Property Rights

Seattle Bans Landlords From Screening "Qualified" Tenants

The city's goal is to curb "unconscious bias." But the policy is based on dangerous premises, and is likely to harm tenants more than it benefits them.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Seattle, Washington.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, a pro-property rights public interest law firm, recently filed a lawsuit challenging a Seattle law that forbids landlords from picking and choosing among potential tenants. The purpose of the new regulation is to combat implicit or subconscious bias by landlords:

Seattle is apparently breaking new ground by requiring landlords in the city to rent their housing units to qualified applicants on a first-come, first-served basis….

The goal is to ensure prospective renters are treated equally, according to Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who championed the policy. When landlords pick one renter among multiple qualified applicants, their own biases — conscious or unconscious — may come into play, she says….

Proponents of the policy hope it will reduce discrimination.

Ann LoGerfo, a directing attorney with Columbia Legal Services who pushed for the policy, offered an example: A landlord with two qualified applicants picks a name he associates with his own ethnicity, rather than a name that sounds foreign to him.

Deliberate discrimination on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, religion, and related classifications is already forbidden by state and federal laws, such as the Fair Housing Act of 1968. But the Seattle law, in an attempt to combat subconscious discrimination, would eliminate landlords' ability to choose among potential tenants to a vastly greater extent. If an applicant meets minimal criteria, he or she must be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, even if there are other applicants who have much better qualifications.

It is surely true that landlords sometimes engage in subconscious discrimination. Indeed, the same is true of a wide range of people engaging in all kinds of transactions. It does not follow, however, that eliminating landlord choice is the right answer. Doing so is likely to harm tenants more than it benefits them. If landlords cannot rank potential tenants based on factors such as reliability, credit history, their treatment of previous rental properties, and so on, the predictable result is that they will either put fewer properties on the market to begin with, charge higher rent, increase security deposits, or some combination of these and other measures that make rental housing more costly. This likely to be particularly true of landlords who own properties in poor and minority neighborhoods, where landlords believe the risk of nonpayment or other problems is likely to be unusually high.

Obviously, landlords' decisions about potential tenants are sometimes misguided, both because of unconscious bias and for other reasons. But if there is a substantial population of tenants whose reliability current landlords are underestimating, that's a potentially valuable profit opportunity for wiser landlords or new entrants into the housing market. Cities can strengthen such beneficial competition (and otherwise make housing more easily available to the poor and lower middle class) by reducing zoning restrictions that make it difficult to build new homes and massively inflate the cost of housing in many cities. Seattle itself is one of the best examples of this phenomenon. If the city wants to increase housing opportunities for minorities and the poor, it should cut back on zoning rather than adopt regulations that are likely to make rents even higher than is already the case.

The Seattle law illustrates an important downside of trying to use government regulation to offset the subconscious cognitive biases of the private sector: there is little, if any reason to believe that voters and politicians are less biased than the people whose behavior they are trying to regulate. Much of the time, they are likely to be more so. Because the chance that any one vote will make a difference in an election is extremely small, voters have very little incentive to combat their biases, and often instead act as "political fans" who evaluate information in highly prejudiced ways. Politicians are not much better. In the case of Seattle, political leaders, likely influenced by ideological bias, have adopted a policy that is likely to harm the very people it is supposed to help.

By contrast, landlords and other market participants are likely to lose money if they let their decisions be influenced by irrational bias. That does not mean they will always avoid such influence; far from it. But their incentives to do so are much stronger than those of politicians and voters. Relying on the political process to cure cognitive biases will often lead to more biased decision-making rather than less.

At this point, it is difficult to say whether the PLF lawsuit against the Seattle policy will succeed or not. Their landlord clients' main claim is that the new law is a "taking" of landlords' property that requires compensation. Such a claim would likely fail under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Current Supreme Court precedent (which, in my view, is misguided) makes it very difficult for property owners to prove that a regulation counts as a taking unless it has destroyed virtually all of the property's economic value. However, the case against Seattle is being litigated under the Washington state constitution, which state courts have interpreted as giving stronger protection for property owners. The motion for summary judgment drafted by PLF discusses the relevant precedent.

Whether or not Seattle's policy is illegal, it potentially sets a dangerous precedent. If the state can impose severe restrictions on liberty and property rights in order to curb subconscious bias, there would be few meaningful limits to its power. Very few if any types of decisions are completely free of cognitive errors of this type. They can occur in almost any economic or social transaction.

UPDATE: In the original version of this post, I should have noted that the Seattle law does allow landlords to set initial minimal criteria for potential tenants seeking to rent a given property. But once the criteria are set, the landlord must take all "qualified" tenants on a first-come, first-served basis. I have revised the post to make this clear, and also altered the title to that effect.

UPDATE #2: In principle, landlords could eliminate most questionable tenants by setting the initial minimal qualifications very high (e.g.—requiring a perfect credit rating or the like). But aside from risking leaving apartments empty, this would tend to screen out a disproportionate number of poor and minority renters—precisely the population that the Seattle law is supposed to help.

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  1. Man! Now I feel bad for people who own property in Seattle. As the law professors says here, they sure have got it rough!

    1. Not every landlord is Mr. Potter you know. Even if they were, they still deserve fair treatment.

      There are many landlords who depend on their profits to feed their families and send their kids to college.

      1. And depend on the rent to pay the mortgage, taxes and repairs.

        1. Yup, they got it super rough. Professor Somin is shining a light on this human rights abuse, though, which we can all feel good about (except maybe Arthur because he thinks about stuff all weird).

          1. Make them all live under the stairwell like Hairy Pothead and we’ll all be better off!!!

    2. Seattle is a crap hole. Anyone who would live there gets what they deserve.

      I’ve lived in at least 2 dozen different places in at least a dozen states. Seattle is one of the few to which I never wish to return. The best thing that could happen to it is a 100-ft tsunami.

      1. What are some of the locations you liked? What was wrong with Seattle?

        Thank you.

        1. There is no “problem” that the city council, or King County, will not eventually decide it needs to regulate with a heavy hand.

          1) Ever-expanding taxation for ill-conceived boondoggles of mass transit & bike paths at the expense of personal vehicles.

          2) Lack of actual representation in government as they still embrace “at large” council members

          3) Making the city a haven for junkies, bums, and panhandlers living in squalid “tent cities” so that they can demand more tax dollars for the population increase and the health problems they created on purpose.

          4) Deliberately creating large traffic disasters that last for decades

          5) Heaping massive hate on all major employers that keep the place from dying off as it nearly did during the ’70s (aka, shitting on the hand that feeds you). Boeing moved it’s headquarters to Chicago, and half of it’s manufacturing to North Carolina, now suddenly Amazon needs a 2nd headquarters pretty much anyplace else.

          6) Endless scandals that affect the city council, mayor, and county commissioner

          7) Every time something is voted down via referendum you end up getting it anyway, and paying for it

          8) Endless attempts to turn major employers into major cash cows via fees, taxes, extortion, etc

          9) General lack of competency among the elected officials

          10) Ongoing social engineering attempts via regulation, laws, ordinances, fees, and shaming programs.

          1. Seattle is a good example of why progressives shouldn’t be allowed in America.

            1. Everything above this comment in this thread was fine & u had to spoil it by being a dummy

              1. Ok, so answer this for me, you can continue to negotiate with these Marxist mental midgets and watch every last one of your personal freedoms be eroded time enough time, or you can force enough progressives out of the country (to Antarctica maybe, Venezuela?) so their entire agenda can be undone?

                Or basically is it more important to actually fight for your freedom, or go along t get along and lose all of it? Your response to my correct comment about progressives appears to indicate the latter.

          2. 1) Ever-expanding taxation for ill-conceived boondoggles of mass transit & bike paths at the expense of personal vehicles.

            I have no idea what mass transit or bike path nonsense is happening. But unless streets pay taxes in Seattle it’s the land set aside for those teat-sucking streets in single-family zones (30% of the acreage in those areas – and Seattle has an enormous amount of SFR zoning compared to other cities) that raises taxes for everyone else.

            Or maybe by ‘personal vehicles’ you meant some sort of electric flying hovercraft thing.

      2. As Robert J Richie would say, “you get what you put in and people get what they deserve”.

        1. As William Munny did say “deserve has got nothing to do with it.” Before he finished off Little Bill who said he didn’t deserve to die like that.

    3. Start earning $90/hourly for working online from your home for few hours each day… Get regular payment on a weekly basis… All you need is a computer, internet connection and a litte free time…
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  2. while I disagree with the regulation on both property and association grounds, Prof. Somin seems to be reading the word “qualified” out of the regulation. Landlords could respond to many of the concerns this post raises by including requirements in their qualifications. Or maybe the next step will be that the government gets to decide who is qualified.

    1. Well, according to the rule as described in the brief, the government does get to decide who was “qualified” – and then penalize the landlord if their decision was different from what the government agency determined.

      The use of “qualified” sounds good until it’s actually stripped of all meaning by regulations redefining what “qualified” is.

      1. The City of Seattle has said you can’t disqualify a person if they’re on Social Security, or if they’ve got Section 8 subsidies. The list of “qualifications” that Ilya points to (“?reliability, credit history, their treatment of previous rental properties, and so on?”) do not appear in the ordinance, which is to say that landlords are free to consider them, so long as they make clear that they will be considering those factors, and so long as they evaluate their applicants in the manner required by the ordinance (i.e., first come, first served).

        1. Until, of course, Seattle realizes that considering “reliability, credit history, and treatment of previous rental properties” has a disparate impact on X groups, and thus bans using those qualifications too.

          1. Please delete this double post. Thanks.

        2. Until, of course, Seattle realizes that considering “reliability, credit history, their treatment of previous rental properties” has a disparate impact on X group, and thus bans those qualifications from consideration, one by one.

        3. Yes, but the landlords will have to set these criteria up beforehand, and since they are minimum criteria, they won’t be able to compare reliability against credit history, for example. This isn’t going to make it easier for people to rent apartments.

          1. Heck, they can’t even choose the applicant with the best credit history.

          2. “Must have a minimum credit score of X” is a pretty effective way to screen based on credit history. Providing contact information for previous landlords is? pretty common. I’ve had to do it for every apartment I’ve ever leased. The goal of this isn’t to make it “easy” to rent. It’s to make it harder to discriminate.

            1. Yes, but what if an applicant has a credit score just below X, but impeccable credentials on all other qualifications. This person no longer qualifies.

              On prior rental history, what’s the minimum qualification? “Must have rental history where prior landlords rated you above 3.5 on a 5 point scale…”? If there isn’t an objective criteria to set a minimum qualification, allowing it as a basis for consideration defeats the entire purpose of the ordinance in the first place.

