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New Law Will Require Landlords In This U.S. City To Report Rent Data

Car of the Rent is Too Damn High Party, which was active in New York City in the 2000s. The problem of unaffordable housing hasn't gone away since then, spurring renewed efforts for rent control.

One U.S. city has approved a controversial measure to acquire rental data as it works to combat the housing crisis affecting most metros.

The Seattle City Council approved a bill on Tuesday to require apartment landlords in the city to report the rent they charge, along with other fees and information about their properties, such as unit size and the number of bedrooms.

The legislation would require owners to furnish information to a city-selected research university, which hasn't yet been named, that would produce reports based on the data. The measure doesn't ask for the identities or other personal information about tenants.

The requirement will take effect when the city picks a university. Data collection probably won't start until next year, and the bill includes a provision to sunset by the end of 2025.

The bill passed narrowly in a 5-4 vote, with the members of the council voting against citing the unclear cost of the requirement, among other concerns.

Rental Housing Association of Washington organizer Daniel Bannon characterized the requirement as an “unnecessary burden,” The Seattle Times reports. He also said his organization is “concerned the data will be used to push an anti-density agenda.”

Advocates for the measure call it a way to deal with the problem of poor rental data in making housing policy.

“This is across cities throughout the country. No one really has this data unless they do one-off surveys,” James Young, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington, told the Seattle Times.

The center collects data about apartments in Washington state, but not specifically Seattle, and while private companies also collect some data, supporters of the measure call that inadequate.

Like many other U.S. cities, Seattle has long grappled with an affordable housing crisis. Nearly 46,000 households in the city spend more than half of their income on housing costs, according to a report released by the city in 2021. Since 2010, median home values in the city have shot up 80%, but median family income has increased 55%, the report says. 

Average rents have also increased faster than incomes in most parts of Seattle, with ZIP codes that had the lowest average rents in 2014 experiencing the fastest rent growth in the years following, the city found.

The bill would "efficiently fill a longstanding gap in data collection and analysis for Seattle’s rental housing inventory," Council Member Alex Pedersen, who sponsored the bill, said in a Tuesday council meeting, as reported by Center Square.

Pedersen further said that the requirement will generate several other benefits, including key data needed to measure and prevent economic displacement of existing residents.