[UPDATE: Commenters are keen to make the point that this legislation might impact various non-traditional definitions of “family.” The original article makes clear that the Bellevue Council is very conscious of these unintended consequences and seeks to avoid them. What they’re not seeking to avoid is the broader impact on poor people, as that is the actual point.]
The Times reports that the Bellevue Council plans to ban large groups of unrelated people from living together ($):
Monday night, the Bellevue City Council is expected to adopt permanent regulations that limit to four the number of unrelated people who can live in one house.
The new rules require the adults to be sharing the entire house under one lease and not renting individual rooms on a short-term basis. Any nonconforming leases would have to be terminated within one year or when they next expire, whichever comes first.
The story says that “Neighbors had complained about traffic, noise and landlords not paying for garbage collection or keeping up the yard.”
I have little doubt that traffic, noise, and untidy grounds are sometimes a problem with boardinghouses. Indeed, homes occupied by a single family can also make noise and not keep up the yard. But Bellevue has hit upon a way to limit this that also happens to specifically exclude poor people from the neighborhood, which should concern anyone interested in social justice.
The fundamental argument for having subsidized housing in Seattle, as opposed to doing it more cheaply further away, is that it’s important for poorer people to have housing close to jobs.* The Eastside is the other major job center, and market-rate home prices are actually higher. Furthermore, Bellevue is commonly understood to have among the best public schools in the state, meaning that also limits access to quality education for small families of meager means. Bellevue residents that think this is a bad policy may want to let their representatives know today.
* Why it isn’t important for the thousands of households who can’t fit in Seattle due to zoning restrictions as a simple matter of math, or for the newcomers who may not be able to displace an existing household if we enact rent control combined with restrictive zoning, has never been clear to me.