              1. “Must provide a rental history, with references, for the past 36 months indicating no late or non-payments” seems pretty straightforward but I’ve only given it about 2 seconds thought, NToJ.

                1. I get that, yeah, it could be a bad ordinance if it’s not carefully crafted. So here’s the relevant text:

                  14.08.050 First-in-time
                  A. Effective January 1, 2017, it is an unfair practice for a person to fail to:

                  1. provide notice to a prospective occupant, in writing or by posting in the office of the person leasing the unit or in the building where the unit is physically located and, if existing, on the website advertising rental of the unit, in addition to and at the same time as providing the information required by RCW 59.18.257(1), of:

                  a. the criteria the owner will use to screen prospective occupants and the minimum threshold for each criterion that the potential occupant must meet to move forward in the application process; including any different or additional criteria that will be used if the owner chooses to conduct an individualized assessment related to criminal records.

                2. First time renters disqualified.

                3. Great, you’ve just set up a system in which no person qualifies unless they’ve rented for 36 months with no late payment. I’ve made late rent payments. Haven’t you? Do you think poorer renters are more or less likely to have made late payments in the last 36 months?

                  1. Great, you’ve just set up a system in which no person qualifies unless they’ve rented for 36 months with no late payment. I’ve made late rent payments. Haven’t you? Do you think poorer renters are more or less likely to have made late payments in the last 36 months?

                    Here’s the part where you completely miss the fact that you were questioning whether it was even possible to set up a criteria and a threshold, and have now decided to bicker over whether this particular threshold was a good one.

                    How about, change “rental” to “housing,” and change “no” to “no more than two?” Do you concede that it’s possible to craft an objective criteria for rental reliability?

                4. Great, so instead of me deciding how I want to mange my rentals, we end up with a system like FNMA has for mortgages where some bureaucracy underwrites prospective tenants and decides who I rent to.

                  No, just no. This kind of hsit is why bargaining with progressives is always a losing proposition. It ultimately works out the same way as trying to negotiate with a serial killer who has first abducted you before the kill. It’s going to end the same way no matter what.

              2. Besides, I have at least once given a good recommendation for a tenant just to make it easier to get rid of them. A couple others, not so much.

                The irony was, when I got married and was looking at apartments, I had been living in a house my brother and I own, and was taking care of two other rentals (was getting someplace closer to my work). Couldn’t readily provide rental history (unless I wanted to provide a recommendation for myself).

              3. What prior landlord would risk making such an assessment? Rate them too low, the renter sues for defamation. Rate them too high, if there’s a problem, the new landlord sues. There’s no up side. This is why most businesses will only confirm the fact that you were employed – and decline to say anything about the quality of your work.

                1. I believe it is federal law that you can only confirm employment. Absence of recommendations were seen as negatives.

                  1. There is no such law.

                  2. Federal law actually says that the government can’t abridge freedom of speech, which includes statements of opinion about a person.

                    Many large businesses wish to avoid potential defamation or retaliation claims, so (to avoid even prima facie claims) institute policies dictating that they only confirm employment. Some employers in fact do, however, provide references — even letters of reference.

                    I don’t know why this urban legend continues to spread.

            2. Problem is, I have actually seen a left-leaning professor claim that requiring a good credit score is racist because blacks and Latinos in general have lower credit scores than whites and Asians.

              1. Regardless of race impact yhe credit scoring system is broken & subsidizes fiscally irresponsible behavior. Get a bunch of credit cards straight out of college, max them out, have wealthy parents bail u out? Say hello to a premium credit score. Never borrow money, gradually save & i choose smart nvestments, pay your bills on time? Your score will be shit over your entire life. I underdtand why credit card comoanies use these scores – they are accurate in finding wealthy ppl who are likely to blow $$$ on fees & interest. But it baffles me that landlords or employers believe a credit score is some sort of proxy for financial responsibility. Its not.

        4. If you don’t want Section 8 tenants, it’s very easy to arrange to fail the Section 8 property inspection. We’ve not been impressed with the Section 8 tenants we have had. Sure, the rent is paid on time, but the level of property damage they do is above the norm. They are almost uniformly irresponsible people.

          1. Yes, section 8 tenants are generally less responsible than those who aren’t – that’s why they require government subsidies in the first place.

    2. “Or maybe the next step”……ya think? Has your head been in the sand for the last 50 years?

    3. “Or maybe the next step”……ya think? Has your head been in the sand for the last 50 years?

    4. That is exactly what will happen – this is a city that keeps talking about great rent control would be.

      I image the end game is turning over all rentals to the city to manage. After that, maybe a law mandating that any spare rooms in your home that fall outside what you “need” must be available for rent.

  3. For all the talk from the left about Anti science republicans, the left sure loves to propagate bad science.

    http://www.news.com.au/technol…..29fd813857

    The implicit bias test is non repeatable in a subject and is filled w flaws. It is a grand example of hypothesis finding. The test has no provable links to actual bias but merely claims a subject has subconscious bias. Yet liberals want to pass legislation on the theory and are trying to redesign teaching methods and diversity laws on it. It would be hilarious if not so sad.

    1. I think the Seattle regulation is a horrible idea. That said, there’s more science behind implicit discrimination in housing than the IAT (paired testing, by way of example).

      1. True. For example, science tells us that discrimination is often economically rational: if group X has a 10x rate of criminal behavior or loan defaults, it’s often not worth anybody’s time to try to reduce that prior risk by getting additional information. Anti discrimination laws are an attempt to push the cost of information onto businesses.

    2. Both sides jump at anything confirming a favorite narrative that has the imprimatur of ‘science.’

      Only one side rails against currently active researchers as liberal elite hoaxers.
      The same side that often argues at the same time that only STEM degrees have merit…

      1. Well of course “Only one side rails against currently active researchers as liberal elite hoaxers.” – If ‘one side’ is conservative, and the ‘other side’ is liberals, then yes, only ‘one side’ would complain about “liberal [insert adjective here]”

        If you’re implying there are only 2 sides to this, then I think you’re mistaken.

        1. To clarify, I don’t mean the right attacks liberals scientists as having an agenda. I agree that you will see people on both sides of the aisle attacking people with political views as unprofessional. (Though I see more on the right attacking Hillary/Obama donors as all hacks; liberals are more about indicting the whole system, man).

          Rather, what I am refereeing to is attacks on the current scientific enterprise as an institution for being elitist and therefore liberal.

          There’s a lot of symmetry among partisans on either side. But this is not one of them.

          1. “liberals are more about indicting the whole system, man”

            That’s the Sarcastro I remember – Still miss the pic from WaPo though. I always pictured you having a similar expression when firing off a witty comment.

            Thank you for taking the time to clarify

            1. Elimination of the picture of a murderous dictator is a good thing.

              1. But the statues and flags of traitors and vicious bigots must continue to stand . . . and are defended by many ‘very fine people.’

                Carry on, clingers.

                1. hey artie, you ever post anything original? “blah, blah, blah clingers, blah blah, blah bigots.”

                  Try something new once in a while. We don’t suffer fools like you around here for very long, though there is no law against stupid so carry on, petunia,

                  1. I propose a deal, Migrant Log Chipper.

                    You guys stop promoting and defending bigotry and backwardness, and authoritarianism, and I will stop identifying your hypocrisy.

                    Or, you guys can continue with ‘liberals (and moderates, and libertarians) are the real racists;’ ‘strong mainstream campuses are the real problem with respect to censorship and suppression of academic freedom;’ ‘we’re just colorblind, post-racial Americans;’ and ‘libertarians and conservatives are specially aligned,’ while hoping that America’s young people migrate toward the stale thinking of movement conservatives on gender, the drug war, race, immigration, policing, religion, gay-bashing, abortion, taxes, and health care.

                    Either way, I look forward to the future rather than muttering bitterly about progress and pining for good old days that never existed.

                2. “But the statues and flags of traitors and vicious bigots must continue to stand . . . and are defended by many ‘very fine people.'”

                  Of course, many of these people who defend the statues and flags of traitors and vicious bigots do so because they understand the importance of remembering the history of this country, even the bad parts.

                  I, for one, think it’s *very* important to remember these parts of history. We would *also* do well to remember that the Democrats who are pulling down these statues and flags are, ironically enough, pulling down Democrat flags and statues…because, after all, it was Democrats who supported slavery, and Democrats who seceded from the Union, Democrats who instituted Jim Crow, Democrats who re-segregated the Armed Forces in WWI and created Japanese-American concentration camps in WWII, and Democrats who split their votes between two racist candidates (one a Democrat, and one who ran third-party), thereby allowing Nixon to win some electoral votes in the South (the so-called “Southern Strategy”).

              2. Only a sourpuss comes out against postmortem mockery.

                How do you feel about confederate statues, Bob?

                1. They don’t want to talk about that, Sarcastro.

                  Until someone proposes removal of a statue of a vicious bigot, in which circumstance conservatives become myopically focused on bigots’ rights and feelings.

          2. But it’s been scientifically proven that anyone who would donate to Hitlery or Obozo is, at best, a hack.

            Libtards are all about tearing down anything that doesn’t give them something for “free”.

            1. Rarely do I see someone dunking on themselves with such gusto.

          3. I have a liberal friend who constantly rails against the Koch brothers and how they pervert the political process but loves Steyer’s push to impeach Trump or Soros’s contribution to leftist causes. What I often see is that both the left and right are deniers if it serves their purposes. I saw a psychologist on Good Morning America explaining that some teenagers who dropped a sand bag on a car were not responsible for the death that resulted. My comment to my wife was BS. They might not have thought someone would be killed but they knew it was wrong.

          4. Rather, what I am refereeing to is attacks on the current scientific enterprise as an institution for being elitist and therefore liberal.

            It was self-proclaimed scientists at top US universities that were instrumental in the implementation eugenics, segregation, forced sterilizations, and a host of other reprehensible policies. The very building, William James Halll, where IAT originated, was the source of some of those other ideas.

            What people attack, and rightfully so, is the misapplication of science to policy and a confusion between scientific truth and institutional reputation and titles. It’s the latter error that has corupted science, because now, instead of conducting good science, wannabe scientists simply maneuver themselves into the most reputable institutions and pronounce scientific truths ex cathedra. It’s also why non-scientific endeavors, such as social “science” and political “science” have adopted the trappings of science but are little dfiferent from unscientific philosophy.

      2. “Only one side rails against currently active researchers as liberal elite hoaxers.”

        So why does your side give the liberal elite hoaxers a pass?

