due to damages can impact a persons’ credit and rental history, creating another barrier for survivors to leave a DV situation. Council Bill 119598 seeks to change that by prohibiting a landlord from holding a survivor liable for damages to the unit so long as:

  • They are provided written documentation that the tenant or household member was a victim of DV, and that the damage was caused by a perpetrator of DV;
  • The documentation is signed by a qualified third party and describes:
    • the time, date, and location of the act of DV that resulted in property damage occurred;
    • a brief description of act of DV that resulted in property damage; and
    • that the tenant or household member informed the qualified third party the name of the perpetrator; and
  • The tenant or household member informed the qualified third party of the name of the perpetrator of the act of domestic violence and property damage.

The top goal of this legislation is to ensure that survivors of DV aren’t held liable for damages related to the circumstances of their abuse. It makes more explicit the protections under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)—public housing organizations like the Seattle Housing Authority follow VAWA by explicitly prohibiting denial, termination, or eviction against people on the basis of being a survivor. The issue of liability during incidents of DV in rental housing also has precedence in the state legislature—current statewide protections permit a survivor to terminate a tenancy within 90 days of an incident of abuse without penalty.

That said, the ability to determine who should be held responsible for damages to a unit is still important to work out. As it’s currently written, the legislation doesn’t require that the name of the perpetrator be disclosed to a landlord so as not to put the survivor at risk of retribution. That said, if a landlord does have the name of perpetrator, they can seek recourse for damages. We are looking to see if this bill can create a path that facilitates the ability of a landlord to pursue damages against the perpetrator.

CB 119606 prohibits a landlord from limiting the number of people residing in a rental unit to fewer than the legal occupancy limit established by local, state, or federal law. The bill requires any rental agreement to allow occupancy by:

  • A tenant;
  • A tenant’s family or household members;
  • One additional person who is not a tenant’s family or household member; and
  • The additional person’s family and household members.

In a high rent environment, living with roommates and family members is necessary to help renters make rent and afford other expenses like food, health care, childcare, transportation, etc. The 2019 National Low Income Housing Coalition report shows that the average housing wage (what a tenant needs to make to afford a rental unit at fair market rate) is $36.52 for a 2-bedroom home in Seattle-Bellevue area. This is more than twice the minimum wage.

I appreciate how this bill ensures that our private housing market can be inclusive diverse household compositions. A constituent who came to testify in support spoke to the need to care for aging and disabled family members while renting—with this legislation they won’t have to worry about being denied from a home so long as they can meet their obligations as a lease-holder.

This bill also restricts a landlord from imposing additional screening criteria when a household member or roommate is added to the household, and protects the remaining tenants’ authority to bring on additional roommate(s) if one or more spaces of the legal occupancy is vacated.

KC Metro Examining Potential Bus Reroutes, Testing Thursday

On Thursday, August 14 King County Metro will reroute buses from Downtown to West Seattle that currently travel on 1st Avenue.

This will apply to southbound service on the 21 Express, 37, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125 and the RapidRide C Line, from 5 a.m. on Thursday to 5 a.m. on Friday.

There will be a temporary bus stop on the 2nd Avenue Extension South between Main and Washington. The bus will not travel on 1st Avenue, and so won’t use the stop at King Street.

Here’s a link to Metro’s notice, which notes, “The data we collect will be compared against current routing and last week’s temporary reroute and used to determine options to improve pathways during the “Seattle Squeeze.” Their post also provides information re: frequently asked questions.

Thank you to KC Metro for doing this. SDOT has completed the work on signal timing on 1st Avenue they committed to.

Last Monday Metro noted the work on 1st Avenue, and said, re: moving the buses on to a different pathway (e.g. 4th Avenue) “these measures would be difficult and costly to renew and maintain for an extended time.”  After seeing that I sent a letter to the Mayor requesting information about how much this would cost; the letter quotes from bus riders who e-mailed me about their experiences with long delays.

The letter further asked the Mayor to consult with the Fire Chief whether traffic conditions on 1st Avenue affect the ability of the Fire Department to provide timely fire life/safety response in the Pioneer Square neighborhood.

