By Nicholas Johnson

The Burien City Council voted to extend its eviction moratorium during a special meeting Thursday night (Jan. 13, 2022), two days before that moratorium was due to expire.

The extended moratorium, which bans evictions within the city only for nonpayment of rent and late fees, will expire whenever Gov. Jay Inslee’s Feb. 29, 2020, COVID-19 state of emergency ends. However, the council agreed to reassess its moratorium in approximately 90 days.

While Inslee’s March 18, 2020, eviction moratorium ended Oct. 31, 2021, the cities of Burien, Seattle and Kenmore had extended their moratoriums through Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022.

On Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell ordered a 30-day extension of Seattle’s moratorium, through Feb. 14. The Kenmore City Council decided Dec. 20 not to extend its moratorium.

An initial motion by councilmember Jimmy Matta to extend the moratorium for 90 days failed on a 3-4 vote after newly elected councilmember Sarah Moore suggested tying its expiration to the governor’s state of emergency instead.

“I don’t see why to set an end date to this moratorium that’s not connected to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moore said. “There is no time limit to a pandemic; it ends when it ends.”

Later in the meeting, councilmember Cydney Moore spoke in support of that motion by arguing that the moratorium should last as long as the city’s February 2021 hazard pay ordinance for grocery workers, which remains in effect for as long as Inslee’s state of emergency declaration lasts.

After nearly two hours of discussion and at-times-contentious procedural jockeying, the council voted 6-1 in favor of Sarah Moore’s proposal, which was amended by Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling to specify that the ban on evictions would apply only to a tenant’s nonpayment of rent and late fees.

Newly elected councilmember Stephanie Mora, who did not voice an opinion on the city’s eviction moratorium during the meeting, cast the lone no vote.

The council initially established its moratorium on June 21, 2021, as Inslee’s statewide moratorium was set to expire on June 30, 2021. The council extended the moratorium on Sept. 27, 2021, over concerns that King County was not distributing federal rent assistance money quickly enough.

Of nearly $150 million in federal rent assistance money distributed in 2021, the county paid out some $30 million in November 2021 and another $44 million in December 2021. An additional $24 million has gone to the Housing Justice Project to pay rent for eligible households at the King County Courthouse.

 

Nicholas Johnson (he/him) is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who grew up in Boulevard Park, graduated from Highline High School and studied journalism at Western Washington University. Send news tips, story ideas and positive vibes to [email protected].