        1. 😛

      3. Science is a method, not an authority of high priests to appeal to. And as a method, it has no political bias. People are either adhering to the scientific method and that includes subjecting your work to doubt and critical scrutiny or you aren’t. Very little “science” portrayed in popular culture particularly in political discourse is actually science. It’ s scientism.

        1. Science as practiced isn’t just a method though.
          Functionally, no one uses the ‘scientific method’ you learn in middle school.

          But more vitally, scientists live in society, and they make choices on which truths to probe, and those choices contain value judgements.

          And government, rightly, makes value judgements about science as well – we don’t just give the NSF a huge lump sum and then sit back. See: Stem cells, cdc banned words, behavioral anthropology getting into fraught racial territory, climate change and even observation…
          ==============
          Pop culture does no area of expertise any favors, but IMO science comes out better than most.
          I’d rather be science in pop culture than cooking, building, policing, soldiering…

          1. If you dangle government funding in front of the faces of scientific researchers, they will say and do whatever it takes to get those funds, and institutions will select the researchers that bring in those funds. This is a process that deeply corrutps science, and you end up with both bad science and bad policy.

            It’s not quite as bad for things like most NSF funcing: you end up witih highly biased and selective research due to government funding, much of it useless, but at least it doesn’t result in bad policy. For climate research, social science research, or environmental research, however, the resulting bad policy is tremendously harmful.

            That’s why conservatives and libertarians say that the use of science in politics should be miniimized and limited to those areas where it is absolutely unavoidable.

            We need a “separation of state and science” just like we need a “separation of state and religion”, and for the same reason: mashing up state power with anything corrupts it.

      4. “Only one side rails against currently active researchers as liberal elite hoaxers.”

        Yeah, liberals are always pro-science.

        That is why the tremble at harmless GMO food and think a biological man can be a woman. Science!

        1. Funny, ‘liberals are always pro-science’ is not what I said, Bob.

          Your example of some liberals being anti some science is not at all the same as some conservatives being against science as an institution, so even your whattaboutism fails.

          1. ‘Against science as an institution’?

            Science is NOT an institution–that’s the thing you sciencists don’t seem to grasp. In your fervent faith in the presentation of dogmatized leftism as scientific authority you blind yourselves to the fact that science simply is. That the scientific method is simply a way to organize it.

            There are institutions built on science, but science itself is not, can not be, and should not be an institution.

            This is a very important and necessary truth that enables science to progress.

            It is the liberal attempt to enshrine science, to box it in, codify and dogmatize it that is the very crux of the problem.

            As you illustrate so deliciously.

          2. Science is not an institution. The fact that it is being treated like an institution has corrupted it. A degree from a famous institution and publications in top-rated journals is often more important than a solid grounding in math and science. Institutions like Harvard and Princeton these days graduate people with Ph.D.’s who wouldn’t have failed their undergraduate exams a few decades ago.

            “Science” is a methodology for gaining knowledge. It used to be practiced widely at some institutions, which is why those institutions acquired a great reputation from the benefits that the practice of science brings. But those institutions have been resting on their reputation, and they are less and less good at practicing the methodology.

            And science has never been a methodology for translating knowledge into policy, yet climate scientists and social “scientists” are being treated as poilcy experts, which is a fatal mistake even in the few cases where those people are actually good scientists.

  4. If landlords cannot screen potential tenants for factors such as reliability, credit history, their treatment of previous rental properties, and so on?

    So, here’s the signed ordinance. It doesn’t look like the ordinance prohibits screening along any of those factors, which is a pretty big strike against your analysis. Here’s what the ordinance sets out to do.

    1. First-in-Time
    Landlords must post clear information about the time window for filing rental applications, and on applications received. Subsequently, they must screen completed applications in the order in which they are received, and rent to the first acceptable applicant. The city also requires that there be a review of the program in after 18 months, to see if it should continue.

    2. Income origin
    Landlords may not discriminate against an applicant who participates in Section 8 (or other subsidy program) or who receives money lawfully from Social Security, pensions, unemployment, or other regular sources of income that are not “wages, salaries, or other compensation for employment.” This is also subject to an 18 month review.

    3. Unfair Housing Practices
    They ban some practices, some covered above, but notably “preferred employer” programs.

    1. It does appear, however, that such screening can’t involve ranking the applicants, and picking the best, but instead is limited to setting an acceptable threshold for the factors, and having to take the first applicant that meets them.

      This will, ironically, hurt some renters, because you won’t be able to trade off superiority on one metric to compensate for failure to meet other criteria. “Sure, my credit history sucks, but as you can see I’ve always paid my rent on time anyway, and left the apartment spotless.” That’s the sort of thing a landlord might take into account if permitted to rank applicants, but they’ll be reluctant to do that if it means they may have to turn down an applicant who’s equally good on their payment record and treatment of property, and has a good credit rating, too.

      By the way, there are some obvious drafting errors. “A rental application is considered complete when it includes all the information, documentation, and other submissions stated in the notice required in this subsection 14.08.040.A.1.b. Lack of a material omission in the application by a prospective occupant will not render the application incomplete.” What the heck does that mean?

      1. I don’t see why a landlord isn’t permitted to balance, still, and I don’t see why a landlord is actually less likely to do so. Like, the landlord probably knows the general supply of renters that are out there and looking at his or her property because the landlord probably didn’t just start this job yesterday.

        So, yeah, a landlord might say, “This guy’s good enough, but I’m going to keep going through the pile even though the pile and the order it’s in are public information and I might get sued by the guy who’s good enough on the hope that there’s a better candidate beneath.” But I’m not sure that landlords will. And I’m content to let the City of Seattle implement it for 18 months to see how it plays out, as the ordinance requires they do. This is simply not the terrible, awful, no good law that Ilya makes it out to be.

        1. And, again, if the landlord wants to place restrictive qualifications, he or she should be free to do so, so long as (1) it’s not unlawfully discriminatory, and (2) it’s clearly stated up-front so renters can decide whether to apply. If your credit score is borderline (or just below), you might still apply to a rental posting that’s only got one listed completed application.

          In addition to the new antidiscrimination provisions of the ordinance and the first-in-time process requirement, the ordinance now requires a whole lot more transparency on the application process and I’m certain that addressing the information inequality will, itself, be a pretty unmitigated good for renters.

          1. “…it’s clearly stated up-front so renters can decide whether to apply.”

            The devil is in the details. If the criteria include subjectively weighing different considerations, then it’s right back to square one. If landlords are only required to first-come first-serve “qualified” renters, they’ll simply make the up-front requirements so high that very few applicants will qualify. Then they’re free to select from unqualified applicants in whatever order they choose. This is not going to help poor applicants.

            1. Wouldn’t making the up-front requirements so high that very few applicants will qualify do violence to the level of rent they can afford to charge?

              1. No, because they can still rent to people who don’t qualify. And if they can’t rent to people who do not qualify, it will contribute to increased rents, especially for poorer applicants.

                1. When the number of people applying is entirely visible to other applicants?

                  1. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Could you be more clear? Why is the number of people applying going to be visible (is that something in the ordinance)? And why would that affect rental rates, applications, etc.?

                    1. Yes. Under the ordinance a landlord is obligated to note the date, time, and method of receipt of a completed application, but on reflection it’s actually not clear that this is posted publicly. Something in the thirty pages suggested to me that it was, but I’m not going to go digging for it.

                      Supposing that it is, if the screening criteria are unreasonably high and there are already a few applicants, it is worth less of my time to apply, and instead I might look for a more reasonable landlord. The more applicants that are visible to me, the less likely I am to apply, in the same way that I’m not likely to stand in a long line that says “first come, first serve,” no matter how much more I’m willing to offer than the twenty people in front of me.

                    2. Have you ever rented before?

                    3. Have you ever rented before?

                      Yes. In three states and four countries.

                2. They can only rent to an ‘unqualified’ person, presumably, if there are _zero_ qualified applicants. But even if there are zero, I’m not sure your strategy will work.

                  Let’s say the landlord sets a minimum FICO of 800, and nobody meets it. If the landlord rents to a 700-scoring applicant when there’s a 750 applicant ahead of him in the pile, aren’t the do-badders who enacted this law going to argue that the 800 is a pretext and isn’t really the landlord’s cutoff?

                  I mean, your theory sounds good, but it would mean that all a landlord has to do in order to rent to whomever he wants is to say, “Must be able to recite from memory pi to 1000 decimal places,” and then when everyone fails he has complete discretion to pick whomever he wants. That can’t be what it means.

                  1. I haven’t looked at it since yesterday, David, but I don’t think the ordinance lays out what’s to happen if there are no acceptable applicants; ideally, the landlord would either (a) keep the listing open until one does appear, or (b) take the listing down and start over.

          2. Wouldn’t any criterion with “disparate impact” be “unlawfully discriminatory”?

        2. “And I’m content to let the City of Seattle implement it for 18 months to see how it plays out, as the ordinance requires they do.”

          How noble of you to volunteer the burden on behalf of landlords…

          1. Landlords who to this day systematically engage in racial discrimination? Hold on just a second; let me get my eyedrops that I may shed a single tear for the plight of the landed in America.

            If you don’t care that your eagerness to spare landlords of anti-discrimination regulations comes at the cost of the discriminated, that’s fine, but can you at least acknowledge that there’s a cost to not dealing with it? That if we don’t try new methods of curbing discriminatory practices, the discriminatory practices will remain uncurbed?

            1. Most of us don’t think these anti-discrimination regulations should exist at all, and this law provides a perfect reason as to why. They never end. Each new regulation begets new even further regulations, until the property owner is prohibited from doing more than he’s permitted to do.

              1. Most of us don’t think these anti-discrimination regulations should exist at all,

                Who is the “us” in that sentence? I mean, I personally agree that such regulations shouldn’t exist, but I’m not even sure that most self-styled libertarians think that way (though almost all capital-L Libertarians probably do), let alone most of any broader group.

            2. Some landlords…not all.

              “…but can you at least acknowledge that there’s a cost to not dealing with it?”

              Of course there’s a cost. There’s also the cost of compliance with a overbroad law that potentially damages property rights and protected expression.

              “That if we don’t try new methods of curbing discriminatory practices, the discriminatory practices will remain uncurbed?”

              So if we only let Darth Sidious impair our liberties for a little while – say on a trial basis – we can make corrections if we’re wrong. If some Jedi die along the way, so be it.

              I’m not against taking any action – but action, just take some action, is foolish.

              1. It’ll NEVER be “for a little while.” The private portions of the Civil Rights Act were justified in the Jim Crow South when black citizens were basically disfranchised from civil society, as no stores, landlords, or transportation operators would cater to them. That isn’t the case anymore, but the law remains. At this point, all non-emergency service/goods providers should be free to operate as they want, and we should let the free market work it out.

