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Seattle may get a renters' commission to advise City Council

Housing in the Yesler Terrace area.
KUOW Photo/Dominic Black

Just over half the households in Seattle are renters. And they may soon get a formal voice at City Hall.

Legislation to be introduced to the City Council this week would create a 15-member commission to advise on issues of development and affordability and represent tenant rights.

Zachary DeWolf is president of the Capitol Hill Community Council. He suggested the creation of a renters' commission. He said it would ensure tenants from diverse groups are given a seat at the table.

"When we talk about housing or affordability or upzones or density, we should include the folks who are renting using a section 8 voucher, who are renting and have a felony record — people that often their voices are not elevated in the discussion," DeWolf said.

DeWolf said minority groups are over-represented in the renter population in Seattle and often struggle to have their voices heard at City Hall. If someone works two jobs they don’t have time to show up to a City Council meeting in the middle of the day, he said.

Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Mike O’Brien and Tim Burgess are introducing the legislation.

Burgess said the views of renters are important when talking about development and affordability. But they also offer valuable opinions about other issues.

"Whether that's transportation or open space, education issues, public safety and health, all of those issues, they'll be able to engage and to give advice and council to the City Council and the mayor," Burgess said.

Burgess said the commission would be a purely advisory body; they won't have power to create or enforce legislation.

The legislation is expected to be introduced on Friday. 

Year started with KUOW: 2015