Seattle mayor permits winter eviction ban to become law

SEATTLE -- Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is allowing the City Council’s measure to stop some residential winter evictions to become law. The mayor, meanwhile, is proposing that the city spend an additional $200,000 on eviction prevention services next winter.

Durkan opposed the moratorium promoted by Councilmember Kshama Sawant and could have vetoed the legislation that won unanimous council approval Feb. 10. But the council could have voted to override her veto.

The mayor returned the legislation to the City Clerk without her signature, allowing it to become law. Durkan argued in a news release Tuesday her proposal to increase funding for prevention services would do more good.

The city’s $200,000, combined with about $500,000 in private donations, could help an eviction prevention program such as United Way’s Home Base serve an additional 150 households next winter, Durkan said. That’s about how many evictions are enforced during the winter in Seattle.

“If City Council wants to accomplish our shared goals to prevent winter evictions, then they should pass a bill to actually help people facing winter evictions,” Durkan said.

The council's moratorium pauses evictions between, Dec. 1 and March 1 by providing tenants covered by the ban with a defense in court.

Supporters have said the ban is needed to prevent people from being forced outside in the cold, adding that the evictions disproportionately affect women, black and brown people.

Some other U.S. jurisdictions restrict evictions during bad weather but Seattle is the first U.S. city to adopt such a broad ban, city councilors said.

Critics said landlords need eviction power during the winter so they can pay their bills and urged city leaders to reduce evictions by connecting needy tenants with rent assistance.

The legislation applies to tenants who fall behind on their rent and to tenants accused of violating certain lease terms.

Renters who engage in criminal activity, cause nuisances or engage in behavior that makes their neighbors unsafe are exempted from eviction ban.

Sawant said she will support the mayor’s proposal for additional funding, arguing the push to ban winter evictions put pressure on Durkan to take action.