                1. I don’t think you get to argue this when you really do think blacks are inferior and criminal, and that women should be disenfranchised.

                  1. I don’t think you get to argue this when you really do think blacks are inferior and criminal, and that women should be disenfranchised.

                    Didn’t even read his comments, Sarcastro. Turns out, I don’t need no stinkin’ ignore function.

                  2. I never argued that blacks are inferior and criminal. Stop the lies.

              2. #NotAllLandlords

                Not sure how you get around to effectively regulating the some without regulating the all.

                I’m not against taking any action?

                Well, the problem with a flippant “Won’t someone think of the landlords!” cry is that it’s a nonspecific objection. It can be raised about any regulation that gets in the way of landlords, in general. Which suggests you actually are against taking any action.

                There’s also the cost of compliance with a overbroad law that potentially damages property rights and protected expression.

                Property rights? You mean like the takings argument that Ilya says is a loser? Or do you mean more vague “I should be able to do whatever I want with my property” rights? And what the hell are you talking about with “protected expression?” Are you suggesting that the regulation of rental advertising is unconstitutional compelled speech?

                1. No. Property rights means property rights. no one is arguing that any legal takings argument will go anywhere. That doesn’t change the fact that private property is still philosophically private property.

                2. “Or do you mean more vague “I should be able to do whatever I want with my property” rights?”

                  I think you should be able to rent your property to people you want to rent to, and not rent it to people you don’t want to rent to. I wouldn’t want to be compelled to rent my property to ActualRightWingPatriot. Would you?

                  1. No, but my property’s not being offered for rent, so that’s a pretty easy call to make. You oppose the Fair Housing Act, NToJ?

                    1. Yes. I think it harms minorities by driving racists into hiding, rather than out in the open where they can be publicly shunned. It also creates a faux victim class out of merely part-time racists, which has contributed to political events like the election of Donald Trump. I believe the FHA, as good-intentioned as it may be, has caused net harm to people and the country.

                    2. Saw a lot of social-policing of racist landlords before the FHA, did you? Expect to see a lot, now, with rent being what it is?

                    3. Yes, of course. What do you think the lead up to the FHA was besides social-policing of racist landlords?

                      You’ve mixed up cause and effect, which is habitual for anti-discrimination legislation. The FHA isn’t the cure, it’s a symptom of changed social attitudes. In a democracy, the necessity of anti-discrimination legislation is inversely proportionate to its likelihood of passage. As a corollary, if there are sufficient number of racists to make anti-discrimination protections necessary, a democracy won’t deliver. But if there is sufficient public support for anti-discrimination legislation, you don’t need it.

                    4. I’m very skeptical that there’s evidence to support your narrative, given the timing and circumstances around the civil rights movement, and its resulting legislation. This is a story I’ve heard conservatives tell themselves but never with any statistical support.

                      I’ll concede, however, that it’s possible that in parts of America the electorate was changing to such a degree to give greater voice in Washington to the civil rights movement. But even if that it was the case that there was greater social sympathy for blacks in the early 1960s than there was in the early 1950s, it was hardly a uniform thing, and the political power to pass legislation over all of America need originate from all of America.

                      The principle underlying this critique of anti-discrimination laws smacks of anarchism, insisting that there’s no value to be gained by demanding compliance with a set of norms (on threat of more severe punishment) because people are always only ever going to do it anyway. It’s a fundamentally “radical” approach to reform, in the vein of Chesterton’s fence.

                    5. *need not originate

                    6. “I’m very skeptical that there’s evidence to support your narrative, given the timing and circumstances around the civil rights movement, and its resulting legislation.”

                      The “resulting legislation” is the evidence. That’s how democracy works. Unpopular legislation doesn’t get passed, popular legislation does get passed. And of course that legislation was only possible because of the tireless, non-legislative efforts of civil rights leaders to convince the country that racism was wrong. Your alternative theory is that racism is only something that can be solved by benevolent whites passing legislation for blacks, removing any agency the latter had in their own political successes. It’s preposterous.

                      But data is important. One thing you could measure is whether self-reported race relations improve in the country with more anti-discrimination laws. That’s not the case: despite more anti-discrimination laws than at any time in the nation’s history, race relations are worse now than they have been since at least 2001: http://news.gallup.com/poll/16…..tions.aspx

                      It’s lower for both whites and blacks. Racism is complicated and hard and requires constant vigilance to destroy. There are no easy legislative fixes. It is a global social problem that cannot be solved the same way that traffic fatalities can with speed limits.

                    7. (cont)

                      “…and the political power to pass legislation over all of America need originate from all of America.”

                      For federal legislation, sure. What’s that got to do with the present discussion? Seattle is one of the least black cities of its size in the country, so the idea that a Seattle ordinance is going to solve racism is mathematically silly, anyway. The purpose of the ordinance is for Seattle’s predominantly white majority to feel good about contributing to this problem.

                      “The principle underlying this critique of anti-discrimination laws smacks of anarchism…”

                      Uhm, no, the criticisms of the ordinance in the OP is that it harms the very people it is intended to protect. That isn’t anarchism. And even though I think the FHA is pointless, I’m not calling for its repeal. I said elsewhere that Seattle could do more to combat implicit racial bias in housing by hiring testers to make FHA cases against local landlords. Since that costs money rather than free good will, it won’t happen. Seattle’s government is happier shifting the costs for social engineering to its poorest residents, which would be evil if it were intentional.

                    8. Your alternative theory is that racism is only something that can be solved by benevolent whites passing legislation for blacks, removing any agency the latter had in their own political successes.

                      No, my alternative theory is that the North had to beat the South into submission again.

                      What’s that got to do with the present discussion?

                      The Fair Housing Act we were just discussing. What it has to do with the Seattle ordinance is the disconnect between the number of voters in the City of Seattle and the number of landlords in the City of Seattle. Like, I have no goddamn doubt in my mind that Seattle tenants would rent from racist Seattle landlords today, especially since most Seattle tenants are white. I also have no doubt that a lot of Seattle tenants think racist landlords are not OK, and are perfectly happy to elect politicians who say as much, while also continuing to reap the benefits of that racism.

                    9. But data is important. One thing you could measure is whether self-reported race relations improve in the country with more anti-discrimination laws. That’s not the case: despite more anti-discrimination laws than at any time in the nation’s history, race relations are worse now than they have been since at least 2001: http://news.gallup.com/poll/16…..tions.aspx

                      Yeah, well, high profile attacks on (and defenses of) institutional white supremacy’ll do that. But that’s not the data you need in order to support the narrative you’re pushing. I’ve already addressed the issues in the logic of the narrative (i.e., that you don’t actually need that much social change to pass legislation reflective of it), and now I’m looking?issues be damned?for evidence that supports the narrative anyway. That blacks and whites don’t trust each other today doesn’t really tell me whether housing discrimination was on significant decline nationwide before the passing of the FHA, or in Seattle before the ordinance was passed.

                      Maybe it has to be said: I do not care if people are racist, except to the extent that such racism leads inequity to fester.

                    10. “Maybe it has to be said: I do not care if people are racist, except to the extent that such racism leads inequity to fester.”

                      I care about racism and want to end it. Inequity isn’t a problem (for me) unless it’s caused by something immoral, illogical, etc. Like racism.

                    11. “No, my alternative theory is that the North had to beat the South into submission again.”

                      Right, it was Northern whites that caused the Civil Rights Movement. Southern blacks like MLK Jr had nothing to do with it.

                      “I have no goddamn doubt in my mind that Seattle tenants would rent from racist Seattle landlords today…”

                      This is a ludicrous assertion. If some Seattle apartment complex got exposed as racist, there would be boycotts and backlash.

                      “…while also continuing to reap the benefits of that racism.”

                      There are no benefits to the racism. Whites aren’t better off if apartment complexes do not rent to black people. That’s why racism makes no sense.

                    12. Inequity isn’t a problem (for me) unless it’s caused by something immoral, illogical, etc. Like racism.

                      Yeah, see, I’d actually like us to aim for American meritocracy, and an unfair system (i.e., inequity, as compared to “inequality”) is antithetical to that.

                      Right, it was Northern whites that caused the Civil Rights Movement. Southern blacks like MLK Jr had nothing to do with it.

                      This is a map of the cloture vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Notice a pattern?

                      This is a ludicrous assertion. If some Seattle apartment complex got exposed as racist, there would be boycotts and backlash.

                      For a month or two, maybe, yeah. But people need homes. Also, I don’t know who exactly is going to do the exposing, and how it’s supposed to draw wide press.

                    13. There are no benefits to the racism. Whites aren’t better off if apartment complexes do not rent to black people. That’s why racism makes no sense.

                      Of course whites benefit from racism. For every applicant who is told falsely that there are no units available, that’s one fewer that you?who is not so misled?might lose a lease to. The benefit: that particular roof over your head.

                      That’s why dismantling white supremacy is so hard. There are people who live blithely unaware that, whatever their travails, they’d face an additional set if they were black. And those people, learning their leg up is in jeopardy, aren’t happy about it.

                    14. Exactly. The problem isn’t when a few idiot racists refuse to serve/rent to whomever. The problem is when the bulk of society is doing that so as to render a minority person (not necessarily race, of course) from being able to participate in civil society. If every grocery store won’t serve black customers, that’s a problem. If 1 out of 50 bakeries won’t make a gay couple a wedding cake, that isn’t a problem.

                    15. It’s a lot easier to forego a wedding cake than it is a roof over your head, and the economic repercussions to being unable to obtain one are far greater than the other.

            3. but can you at least acknowledge that there’s a cost to not dealing with [discrimination in housing, employment, ….]

              No, I can’t acknowledge that. I see only downsides to anti-discrimination and “equal opportunity” laws, roughly the same downsides as I see to minimum wage laws: it tends to price the most disadvantaged groups out of the market, raises prices, prevents people from serving the low end of the market, and prevents market mechanisms from punishing bad actors.

              Anti-discrimination laws are going to force me as a gay man to unknowingly provide my valuable skills to a homophobic employer and probably suffer termination for a fabricated cause when the employer finds out; it would be far easier for everybody concerned if the employer had said “I don’t hire faggots” and I could say “your loss”.

              Simillary with housing: people discriminate against blacks not because they dislike the skin color, but because statistics on housing, income, and financial responsibility are pooor for the group and because there is an information disparity. Landlords are going to compensate for anti-discrimination laws by setting very tough requirements up front.

              Anti-discrimination laws and “equal opportunity” laws are a very bad idea, with only downsides.

              1. ?and prevents market mechanisms from punishing bad actors.

