Seattle demands landlords keep vacant properties pristine even as tenants flee
( Post Millennial )
Amid spiking crime and squalor in Seattle, the city council is preparing to lay the blame and expense for their failed policies on landlords with empty properties. The council is set to vote on Council Bill 120622, which would increase standards on empty properties as part of the city's Vacant Building Monitoring Program and amend the city’s building safety and maintenance standards in order to increase standards for securing vacant buildings. After losing a tenant and having no rent coming in on a property, landlords will now be required to add the expense of upgrading the buildings to have reinforced deadbolts, and even polycarbonate sheets instead of plywood. Landlords would also be required to keep vacant buildings free of graffiti in a city where graffiti is defacto legal. The new legislation would require any building that receives a violation notice to be entered into the Vacant Building Monitoring Program and authorize the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections to file a property lien to collect unpaid vacant building monitoring fees and abatement costs. This would be followed by monthly inspections of vacant buildings for compliance. Approximately 75 percent of properties enrolled in vacant building monitoring are in the redevelopment process, according to a director’s report on the legislation. However, landlords who wished to remain anonymous told The Post Millennial that their properties are vacant due to tenants fleeing the high cost of doing business in the city, taxes and rampant crime. Since the council began defunding the police department during the riots that rocked the city in 2020, an analysis by The Center Square revealed that the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections has reported a 41 percent increase in unsecured vacant buildings, increasing from 281 in 2021 to 396 in 2022. The number of secured vacant buildings with violations spiked 57 percent from 480 in 2021 to 753 in 2022 and the department expects those numbers to beat last year’s totals. Additionally, fee collections have fallen from 57 percent in 2019 to 37 percent in 2022 which has been partially blamed on leniency during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the report, “Because the monitoring program is largely fee supported, nonpayment represents a financial risk to the program.” The squalor has become widespread on major thoroughfares such as Rainier Avenue in South Seattle, located in one of the country’s most diverse zip codes. Empty lots that were formerly thriving businesses that are now shuttered stretch for blocks. Each property followed a similar pattern of vagrants moving onto the property, the empty structure burned to the ground, and an encampment formed on the property before being ultimately evicted by landlords who then bulldozed and fenced the remnants. Seattle Democrat Mayor Bruce Harrell, who lives in the district, proposed the ordinance in August 2023 and on Monday it was approved by the Seattle Land Use Committee of which Tammy Morales, Seattle city council member is the Vice chair. The legislation will be sent to the full city council for a final vote on Sept. 26.