Thursday, March 06, 2008

Condo Conversion Legislation Passes Senate


Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Richard J. McIver expressed delight today that the Washington State Senate passed a new law to help renters whose apartments are converted to condominiums. Councilmember Rasmussen, who has worked on the issue for three years, said, “Seattle is experiencing unprecedented loss of apartments and displacement of renters due to conversion of apartments to condominiums. The Legislature has recognized this crisis and given local government greater ability to help low income renters who must move.” Now the Washington State House of Representatives, which earlier passed a slightly different version of the law, must pass a concurring bill before the close of this year’s legislative session. Councilmember Rasmussen said, “We encourage the House to take quick action to concur with the Senate version of this bill.” Councilmember McIver, chair of the Housing and Economic Development Committee, said, “These are much needed, very important protections for tenants.” The new legislation, Substitute House Bill 2014, will strengthen the ability of local jurisdictions to help low-income renters with the costs of moving. Under the old law, low-income renters received $500. Under the new law, local governments set the amount of relocation assistance that property owners/developers are required to provide that can now be up to three times a tenant’s current monthly rent. Councilmember McIver said, “It’s imperative that the City Council take action as quickly as possible to determine what the actual amount of tenant relocation assistance will be.” The new law will increase the notice of impending conversions from the current 90 days to 120 days. In addition, the new law will prohibit conversion construction until all tenants have vacated the property. In Seattle, over 5,900 apartments have been converted to condominiums since 2004. Seattle has experienced a net loss in rental housing during the last several years.

Councilmember Rasmussen first learned of Seattle’s condo conversion crisis when he was contacted by Capitol Hill resident and noted author Carole Glickfeld three years ago. Glickfeld said, “Councilmember Rasmussen was the first public official who really went to bat over this issue. I really appreciate his efforts over the last three years. This is more proof that when Seattleites need help, they can count on city government to respond.”

Councilmember Rasmussen thanked the legislation’s sponsors in Olympia including Seattle’s own State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Senate Consumer Protection and Housing committee chair, Senator Brian Weinstein as well as Senators Darlene Fairley and Ken Jacobsen who were early supporters of this legislation. Councilmember Rasmussen said, “I am very pleased that state and local public officials were able to come together and take action on behalf of renters who need our help.”

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