                Exactly which market mechanism punishes racist landlords?

                1. The usual mechanisms by which market mechanism punish any kind of irrational behavior: if you use irrational prejudice over objective criteria in your selection of tenants, you’ll end up taking higher risks and getting a lower return on your property.

                  1. And, so, of course, racism doesn’t exist.

                    1. And, so, of course, racism doesn’t exist.

                      Quite the opposite: racism and other forms of discrimination get perpetuated by the kinds of policies you are advocating. That’s not just what a rational economic analysis shows, it’s what a century of history tells us.

                    2. How does the century of history tell us that these policies perpetuate racism?

                      And where there is demand inelasticity, how does a racist landlord get punished, again? Through a rational economic analysis?

                    3. I can’t help but notice that your rational economic analysis also fails to account for the fact that the “irrationality” only affects a fraction of the pool of tenants, in light of the fact that most are white. I think maybe more than ECON 101 is in order, here.

                    4. I think maybe more than ECON 101 is in order, here.

                      I’m sorry this is just an abstract economic exercise to you. Let me spell this out clearly: by forcing employers to hide their bigotry, I end up working for people who hate me and my kind, earning them money, and making them rich. I find that deeply offensive. And it doesn’t help me one bit.

                      I do not want anti-discrimination laws to apply to me: they fail to accomplish what they are supposed to accomplish and they hurt me as a discriminated minority. And we haven’t even gotten how they violate freedom of association and private property and are utterly incompatible with libertarianism.

                      Was that a little clearer?

                    5. How does the century of history tell us that these policies perpetuate racism?

                      We enacted civil rights and anti-discrimination legislation in the 1960’s and 1970’s and it did not have the desired effect. On the other hand, numerous minorities managed to succeed economically without such legislation.

                      And where there is demand inelasticity, how does a racist landlord get punished, again?

                      He gets three applicants. The objectively lowest risk one is a minority/gay applicant but he chooses the second best one with a higher risk. His penalty is the difference in risk.

      2. Lack of a material omission in the application by a prospective occupant will not render the application incomplete.” What the heck does that mean?

        Good question. I have no answer. There’s no way to parse it to make it make sense. My first thought was that the “lack of” doesn’t belong, but while that would make grammatical sense, it would make no logical sense. (“A material omission will not render the application incomplete?” Isn’t that sort of definitionally untrue?)

        1. My guess is that what they meant to say is that an application cannot be deemed incomplete due to an omission that is not material. If there is an omission, but it’s not a material omission (therefore, the application “lacks a material omission”), that does not render the application incomplete. Horrible phrasing though.

    2. Subsequently, they must screen completed applications in the order in which they are received, and rent to the first acceptable applicant

      “OOPS! I dropped the stack of applications on the floor and they got scattered. I’ll just have to make my best guess at which one was first…”

      Heck, I’d probably prefer Section 8 over some of the losers we’ve had. I’m presuming the payment goes straight to the landlord and not through the tenant.

    3. If landlords cannot screen potential tenants for factors such as reliability, credit history, their treatment of previous rental properties, and so on?

      So, here’s the signed ordinance. It doesn’t look like the ordinance prohibits screening along any of those factors, which is a pretty big strike against your analysis. Here’s what the ordinance sets out to do.

      The ordinance requires that landlords not only post their criteria in advance, but state the “minimum threshold for each criterion.”

      How can a landlord state the “minimum threshold” of “reliability”? The whole purpose of the ordinance is to eliminate the ability of a landlord to use subjective factors like that to screen prospective tenants.

      1. How can a landlord state the “minimum threshold” of “reliability”? The whole purpose of the ordinance is to eliminate the ability of a landlord to use subjective factors like that to screen prospective tenants.

        As I suggested above, a relatively high threshold might be: “”Must provide a rental history, with references, for the past 36 months indicating no late or non-payments.” You could play with the term or number or severity of late payments that are acceptable. There are also credit scores.

  5. The discrimination question gets even more interesting when you ratchet up the stakes:

    If a self-driving car must choose how to avoid an accident, must the decision be random, or can the car discriminate?

    If auto-insurance rate-making is any guide, the car should check the credit score of each individual at risk, and place the person with the worst credit score in the greatest peril 🙂

    link to source discussion, highly recommended

  6. One more reason to stay out of Seattle.

    1. Why would anyone choose Seattle so long as Missibamatucky is available?

      1. Yes, Arthur would never choose to live in the part of the country with the highest concentration of African-Americans.

      2. Good question. Seattle is full of people like you: religiously intolerant white progressives who hate anybody different from themselves.

        Missibamatucky, on the other hand, is racially, culturally, and politically diverse, and people are acatually nice.

    2. We had lived in the Seattle area in the early 1970’s Other than the violent abuse perpetrated on me by classmates, it was a nice place at the time. I had actually considered it as a place to move to (leaving the “Vampire State”), although I wouldn’t go back to our old town, it had turned into a shithole by 2003. But the more I see of what’s going on there, the more I know that’s a bad idea. Probably the corrupt influence of neighbor Microsoft.

    3. Peter Bagge’s cartoon in a fairly recent issue of Reason gives Seattle’s PC environment the reason for his move from it to Tacoma. It may be behind Jeff Bezos’s more recent setting up of a second HQ outside Seattle.

  7. I’m surprised that Prof. Somin is opposed to this government rule. It is no different than insisting that the USA should let anyone into the country on a 1st come, 1st served basis with no rules to weed out the criminals, deadbeats, etc.

    1. It’s kind of identical if you can’t tell the difference between telling private property owners that they can’t allow certain people on their property and telling private property owners that they must allow certain people on their property.

      1. I’m sorry, but the “immigration restrictions infringe on my right to have poor Mexicans on my properoty” idea just doesn’t hold water. The issue is not whether you can have them on your property, the issue is that when they are in US territory, they implicitly receive large amounts of government-granted benefits. Personally, I’m perfectly happy to let anybody import as many Mexicans onto their private property as long as they pay for those benefits; average per capita government expeditures, about $25000/year, are a good number for that: pay that, and your “private property” argument works.

  8. This ranks right up there with their minimum wage hike.

  9. I’m not a landlord, and I have only somewhat following this rule here in my lovely Seattle, but do you have a sense for how landlords previously picked out the best renter based on “reliability, credit history, their treatment of previous rental properties, and so on”? Credit rating is easy. But how does the application process otherwise test for reliability and treatment of previous properties? Do landlords really call previous landlords for background info? I can’t imagine that’s common.

    1. Okay, I AM a landlord (although not in Seattle) and probably half of my criteria on choosing who to rent a property to is based upon my feel for them during the interview. I do check with their prior landlord(s), every time. My biggest problem is to get any of their prior landlords to respond to my inquiries. I suspect that landlords with bad tenants do not want to bad mouth them just to avoid any possibility of a lawsuit. Credit checks are actually harder to do as they cost money to order.

      Being a landlord is hard if you are not in a landlord’s market (defined as too many people chasing too few rentals). I would not knowingly pass up any prospective renter just because I do not like the color of their skin or the way that they pray. I am much more interested in whether they pay on time and if they are destructive. My margins are slim enough that if a property is empty for one month it is the difference between profit and loss for that property for the year because my expenses do not go down simply because the property is vacant.

      My biggest problem tenants are young people. They tend to have trouble paying and have no regards for other people’s property.

      One question, how is the Seattle government going to handle landlords who rent to a friend of a friend or relative rather than a stranger? This happens more than you would think.

      1. Thanks BShep, that’s really helpful information. As for your question about renting to friends/etc., I have no idea. I just read the law (here: http://seattle.legistar.com/Le…..FullText=1) and it all seems premised on the idea of soliciting and accepting applications. But if I have a spare room and decide to rent it out to my mother-in-law, that might be beyond the scope of the ordinance, since that is not really a market transaction. But I’m sure we’ll have some litigation testing that issue!

    2. It absolutely is common , why ask for references if you aren’t going to call them?

      1. why ask for references if you aren’t going to call them?

        People do that all the time, in both renting and hiring. One reason is that just the act of asking helps screen applicants (who don’t know whether you’re going to call them.) Another is that people buy pre-printed application forms from Staples and those forms have a spot for references, even though the landlord/employer has no intention of calling them.

  10. Another great Reason article. Governments everywhere want to do what sounds good, while not caring whether it PROVES to be good in practice.

    1. No. Government agents everywhere
      a) Want to use their power to force others to act the way that they want/
      b) Want to increase their power by making “statements” that will increase the likelihood they will continue to be elected and, mostly, don’t give a damn if those statements have any intended or unintended consequences.

  11. “this would tend to screen out a disproportionate number of poor and minority renters – precisely the population that the Seattle law is supposed to help”

    And would expose the landlords to discrimination lawsuits of course.

    1. If you remove the ability to increase requirements, then landlords are going to have to increase prices. If government implements price controls, landlords will sell their properties. And if government implements tax-derived subsidies, the people paying those taxes will gradually leave. Govenrments have tried this nonsense over and over before.

  12. It is amazing how many gov programs injure the very party they claim to be helping.

    Sometimes it almost seems like an investment in more government in the future. We can see that this misguided policy WILL increase rental costs, it has to, and thus, the same politicians will step in with more “rent assistance” and “rent control” programs that will yield yet more distortions in the rental market that of course will require even more government actions.

  13. If Seattle were serious about ending racial discrimination in housing, they should invest in testers to enforce existing anti-discrimination laws. This spreads the cost to the public, rather than imposing it on landlords who will inevitably shift those costs to their renters.

  14. [Jerry Seinfeld voice:]
    Who…are…these…people?

  15. My understanding of Section 8 is that it requires the government to approve the rental rate (ie a landlord cannot charge more than the rate they say) – in a city such as Seattle with rapidly changing (increasing) real estate values I would expect the “approved” rate to be lower than market. There are also rules that would prevent say a 3 month security deposit. I would expect landlords to set rules specifically designed to weed almost everyone out (or everyone) – then they can choose among the “closest”. Could landlords post “coming soon” and ask if people want to be notified when available – then chose who to notify first…..Really this just changes the games being played

    1. There will always be workarounds. Business owners tend to be brighter than lawmakers.

  16. “they will either put fewer properties on the market to begin with, charge higher rent, increase security deposits”

    Seattle limits damage deposits by statute, like all large (and most smaller) US cities. So that’s a non-starter.

    Rents in Seattle are as high as the market will bear, as is true everywhere. Vanishingly few landlords charge less than they could. Why would they?

    I’m not sure why I shouldn’t just snort derisively at the idea that landlords will let buildings sit, idly losing money, out of spite. Certainly some will sell buildings that are suitable for single occupants, which is a positive thing (owner-occupied housing is better for quality of life -and- economic strength).

