Because we got so many please forgive me if I didn't add all the details like address and phone numbers or your affiliation. I only did so with the folks representing groups that gave us explicit permission to list their organizations and endorsers of the letter.

Open Letter to Elected Leaders Regarding the Serious Problem of Condominium Conversions in our Region
(see page 2 for the many organizations and individuals co-signing this letter)

- A call to support and strengthen SB 5031 expanding cities' power to control condominium conversions

Dear Elected Leaders,

As community leaders and representatives of organizations from around the region, we are writing to urge elected leaders to give their strong support to SB 5031 that would expand the authority of local jurisdictions to control the continued loss of rental housing in their communities due to condominium conversions.  We also are writing to ask your support for additions to the bill to further strengthen it as a tool to minimize the effects of conversion on cities around the state.

First we want to say thank you to the sponsors of this bill who have introduced this important piece of legislation including Senators Jacobsen, Kline, and Murray.   SB 5031 would give cities the option to increase the amount of relocation assistance that owners shall pay to tenants when they are displaced due to conversion.

Currently state law bars cities from requiring relocation assistance in excess of $500.  That amount is well below actual costs of moving that tenants face when they are displaced. At minimum when you add up first and last months rent, damage and other deposits, plus the costs of finding and them moving to another unit (usually priced 200-300 dollars above what you were paying), it's not uncommon for displaced tenants in Seattle and King County to pay out of pocket costs exceeding $2500 - $3000.  These amounts are crippling to low income residents and retirees and may actually force a household into poverty or even homelessness. Senate Bill 5031 merely gives cities a "local option" to require developers undertaking conversion to share more of these actual moving expenses and thus mitigate this enormous hardship.

Senate Bill 5031 also extends the notice that tenants shall receive of a pending conversion from 90 to 120 days.  In cities around the region with very low vacancy rates and a near total absence of low income units, senior citizens, low income and working people absolutely need the additional time in which to find a comparable unit that is close to work, in a neighborhood of their choice, the proper size, and most of all "affordable". 

While SB 5031, as written, is an important step in the right direction, there are other even more important provisions we strongly believe must be added to the legislation.  In particular the bill must be amended to include provisions giving back to cities a local option to limit the total number of conversions occurring each year within their boundaries or in other ways the bill must expand the scope of city discretion when conditions warrant it.  For example in Washington DC, to stem an avalanche of conversions and the displacement of several thousand of its citizens, their legislation requires 50% of the tenants in an affected building to approve the conversion before it can occur.  In San Diego when a building is converted a portion of the converted units must be set aside at prices affordable to lower income households. The City of San Francisco allows only 200 units to be converted each year.  And in Seattle in 1979 - the last time our city was hit with record numbers of conversions - our city implemented an 18 month moratorium.  Now however our state law ties Seattle's hands. 

According to data released by Dupree and Scott and Seattle officials, Seattle and King County have had so many conversions, the number actually exceeds new rental units we are building. In other words, here in Seattle and all of King County since '05 we've actually seen a net decline in our rental housing stock despite near record levels of new construction - most going into condominium as opposed to rental construction.  In Seattle, since Jan. 05, we've lost over 3900 rental units to conversion. County-wide (King County) in 2005 alone, 4000 households lost their homes to conversion.  These are staggeringly high numbers given already low vacancy rates and high rents throughout Seattle, the County, and region. 

We cannot afford to lose so much of our affordable housing stock not without creating great hardship for so many - more homeless and lines that are months if not years long for subsidized housing. Senior citizens are especially hard hit by conversions. Cities experiencing this onslaught throughout the region, not just Seattle, must be able to do more than offer a few more dollars to the displaced should they choose to do so. They must be given broader authority at their discretion to regulate how many conversions can be absorbed in their city at any one time. 

Please give back to cities the authority they need to address this crisis - and it is a crisis - given how many who are affected. Please support SB 5031 and additions we have proposed above to the bill.  Thank you.

