Rent forgiveness without help to landlords is property theft

Socialist Seattle City Council Members Tammy Morales and Kshama Sawant proposed a resolution freeze rents and mortgages with no accumulation of back rent or debt.

Socialist Seattle City Council Member Tammy Morales and Marxist Council Member Kshama Sawant are proposing a resolution to place a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments with no accumulation of back rent or debt.

As reported by SCC Insight, “Morales has introduced a resolution for the Council to take up Monday afternoon that specifically asks Governor Inslee to place a moratorium on rent payments, and President Trump and the federal legislators to place a similar moratorium on mortgage payments”

The resolution specifically asks for:

SCC Insight goes on to note that these proposals are illegal:

“The request to suspend rent payments without accumulating back rent — essentially rent forgiveness — is unconstitutional on several accounts at both the federal and state level. At the federal level, it would be a property 'taking' without due process or compensation, a violation of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution if the federal government did it, and of the Fourteenth Amendment if the State of Washington did it. The Supreme Court has been clear that a regulation that deprives an owner of all economically beneficial use of her property — such as mandating free rent — is a government taking."

"It also violates Article I Section 16 of the Washington State Constitution — twice. That section contains the same requirements for just compensation as the US Constitution, but it also explicitly prohibits the taking of private property for private use.”

The Council has already expanded a winter eviction ban enacted earlier in the year. Now the Council is proposing extending that ban for 6 months after the Coronavirus emergency. Rather than the Council offering rent or mortgage vouchers to help make payments it has placed the onus of the financial burden on landlords. The assumption by the Socialists on the council being that property owners can afford to take a financial hit of no payment for an indefinite amount of time.

Property owners like active duty service men and women who rent out their homes while stationed abroad. Many property owners are retirees who live on rent from rental properties acquired over a lifetime. Property owners like families who rent their own basements and “mother in law” units to pay the bills.

As previously reported two-thirds of registered rental properties in Seattle are single unit properties, the majority of which are owned by small landlords. Councilmember Morales herself has a “mother in law” unit in her home which she is not renting out, or is operating as an unregistered rental.

Rather than trying to score cheap political points with their radical base and attempt to get some national press, the Seattle City Council could be enacting policies to help citizens mitigate the financial impacts of the crisis. Seattle could reduce or place a moratorium on payments to city owned utilities such as Seattle City Light and Water utility services.

The Council could have provided tax incentives to property owners in lieu of payment penalties for tenants in financial trouble. Programs such as Home Base at United way that provide emergency funds for tenants could have been adopted.

Property owners have already reported many phone calls from tenants citing the councils ruling and stating that they will not pay rent whether under financial hardship or not. Meanwhile the Council has not cut any line item of the recently passed record breaking Seattle budget. Seattle has even continued to send out Parking enforcement Officers despite the health risks from the Coronavirus.

On a more encouraging note, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced that Property Tax payments will be postponed from their usual April 30 due date to June King County budget. However, as the majority of property taxes pay for public schools and schools are no longer operating why can the city and county not offer tax relief to property owners instead?

According to the King County Budget, at an 11 percent reduction of the allocated line item based on the timeline laid out as the potential reopening of schools and the economy:

King County will spend $975,920 on Facilities Management Division Parking Facilities which few are using because people are telecommuting.

King County is planning on releasing prisoners due to the virus, so that would mean a reduction in Inmate Welfare for adults and jail health services $11,496,780. The Office of Equity and Social Justice with everyone staying home would save $448,140. The Office of Labor Relations when there is currently no labor $776,270. Since projects are on hold the line item of Equipment Rental and Revolving could save 27,145,000. The Historical Preservation Program could be on hold give that this is an international crisis and could save $1,179,000.

Since no one is at work and everyone is telecommuting there is no need for Motor Pool Equipment Rental and Revolving and could save $35,908,000. With all parks closed by the Governors order Parks and Recreation could save $5,334,340 same for the Parks Open Space and Trails Levy $8,500,250.

Mass Transit is still running. This week Washington State ferries reduced sailing times but buses and light rail are still on a regular schedule. Aside from the threat this poses in spreading the virus, as seen in New York, reducing services even only by half could save $104,691,400 Rideshare such as Government operated Via could make sure first responders and medical staff could commute safely.

Perhaps the biggest line item that could be trimmed is the budget for Dow Constantine, which totals $10,455,000. Perhaps since he can no longer go out to bars for late night rendezvous, money could be saved on security accompanying him.

Without going deeper into each line item of other categories, that is a minimum of $191,120,760 that could be used to offset rent and mortgage payments. That’s on top of $63,000,000 that could be easily trimmed from the Seattle budget and millions more from the Seattle Public School budget while they are no operating.

King County and Seattle politicians continue to operate the City and County budgets as normal while expecting local businesses and property owners to pay for their virtue signaling.