    I have a sneaking suspicion that you’ve never rented your home, nor been a landlord, nor ever spoken to a renter about renting, but maybe have a few friends or colleagues who own rental properties on the side. I don’t see how else you can get such strong opinions without being aware of the situation on the ground.

    1. “I’m not sure why I shouldn’t just snort derisively at the idea that landlords will let buildings sit, idly losing money, out of spite.”

      Nobody is saying that. But if you tinker with markets using pointless regulations, that will decrease the supply of housing in the aggregate.

      1. But if you tinker with markets using pointless regulations, that will decrease the supply of housing in the aggregate.

        That is an essentially useless observation. The ‘supply of housing’ can depend on two things only – some change in the amount of land on which to build housing and/or some increase in the density of housing on that land.

        The former can’t happen. Lack of land use regulations – or onerous regulations – or freaking complete confiscation – ALL of them result in virtually no change to the amount of land available to housing. The amount of land was roughly the same long before humans and will remain so long after we go extinct. However as long as price speculation re raw land itself is rewarded, then raw land can well become more valuable over time by remaining useless itself – by being withhold from use. The main way that price speculation re land is rewarded is by reducing the cost of simply holding onto land title and doing nothing.

        Changing the density of housing is a normal market dynamic where more regulations and higher taxes disincent the behavior. But as long as our tax system is a property tax system rather than a land tax system, then any dereg or lower taxes will incentivize BOTH ‘increasing the density of housing by developing it’ and ‘sitting on the raw land to speculate and do nothing’. IOW – there is absolutely no reason to believe that one will happen while the other won’t.

        1. “The former can’t happen.”

          He said, before explaining how it can happen.

          “…then any dereg or lower taxes will incentivize BOTH ‘increasing the density of housing by developing it’ and ‘sitting on the raw land to speculate and do nothing’. IOW – there is absolutely no reason to believe that one will happen while the other won’t.”

          It would be a remarkable coincidence if the financial incentive to increase density was directly proportionate to the incentive to sit on land for speculation. Of course local governments can engage in policies that affect the scarcity of affordable housing, and it’s demonstrated every day by comparing a Houston to San Francisco. Even if you didn’t have real life examples, it would be sufficient to observe that an 83.7 square mile city bans all buildings above 2 stories, the amount of housing in the 83.7 square mile city is going to be less than in a city that permits vertical development.

          Of course the purpose of the regulation is to create scarcity for people who already own land in the 83.7 square mile city. Seattle’s problems could be solved tomorrow, but then rich, white Seattle landowners (who don’t rent) would have neighbors they don’t want.

          1. It would be a remarkable coincidence if the financial incentive to increase density was directly proportionate to the incentive to sit on land for speculation.

            It wouldn’t be coincidence at all. A lot of states specifically prohibited (in their constitutions) any ‘property tax’ actions that might specifically be designed to be used to tilt the field more towards encouraging development (via no incremental tax on that) and away from speculation (via a confiscatory tax on that). They did so directly in response to Henry George’s idea of a land tax. Once that happens, there is nothing coinkydink about the land use outcomes at all – eg sprawl is a consequence of speculation at the edges being more rewarded than development at the core – which only ends when transport costs render even that a ‘non-solution’ for housing.

            and it’s demonstrated every day by comparing a Houston to San Francisco.

            Only if you ignore the fact that Houston actually has high property taxes (2.3% in Houston v 1.2% in SF) – and unlike most places, Houston doesn’t have the slew of exemptions/distortions/etc that tend to apply more to the improvements than the land. Houston’s zoning is a consequence of both a)MUCH lower expectations by people of land speculation gains and b)more dependence on that tax revenue source instead of other tax sources.

        2. But if you tinker with markets using pointless regulations, that will decrease the supply of housing in the aggregate.

          That is an essentially useless observation. The ‘supply of housing’ can depend on two things only – some change in the amount of land on which to build housing and/or some increase in the density of housing on that land.

          The former can’t happen.

          Neither your statement that the supply depends on two things only nor your statement that the change in the amount of land on which to build housing “can’t happen” is correct.

          As to the first, you neglect to consider that just because housing is allowed on a particular plot of land does not mean that the plot of land will be used for that purpose.

          As the second, you fail to realize that just because the “land on which to build housing” exists does not mean that people will be allowed to build housing on that land.

        3. JFree|12.28.17 @ 4:33PM|#
          “That is an essentially useless observation. The ‘supply of housing’ can depend on two things only – some change in the amount of land on which to build housing and/or some increase in the density of housing on that land.”
          Speaking of useless observations, JFree shows up.
          Hint for those who aren’t real bright:
          Rent control removes units from the market,

          1. Hint for those who aren’t real bright: Rent control removes units from the market

            Hint for those who are too stupid to even know how to read. Who’s talking about rent control?

        4. The ‘supply of housing’ can depend on two things only – some change in the amount of land on which to build housing and/or some increase in the density of housing on that land.

          The supply of housing depends on the willingness of people to invest in creating and maintaining housing, nothing else.

    2. The problem with your argument is that you discount that the people who are the “landlords” changes. If you make it burdensome enough to be a landlord, people who have extra capital to invest won’t bother. This will drive the value of existing buildings down, and lead to worse businessmen being the ones who invest/become landlords.

      You’re already seeing it in New York. I know a lot of people who invest in real estate who won’t touch NYC, because of a combination of tenant friendly rules, rent control/stabilization, unionized workforces, and so forth. So instead, you end up with a situation where an ever increasing percentage of landlords are huge commercial outfits with the political sway to get what they want. I don’t think a city where every available unit is owned by Avalon is a good thing.

      1. You’re already seeing it in New York. I know a lot of people who invest in real estate who won’t touch NYC, because of a combination of tenant friendly rules, rent control/stabilization, unionized workforces, and so forth. So instead, you end up with a situation where an ever increasing percentage of landlords are huge commercial outfits with the political sway to get what they want.

        That doesn’t describe the actual economics of investing in land in NYC AT ALL. Yes NYC discourages development – but it massively rewards speculation. It’s been the same for over 150 years. I’m sure things have changed some since 1995 – http://www.demographia.com/db-nyc-landuse.htm – but then only 22% of the land was true ‘high-density’ (that one would expect a LOT more of in NYC) and 54% of the land paid, essentially, nothing.

        The opposite urban situation is Houston – which has stripped speculation out (via what is prob twice the mill rate of NYC on the land itself) but lets development go wherever it will.

        The end result is that regular people are a hell of a lot better off in Houston than NYC because of the way govt is funded and their standard of living. But if you’ve got a few million burning holes in your pocket, you put it in NYC land not Houston – and who cares if the problems of NYC get worse?

    3. I’m not sure why I shouldn’t just snort derisively at the idea that landlords will let buildings sit, idly losing money, out of spite.

      But if their margins are already thin (or break-even), extra regulation and tenants that cost you more than you take in may make it easier to simply abandon properties. If the costs don’t even cover taxes and mortgage, it might be better to default and let the city take on the burden of dealing with it. Thus reducing the housing market *and* adding to blight.

    4. Landlords do let their properties sit idle instead of being forced to rent to risky renters. Some European cities have tired dealing with that by finiing landlords for empty rental properties or using eminent domain to forcibly rent them.

      Converting rental property to ownership may seem like a benefit to you in a market where properties rapidly appreciate. When property values are flat or depreciating, those properties become a loadstone. The rental/ownership ratio is best left to markets.

      Highly regulated markets like Seattle tend to move towards very large, corporate-managed rental housing, corporations with large legal staff and who build the fast food equivalent of housing. Small landlords for the most part cannot operate under such conditions.

  17. “Not Slytherin…not Slytherin….”

    “Gryfendorr!”

    Looks like Seattle has a magic sorting hat to dole out apartments.

  18. Like almost everywhere Seattle is attempting to ‘fix’ a side-effect to a problem that it created and that it wants to exacerbate – so it can’t possibly hope to ‘fix’ anything. Single-family house price in Seattle has gone from $225,000 in 1997 to $650,000 in 2017. Rents have gone from $650 to $1820. Probably 80+% of this increase in both is due to changes in price of raw land (ie inflation) – NOT improvements to structures. Since structures usually depreciate over time, bank mortgage lending, in aggregate, requires not only the land itself as collateral (obviously) – but an embedded expectation that land prices will increase over time and will appreciate faster than structures depreciate. Otherwise mortgage loans get riskier over time – not ‘safer’. That mortgage lending is the basis of most increased money supply over time in a community – and finances all the govt ponzi schemes too. Who gives a shit that the cost of that inflation is put firmly on the backs of the young and the landless. They’re probably commies anyway.

    The ‘zoning deregulation’ meme is backwards. Zoning restrictions are a consequence of people’s expectations that land prices must keep rising. They are not some fairyland where landowners are victims of govt coercion. They are pure rentier economics.

    1. Probably 80+% of this increase in both is due to changes in price of raw land (ie inflation) – NOT improvements to structures.

      Inflation means an increase by $125k ($225k to $350k) from 1997 to 2017; the remaining $300k increase is not inflation but due to supply and demand.

      Furthermore, structures have been improved greatly over the last 20 years, in particular new construction: it’s safer, more livable, better designed, more energy efficient, quieter, and with better infrastructure. Furthermore, the infrastructure of the neighborhoods keep improving as well: better connectivity, tougher policing, lower crime, better restaurants, etc. That’s what increases demand.

      Who gives a shit that the cost of that inflation is put firmly on the backs of the young and the landless. They’re probably commies anyway.

      Neighborhoods become more desirable is not “inflation”. “The young and the landless” can do what the “old and the frugal” like myself do: move somewhere cheaper.

      1. Inflation means an increase by $125k ($225k to $350k) from 1997 to 2017; the remaining $300k increase is not inflation but due to supply and demand.

        Hahaha. Funny how you goobers rely on govt to tell you what’s happening in the market. I used to work at BLS on these price stats a long time ago. Housing is the primary source of ‘inflation distortion’ – because the FRB needs to use that misinformation in order to keep interest rates low and subsidize FRB owners (banks) mortgage portfolios and keep the debt-based money spigot rising.

        One example. The CPI uses two groups of consumers – CPI-U (all urban) and CPI-W (urban hourly). They split ‘housing’ into two components – actual rent and ‘owner’s equivalent rent’. The latter is supposed to be a measure of ‘shelter’ component of homeowners – but statistically it’s crap. Homeowners have no idea what their homes imputed rent is – and that’s the whole point. If crap is good, more crap is better. So in weighting housing expenditures, they assume that 70% of urbanite own a home (actual number is 55% or so) – and 61% of blue-collar urbanites own (actual number is 40% or less). The purpose being to reduce ACTUAL rents/shelter to 7-11% of total expenditures – with crap filling the rest of ‘housing’ to the 33% level – so that increasing rent can’t affect ‘inflation’ – and increasing house prices only affect asset prices which can never be inflationary. Neat trick.