Organizations formally endorsing this letter include:

Seattle-King County Coalition for the Homeless (SKCCH)

Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition (WROC)

Seattle Alliance for Good Jobs for Everyone (SAGE)

A Phillip Randolph Institute Seattle Chapter (APRI-Seattle Chapter)

Community Coalition for Environmental Justice (CCEJ)

National Healthcare for the Homeless Council (NHHC)

Real Change (RC)

Seattle Displacement Coalition (SDC)

Tenants Union (TU)

Puget Sound Alliance for Senior Citizens (PSASC)

Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness (ITFH)

Institute for Washington Futures (IWF)

Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI)

Lutheran Public Policy Office (LPPO)


Sally Clark Seattle City Councilmember

Nick Licata Seattle City Councilmember

Maggie Famia Shoreline City Councilmember

 Community Leaders:

Nicole Macri (SKCCH)

Alison Eisinger (SKCCH)

Tamara Brown  (SKCCH)

Sharon Lee (LIHI)

Brianna Thomas

Gary Clark

Sinan Demirel

Shannon Bean

Paul Benz (LPPO)

Siobhan Ring (TU)

Heather D. Evans

John McLaren

Avery M. Guest

Carla Bueno

Nancy Dorman

Phillapa Nye

Roberta Nelson

Paul Loeb

Ken Kraybill

Allen Cohn

Chris Gordon Owen

Thomas P. Owen

Phil Bereano

Martin I. Kaplan

Seeley L. Kaplan

Jennifer Dee

Jan Brucker

Mary Lou Barian

Matt Fox

Shulamit Decktor

Sarajane Siegfriedt

Paull Dunn

Joe R. Wall

Gene Hoglund

Clarence S. Ellington-Kapoi

Sally Kinney (IFTH)

Bill Kirlin-Hackett (IFTH)

John V. Fox (SDC)

Bette Joe Reid (PSASC)

Will Perry (PSASC)

Carolee Colter (SDC)

David C. Bloom (SDC)

Rita Selin

Dic Selin

Edyth C. Koch

Thalia Syracopoulos

Emily H. Abbey

Ishbel Dickens

Dierdre Gauff

Marsha Shaiman

Jane Deer

Dorli Raini

J. M. Gallagher

Barbara Wiley

Rachael Myers (RC)

Kate Villereal (CCEJ)

Verlene Jones (APRI-Seattle)

Jean Colman (WROC)

Barbara J. Marino

David C. Yao

Syd Fredrickson

Jim Diers

Bob Barnes

Pastor Clarence I. Lund

Maryann C. Lund

Tim Crowley

Bill Singer

Maureen Bo

Polly K Jirkovsky

Jerome N. Wilson

John Lozier NHCHC

Ann Hirschi

Cathy Dampier

Lila Kitaeff

George P. Hickey

Elena Perez

Margaret Casey

Scott McClay

Herbert Curl Jr.

Jef Jaisan

Pastor Erik R. Wilson Weiberg

Sunil Aggerwal

Christal Wood

Sally Knodell

Valerie Trublood Rapport

Bruin Christopher Runyan

Maryann Lund

Kevin Fullerton (IWF)

Jennifer Earl

Shirley A. Doolittle-Egerdahl

Ginny N. NiCarthy

Kathryn Obermeyer

Michael Canup

Andrew Walden

Geoff Cole

Joan Truskoff

Lou Truskoff

Nadya Zawaideh

William Logen Elder

Lyndsey Runyan

Elana Dix (SAGE)

Patricia S. Pitts

Ann Ballard

Hester J. Angus

Katrina R. Elliot

Amelie C. Canaday

Susan Bannon

Regina Owens

John Barber

Sarah Marie Johnson

Dorothy Gordon

Lynn Sereda

Patricia Ann

Meg Gallagher

Jessi Vernon

Chelsee M. Crisostomo-Slemp

Ryan Courtney

Aaliyan Gupta

Dick Nelson

Jennifer L. Mamary

Katherine Augustin

Kraig A. Schwartz

Chris LaRoche

A. Malaika Lafferty

Christine Lea

Amy A. Kikliter

Trevor Griffey

Scott Pinegar

Katherine Carter

Kristin Covey

KL Shannon

Don Hopps (IWF)

Scott Species

The Rev. Patricia Taylor

Mark Pomerantz

Steven G. Casteel

Wayne Quinn

Phyllis E. Knowles

Mort Shafer

Joe Doney

Bailey Neider

Jennifer M. Schladweiler

Debra Wood
Stephen Hale
Carolyn Hale
Erin Rants
Virginia M. Paulsen
Martin Friedman
Steve Leigh
William Chandler Briggs
Kathleen B. Thode
Ref Lindmark
Brie Gyncild
Autumn Knowlton
Stefanie Brendler
Jackie L. Dempere
Ann H. Smith
Patricia E. Watts
Rebecca Em Campbell 
Joe Martin
Kris Weber
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