Dispatches, Local Politics

DSA scores a partial victory! Governor freezes rent & extends eviction moratorium


Did you hear the exciting news? It’s not every day that socialists score a victory. But the economic crisis unleashed by the coronavirus has created a completely new political situation where it is now easier to pressure politicians.

Under pressure from the economic crisis, and after weeks of DSA and other housing justice organizations signing petitions, writing letters, and calling the governor’s office, on April 16, the governor announced he is implementing some of the policies that we’ve been demanding.

Activists from 6 DSA chapters across Washington state collectively came up with these 5 housing demands:

  1. Suspend rent collection / Forgive rent 
  2. Extend the eviction moratorium by 6 months
  3. Ban landlords from charging late fees
  4. Take vacant housing into public ownership to house people experiencing homelessness.
  5. To support long-term tenant stability, lift the state rent control ban and enact Just Cause tenant protections.

On April 10, over 100 activists across the state organized by DSA and the Tenants Union of WA zapped the governor’s office with phone calls throughout the day, leaving over 268 voicemails and talking to at least 64 staffers. The Governor’s office had large hold times and needed additional staff to handle the overflow calls. Two staffers responded by changing their lines to forward directly to the Governor’s office.

Washington Community Action Network, Tenants Union of WA and other tenants unions, Socialist Alternative, and other groups collected petition signatures and applied pressure on the governor, too. Here is what Governor Inslee agreed to on April 16th:

  1. He extended the eviction moratorium by 7 weeks, which is a positive step forward for renters. However, it is not the full 6-month extension DSA is demanding.
  2. The governor did not agree to our main demand — to suspend rent collection.  The Stranger explains: “One of the biggest issues with [the] eviction moratorium is that it does not stop rental payments. It just means you can’t be evicted. Debt will still accrue. People will still be responsible for their monthly payments as they go who-knows-how-long without actually earning an income.”  Inslee’s proclamation also requires landlords to offer tenants “a reasonable repayment plan to enforce any collection of that debt.” However, the langage “a reasonable repayment plan” is very vague and will be exploited by many landlords.
  3. The governor banned landlords from charging late fees and any other fees associated with paying rent until June 4. So we won this demand for seven weeks!
  4. The governor also banned rent hikes until June 4. So we won this demand for seven weeks, too!  The Governor Inslee just enacted rent control for seven weeks, though we need rent control for much longer than seven weeks.
  5. Governor Inslee has so far ignored our demand to take vacant housing into public ownership to house people experiencing homelessness.

In summary, the governor (who is a Democrat working alongside a Democrat-controlled legislature) agreed to our smaller demands, such as banning late fees. But he continues to ignore our more far-reaching demands such as rent suspension/forgiveness. But it is precisely these bolder measures which are desperately needed by people experiencing homelessness and millions of workers who have just been thrown out of work or had their hours slashed.

Our campaign is making progress, but now we need more people to join DSA and we need to step up the struggle!

In this unprecedented crisis, we need an unprecedented response.  We need to continue demanding that Governor Inslee implement the rest of our demands:

  1. Provide rent forgiveness for 6 months, not just 7 weeks
  2. Extend the eviction moratorium for an additional 4 months, not just 7 weeks
  3. Provide mortgage relief to small landlords with state subsidies, based on proven need

Please sign up now for a shift in our next phone zaps between 9 am – 4:30 pm this Monday, April 20 and Friday, April 24!

Seattle DSA wants to give a big shout-out to the other 5 DSA chapters across the state who contributed to this effort in Tacoma, Snohomish County, Whatcom County, Spokane, and Olympia! Collective action works!

This whole Covid-19 crisis has revealed that a market system is not a rational way to provide healthcare and housing.  Essential goods and services need to be taken out of the hands of private speculators and the profit system because we all benefit as a society when everybody’s basic needs are met.

Let us join together to end the capitalist response to Covid-19 which is revealing and deepening class, gender, and racial inequalities. Let us transition to a democratic socialist society, and let’s start with a Green New Deal, a jobs guarantee, housing and food stability, and a massive investment program paid for by the super-rich.

To do this, we need to ask more people to join DSA and get actively involved.  Please forward this exciting news to your community now.  Again, please sign up now for a shift in our next phone zaps this Monday and Friday.  And please donate to DSA to support our work.

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