        1. Hahaha. Funny how you goobers rely on govt to tell you what’s happening in the market.

          I don’t “rely on govt to tell me what’s happening in the market”, that’s simply what the term “inflation” refers to. Making up your own private definition by indiscriminately referring to Seattle home price increases as “inflation” is a misrepresentation on your part. In fact, no matter what the relationship between housing prices and any inflation measure might be, markets like Seattle simply aren’t relevant because they are such outliers.

          Now, if we’re going to criticize the inflation index, what should we criticize it for? Indeed, median home prices have about tripled since 1950 in constant dollars (as measured by the government inflation index). But over the same period, square footage has tripled as well, and on top of that, current homes are just a lot higher quality and a lot more comfortable and the neighborhoods they are in are often much more desirable. So, housing actually has gotten cheaper, people just choose (or are forced by regulations like minimum square footages and codes) to consume more of it. The same is true for many other parts of the economy.

          That is, the government inflation index probably massively overestimates inflation, since it is based on categories of purchases (“housing for two adults”) as opposed to comparable products (“800 sq ft poorly insulated home with no conveniences”).

          1. I don’t “rely on govt to tell me what’s happening in the market”, that’s simply what the term “inflation” refers to.

            I understand. Govt tells you what inflation is – and like an attentive doofus, you prove that you can repeat it.

            Making up your own private definition by indiscriminately referring to Seattle home price increases as “inflation” is a misrepresentation on your part.

            It’s not some personal definition. It is the ACTUAL definition for any good that is purchased with debt – and priced on the carrying cost of that debt. Any interest rate (cost of capital) subsidy that is incorporated into prices is inflation. Any readjustment of those interest rates to eliminate the subsidy creates a deflationary crisis. It’s why the US economy is nothing but a bunch of fucking asset bubbles and has been so for nearly 25 years.

            The reason you don’t think that is inflation is because – govt told you to ignore that and move along.

            1. It’s not some personal definition.

              The definition of inflation is: Inflation is a sustained increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.

              It is the ACTUAL definition for any good that is purchased with debt

              There is no definition of inflation “for any good”; the term doesn’t apply to individual goods. Obviously, you fail to understand that which is why you keep misusing the term.

              The reason you don’t think that is inflation is because – govt told you to ignore that and move along.

              I think government estimates of inflation are wrong, but that’s not the problem here. The problem is that you are using the term “inflation” incorrectly. We can’t talk about what’s wrong with government inflation measures if you don’t even understand what inflation actually measures.

              1. I think government estimates of inflation are wrong, but that’s not the problem here. The problem is that you are using the term “inflation” incorrectly.

                No I’m not using the term incorrectly. Inflation has always been – a larger increase in effective (quantity and velocity) money than in output. The phenomenon hasn’t changed. It is and has always been a monetary phenomenon – and nowadays that means a banking phenomenon. Price baskets are only an outcome – and they are only an accurate outcome if some monetary assumptions (like velocity) are constant. But velocity is dropping – https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/M2V – and has been since 1997. Feel free to get into the weeds of why that is – but understand that until velocity stabilizes, price baskets are as useless as a speedometer on a bowl of jello.

                And let me repeat – any good that is ‘normally’ purchased by a loan (ie the direct creation of money) – and ‘normally’ priced/quoted in terms of the carrying cost of that loan is not the same as goods that are normally purchased by mere exchange (even exchange of IOU’s) where the transaction then ends. That isn’t normally included in price baskets because – price baskets assume money velocity is constant – when the difference doesn’t matter much.

                1. No I’m not using the term incorrectly. Inflation has always been – a larger increase in effective (quantity and velocity) money than in output.

                  No, that is not the definition of inflation. The definition of inflation is what I linked to. What you state is a possible cause of inflation. There are also causes of deflation active in the economy. It is the balance that determines the actual level of inflation.

                  That isn’t normally included in price baskets because

                  Baskets don’t define inflation, they are a way of measuring it. Government baskets are measuring inflation incorrectly, but in the opposite of the way you assert: they don’t underestimate inflation, the overestimate it.

                  But in any case, regardless of your confusion of definitions and possible causes, the fact remains that it is wrong to talk about the “definition of inflation for any good” as you did (“housing in Seattle”). Inflation measures something about money, not about “any good”.

  19. so now its illegal to maybe even have a preferential thought. soon teachers will grade this way and employers will also have to hire the first ferson interviewed even if more qualified is available this is the downward slope

  20. My sense is that this is probably worse for tenants than landlords. One of the ways that landlords now compete is in filtering out bad neighbors. If all are prevented from doing that effectively, then the quality of life in rental communities will decline — particularly in lower cost buildings where poor and minority residents live.

    1. Or they just jack-up the “minimum requirements” so high that nobody can meet them, 800+ credit score, 12 months rent in reserves, 10+ years same-job history, 6 months deposit, etc.

      And then, when nobody meets the criteria, they just look through the applicants and choose who they want by lowering the minimum requirements to the perfect level and get the person they want.

      Same outcome, slightly more work, and will actually allow MORE control to the landlords.

  21. Sevo’s law:
    Any time a 3rd party sticks it nose in a free exchange between two free agents, at least one of those agents loses.

    1. Absolutely true. If we delete all the progressives, that problem goes away.

  22. If it is the case that politicians have ideological bias that influences their views on policy, the same is true of Ilya Somin when he advocates against the policies advanced by certain politicians. Therefore, that argument gets us nowhere. Argument against policies meant to curtail bias are themselves subject to ideological bias.

    The argument that careful planning ahead of time may not be able to combat bias is very weak. The argument proves too much. If we were to accept these premises, then laws against racial discrimination by public school administrators could not be effective. After all, the lawmakers who would make such rules would have their own ideological biases.

    What does this prove? Simple that biases don’t simply cancel each other out. Yes, it is true that a person who is against racism has their own biases, ideological and otherwise, as do all people. At least where bias is defined as having at least some priors that are based on our intuition of how the world works. That does not imply that all laws meant to curtail the bias of racism are bound to be wholly ineffective, however. Somin’s analysis of bias is simplistic and lacking nuance

    1. (cont.)

      Ilya Somin is right that the bulk of the problem in our housing markets could be solved by encouraging development of housing and easing zoning and the power of NIMBY types to curtail development. Access to housing is mainly a matter of supply and demand. And the stakes for everyone, landlords included, are lower when rent is lower when supply is plentiful. That said, this point is mostly orthogonal, because easing zoning practices and advancing non-discrimination norms are not mutually exclusive. In fact, both work together to creating a better outcome.

      1. (cont.)

        Another problem with Ilya Somin’s argument in general is the apparent implicit premise that only the rights of property owners matter when it comes to any transaction involving property as a major object of a transaction. But since tenants need access to a place to live in order to have a decent life, their right to be free from discrimination is at least equally important. This is also true from an insurance perspective. An individual who faces discrimination, especially systematic discrimination, is going to be greatly disadvantaged in life in general. And the bulk of the costs are faced by that one individual. In contrast, the benefit of discrimination, if there are any benefits (and I think it is doubtful that there are any such non-speculative benefits), are spread more widely in society in the form of slightly lower rents. And going to Somin’s own argument, the main driver of price is supply and demand and non-discrimination norms, whether they exist or not, are simply not going to be a very important impact.

        1. But since tenants need access to a place to live in order to have a decent life, their right to be free from discrimination is at least equally important.

          What does their need have to do with any right they purportedly possess? Since when does one person’s needs, real or alleged, give him or her a claim on other people?

          1. Since when does one person’s needs, real or alleged, give him or her a claim on other people?

            Since the claims of those other people – enforced by government – is what is infringing the need. And the only natural right on both sides is actually that need. Like it or not, appropriating the earth to persons A B C eliminates the liberty of person D to find a place to rest/sleep and build their own shelter. It forces D to work for the benefit of A B C first instead of actually working for the benefit of himself first – and A B C also then have the power to decide when D can stop working for their benefit too.

            I think it is a waste to believe the problem here is that A B C might discriminate on some basis – or collude on zoning issues. Of course they will – and who cares? The problem is that D doesn’t have a choice now. He must now pay rent to someone else – or lose the natural liberty to sleep or for that matter wander the Earth.

            It is that latter problem that is created by the government’s entirely artificial creation of individual property in land. A lion may claim land – but ain’t no one else bound to respect that – and ain’t no lion living the rentier life. A lot of benefits to appropriating that land privately – and even having govt enforce that appropriation. But the benefits of that accrue to A B C – not D. Forcing D to also then pay the costs of not paying the costs smacks of an extortion racket.

            1. We have a Lion in our neighborhood. He never mows his lawn but we’re all afraid to complain to him. Do you propose we should all return to hunter-gatherer societies?

              1. Do you propose we should all return to hunter-gatherer societies?

                If we are going to assert primacy of natural rights and liberties and law, then we should understand what they are and where they originate. Cuz different natural rights do conflict at times.

                If OTOH we are simply gonna head down the path of utilitarianism or legal positivism – well count me out.

            2. Like it or not, appropriating the earth to persons A B C eliminates the liberty of person D to find a place to rest/sleep and build their own shelter.

              First, Person D didn’t fall from they sky, Person D has parents (A and B?) who created him and raised him fed him for years. You’re saying that at some arbitrary age, D’s parents kick him out and he suddenly has a property claim on my property? That’s absurd. I had no control over the creation or raising of Person D, so I have no obligation towards Person D. In a classically liberal world, worrying about the future of the children you choose to create is your responsibility as a parent. And in practice, since his parents (say, A and B) supported him for at least a decade and a half, they can continue supporting him in the future; they own enough land and resources, after all.

              Second, your analysis makes no sense economically. On a planet with just four people, D’s labor is extremely valuable to A, B, and C, and he could translate that into massive earnings and eventual land ownership. And on a planet with just four people, A, B, and C simply couldn’t even enforce their property rights. On the other hand, if you scale up your example to large groups of people, it doesn’t work anymore.

              1. In a classically liberal world, worrying about the future of the children you choose to create is your responsibility as a parent.

