Politics
An RV in Ballard submitted to Seattle's Find It, Fix It app in 2016.
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An RV in Ballard submitted to Seattle's Find It, Fix It app in 2016.
Credit: Obtained from Seattle Finance and Administrative Services through an open records request

Crack down on RV landlords? Seattle lawmakers reservations

Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan wants to crack down on the landlords of broken down RVs.

Seattle is trying to stop people from "RV ranching" — that's the term for predatory landlords renting out ramshackle RVs on city streets, moving them every few days to avoid the meter maid.

On Wednesday, a city council committee looked at a draft bill proposed by Mayor Jenny Durkan.

The bill proposes fining RV landlords $250 a day for the first offense, charge them with a misdemeanor for subsequent offenses, and make them pay to relocate tenants.

The mayor’s bill does not create more housing or shelter space, however, which irked the three city council members who showed up to consider the bill.

They said they were not convinced it was the right solution. The crux of their argument: What happens to the homeless occupants if those RVs are removed from the streets?

“This is a public safety hazard to have folks living outside,” Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said at the Wednesday meeting of the Finance and Neighborhoods Committee.

“I don’t know that this bill is the right ‘vehicle’ for addressing the concern out there,"' she said. "I’m still not sure how it helps those individuals who are living in that situation."

Homeless people rent the RVs as a last resort. Unlike many shelters, it allows them to store their belongings and stay with a partner.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said she was concerned about sending the RV tenants back on the street to live in tents or on cardboard boxes.

“As much as I hate having these RVs out there," she said, "if we don’t have places to put people, we’re just stirring the pot. We haven’t solved the problem.”

Seattle estimates that a handful of landlords are responsible for most of the extremely damaged RVs.

“To the extent that there are bad actors out there in this business, the best way to drive them out of business is to provide a better product,” Councilmember Mike O’Brien said.

“That’s going to be permanent housing or good shelters that are more affordable, like, free," he said.

A new law would have to go before the full city council. Council members say they’ll take another look at the bill after Labor Day.