You can sign up for KC Metro bus alerts here; once you sign up you can select which bus routes you’d like to receive notices for.

Here’s a link to background about my earlier requests to SDOT, including  regarding a bus lane in 2018, and re: using 4th Avenue in April.

Senior and Disabled Persons Property Tax Exemption Income Level Raised

Earlier this year the state legislature passed legislation that will make more seniors and disabled person eligible for property tax exemptions in 2020. The legislation went into effect on July 28.

The legislation required the State Department of Revenue to update income eligibility thresholds in each county in the state beginning August 1, 2019, and every fifth year thereafter (listed as Income Threshold 3 in the 2020-2024 chart).

For 2019 taxes the income threshold for eligibility was $40,000; for 2020 taxes in King County the eligibility level will be $58,423.

The King County Assessor webpage notes that applications for 2020 taxes will be available in January; you can sign up for the list to receive information here.

The Assessor notes that only 1 in 100 qualified senior and disabled persons have registered for the program, so if you think you might be eligible please go to the KC Assessor’s webpage about exemptions (which includes information about deferrals as well).

After taking office, I heard about a desire for property tax relief from numerous seniors in District 1; it can affect people’s ability to remain in their homes.

The City’s 2017 State Legislative Agenda spoke in general terms about affordability for seniors, but after hearing from numerous seniors in District 1, I wanted to include more specific language.

So I worked with the City’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations to add a specific request to the City’s 2018 State Legislative Agenda: “The City supports reviewing and updating the eligibility requirements under the property tax exemption for senior citizens and disabled persons.” It was also included in the 2019 State Legislative Agenda.

Many thanks for 45th District Senator Dhingra and other co-sponsors for work on this very important legislation.

Delridge Comp Plan Amendments

At Monday’s Full Council meeting one of the actions we took was to pass a resolution to identify possible amendments for further study for the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan – this process is known as docketing.  The Council included in that resolution, attachment A, which proposes a number of changes intended to enhance the Delridge Neighborhood plan, and requests recommendations from the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) and the Seattle Planning Commission including:

  • Increasing usage of parks, trails and cultural/recreational facilities by engaging historically underrepresented communities in the planning process;
  • Coordinating with community members and supporting Delridge Community Center, the Southwest Teen Life Center and Youngstown Cultural Arts center to provide culturally supportive programming;
  • Reduce pollution and stormwater impact to Longfellow Creek by with Natural Drainage Systems in the public ROW;
  • Increase sidewalks, implement the Pedestrian Master Plan, and engage in ST3 station planning focused on transit-oriented development efforts;
  • Increase opportunities to access affordable healthy food, and support urban farming and education; and
  • Use the RSJI toolkit when scoping capital projects and programming and emphasize inclusive engagement efforts to increase access for communities of color, immigrants, refugees, Native people, people living on low incomes, youth and limited-English proficient individuals in Delridge in planning process.

This is a step following up on the passage of the North Delridge Action Plan Resolution, which I wrote about here last April. The City’s Comprehensive Plan is typically updated once a year and those updates derive from the docketing process. The adoption of attachment A means that OPCD will complete an environmental review and recommendations of the proposed amendments, and Council then moves forward with the adoption of amendments in the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan.

Want to Name a Park?

Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) is inviting the public to submit potential names for the new park which will be located at 48th and Charlestown. SPR originally purchased this property in 2014 and anticipate the new park will be completed by 2021. You can find more information about the park here.

There is a Parks Naming Committee which is comprised of one representative designated by the Board of Park Commissioners; one by the Chair of the City Council Civic Development, Public Assets and Native Communities Committee; and one by the Parks Superintendent. Naming criteria for the park can be found here. All names will be considered by the Committee who will make a recommendation to the Parks Superintendent who will have the final say.

If you would like to submit a name for the park you need to do so by Friday, October 18, 2019. It is requested that you please include an explanation of how your suggestion matches the naming criteria. Send to:

Seattle Parks and Recreation, Parks Naming Committee
100 Dexter Ave. N, Seattle, WA 98109

or by e-mail to Paula Hoff

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