                Maybe in the southern version. But most places classical liberalism didn’t head down the path of asserting that children are property. Otherwise, you are saying that parents who then acknowledge they made a mistake, can then sell their children into slavery to someone else (for their own good too). More significantly – head there and there is no actual point of natural emancipation when anyone can claim ‘self-ownership’. We still have big elements of tribal/familial/kin ownership of the ‘individual’ in the law – but that long predates both classical liberalism and the very idea of ‘the individual person’.

                Which has nothing to do with appropriating land – unless you really want to talk about biblical jubilee years and ‘return to family’ because the land is always Yahweh’s (Leviticus 25)

                1. Maybe in the southern version. But most places classical liberalism didn’t head down the path of asserting that children are property.

                  Saying “parents are responsible for their children” isn’t the same as saying “children are property”. Responsibility doesn’t imply ownership or control. The rest of your response is rooted in that confusion.

                  Note that there are Western societies that work the way I suggested. That is, offspring have a legal right to obtain resources from their parents even once those offspring are adults (it also works in the other direction); if parents fail to provide necessary resources, others will step in and then recover the costs from the parents.

                2. Which has nothing to do with appropriating land

                  The term “appropriating” you used was merely your attempt at misleading people, since “appropriating” implies compulsion. You tried to dress up your equivocation by using the phrasing “was appropriated to”, which suggests setting aside.

                  What we are actually talking about in terms of Seattle home ownership is (for the most part) voluntary transactions between buyers and sellers. If you don’t have the money to buy property in Seattle, there is no compulsion involved on anybody’s part: you don’t own a home in Seattle for the simple reason that you haven’t earned it yet.

                  1. The term “appropriating” you used was merely your attempt at misleading people, since “appropriating” implies compulsion…If you don’t have the money to buy property in Seattle, there is no compulsion involved on anybody’s part: you don’t own a home in Seattle for the simple reason that you haven’t earned it yet.

                    Actually I meant nothing of the sort but now that you mention it…Every property in Seattle was stolen in the most coercive sense – from the Duwamish and about 20 other tribes in a ‘treaty’ (Point Elliot) that cannot remotely be deemed voluntary or non-coercive about 160 years ago. The eldest daughter of Chief Si’aht (Seattle) didn’t go to ‘the reservation’ (which wasn’t reserved anyway). She lived ‘illegally’ in a shack – https://goo.gl/wNMGv8 – in what was one of the 13 pre-white villages in what is now Seattle. When she died in 1896, she was not legally able to designate some heir of her choice. Instead, it was appropriated by Goodwin Real Estate – and became a part of Pike Place Market 10 years later. Not to mention the 2nd coercive appropriation on that same land in WW2 when Japanese-Americans (80% of market vendors by then) were dispossessed of their purchased property too. So spare me all the self-serving bullshit of modern landowners who want to pretend they are entitled to not only the rewards of what they developed on that land but to price increases of their mere occupation/title as well.

                    1. So spare me all the self-serving bullshit of modern landowners who want to pretend they are entitled to not only the rewards of what they developed on that land but to price increases of their mere occupation/title as well.

                      The majority of Europeans lost ancestral lands to war and political changes. My family certainly did, as we were persecuted for our religion. Modern economies couldn’t exist if old property rights claims didn’t naturally become extinguished after a while. And they also become extinguished because we know that (due to taxes, regulations, eminent domain, and poor management), large private land holdings tend not last.

                      And American Indians arguably never had the governmental, economic, or legal framework to establish property rights, inheritance, or citizenship to begin with so we couldn’t trace back property rights if we wanted to.

                      Modern landowners in the US, as in Europe, acquired their land in voluntary transactions in free markets. Your kind of race-based land ownership claims are the domain of fascists and I find them utterly deplorable.

                    2. I’m not saying the dead have any land claim. I’m saying that claim of the CURRENT owners is not based on some airy fairy peaceful voluntary BS. Land title is based on coercion – and always has been. Both in its origin – and every time it calls on that coercive power to defend its title (eg tenant eviction) – or transfer that title when the owner dies – or shit-ton of other regular ‘calls on coercion’.

                      Ain’t no welfare queen that sucks the public teat as completely as the American landowner.

                    3. I’m saying that claim of the CURRENT owners is not based on some airy fairy peaceful voluntary BS. Land title is based on coercion – and always has been.

                      Private property rights and their enforcement are not “coercion”.

                      Ain’t no welfare queen that sucks the public teat as completely as the American landowner.

                      That’s utter bullshit for many reasons, starting with the fact that land owners pay high real estate taxes: after a few decades, they have paid the entire value of the land in property taxes to society and the state.

                      Well-defined, enforceable land ownership and titles are essential for wealth and prosperity. The fact that American Indians are deprived of these on reservations and are forced to live in a collectivist left-wing freak show under the BIA is one of the reasons they are doing so poorly.

        2. An individual who faces discrimination, especially systematic discrimination, is going to be greatly disadvantaged in life in general.

          I’m a gay immigrant; I was “greatly disadvantaged” (in your sense) all my life, even compared to 99% of the “disadvantaged minorities” in the US you are presuming to speak for. I have always found that having to overcome disadvantages in order to succeed was a benefit to me; people who have had everything handed to them never learn to be resilient and to fight for themselves.

          And that’s what we find on a large scale: anti-discrimination policies don’t work; they are ineffective at achieving their stated goals and they contribute to a culture of dependencies.

          Anti-discrimination policies are just a continuation of the old progressive ideas about racism just clothed in a new mantle, namely that minorities are too weak and too dumb to fend for themselves. That is what you are really advocating.

  23. The question I have is why is Seattle (King County 75% Clinton/Johnson in 2016) so filled with racists that the city feels the need to pass regulations like this?

    1. The city might not be, but the subset of population that leases housing might be sufficiently infested to warrant action.

    2. Because few people are as inherently racist as progressives wth a low opinion of the capabilities of minorities. The soft racism of low expectations…

    3. Good point. Seattle should largely racist free, given the rich socialist air all residents breathe.

  24. I hope the city decides all rent must be zero, free to avoid discriminating against people with no money.

    1. Zero rent = homeless problem solved. You could have a bright future in politics.

  25. UPDATE #2: In principle, landlords could eliminate most questionable tenants by setting the initial minimal qualifications very high (e.g. – requiring a perfect credit rating or the like). But aside from risking leaving apartments empty?

    Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln?

    1. Not a big “aside”: they can run the qualifications like a reverse auction.

  26. How is a landlord supposed to be able to ensure a critical mass of demographic minority groups? For example, if the renters are predominantly female Hispanics, shouldn’t the landlord be able to consider being a non-Hispanic male as a “plus factor”?

  27. UPDATE #2 is exactly what occurred to me. Basically, you want to set the price as high as you dare and lower it only gingerly if you get no takers. In particular, you want to front-load costs, so if it turns out the guy is a deadbeat, you get evict him for cause and come out OK, so lard up on fees and deposits.

    1. If eviction in WA is anything like eviction in CA, that’s probably not a super awesome plan. Any plan that revolves around eviction and “coming out OK” is doomed to failure.

      1. It’s not great, but it’s not as bad as CA.

  28. Next item on the agenda…employers must hire the first qualified applicant, with all criteria and minimal considerations posted. No more interview8ng 3 or more candidates and making a racist pick. I expect that will be followed with a study proving that the law is racist because the first qualified applicant is too often white and/or male.

    1. Next item on the agenda…employers must hire the first qualified applicant, with all criteria and minimal considerations posted.

      This isn’t as bad a policy as you think, and I’ve pushed internally for my company to deemphasize interviews. A “good interview” isn’t actually a great indicator of future performance, and it comes laden with all kinds of hidden pitfalls. In addition to enabling discrimination (intentional or otherwise) against women and minority candidates, interviews just don’t really work that well.

      1. but muh cultural fit

    2. Being raised to get up early in the morning and put in the first application is white privilege. (end sarcasm)

  29. This idea of “subconscious” racism is so Orwellian. We are going to deprive you of making decisions best for your considerable investment using your experiences, Powers of character assessment and intuition because there’s a chance you might subconsciously make a racially biased decision? Heavy emphasis on MIGHT! Talk about thought police! Reminds me of an old Woody Allen jokethat went something like: I failed metaphysics because my professor caught me peaking into the consciousness of the student next to me. Also shades of the movie Minority Report in which police stop crimes before they happen based on close monitoring of all citizens and sophisticated predictive software. Seattle is doing the same but with none of the tools. Hope this soon faces a legal challenge. Inmates have taken over the asylum.

  30. No problem, just set the rent high enough to cover the costs incurred from taking on higher risk tenants.

    -jcr

    1. Or, sell the Seattle properties and buy comparable equivalents in Houston or Coeur D’Alene or wherever.

  31. I know people that own entire apartment buildings as well as condos, duplexes, and single family homes that they rent out. They all have the same thing to say about these laws: the end result will be fewer available rentals to go around, causing even more shortages, higher rental prices, and far more headaches for the landowners for zero benefit.

    It would appear that the end goal is to drive the landlords out of business so that city can eventually confiscate all rental units and hand them out based on Marxist ideals of who “needs” or “deserves” each unit.

    1. Except that experince shows that the city will manage the city rental units so badly that whole areas of town will come to resmble beautiful downtown Beirut.

      1. You should see the tent cities under the freeway – Beirut would be an improvement.

  32. How about this to be fair; allow landlords to note when they are renting against their better judgement became se of this law, in which case if the renter should prove to be a problam the city become liable formthe costs.

    You say that would allow the landlords to put the city on the hook for all bad tenants? Well, that’s the city’s cost for not minding its own goddamnd business.

    1. That will never happen in a million years.

  33. Seattle – that place where they ban plastic bags without wondering how many seconds a paper bag lasts walking around in the perpetual rain.

  34. The Seattle city council and the mayor don’t get it. It’s as predictable as the rain that their zoning, effective prohibitions on micro housing and rerouting of bus service will all have predictable negative effects on housing prices and availability. Coupled with a rising minimum wage, it will eventually hollow out the city’s core. As business becomes more mobile, there will be no reason in the world for people to stay.

  35. As a senor citizen, I would like to point out that ‘first come, first served’ discriminates against those of us with severe arthritis in both knees so we cannot move fast enough to get in line first. So the law is clearly unconstitutionally discriminating against a protected group, old farts.
    (full disclosure; I would never think of living in the people’s republic of Seattle.

  36. Yes, there is subconscious and somewhat above discrimination. Candidate names should be removed from ballots and all photos banned from all political campaigns. Education and childhood backgrounds also provide subconscious discrimination, therefore this info should be banned.

  37. In a rental market with many more renters than apartments, landlords can generally rent every apartment they have using only word of mouth. This is what will happen to get around these insane new rules and will totally eliminate the people they are trying to help from being able to rent at all.

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