Council Roundup: October 24, 2022

Renter Protections, Affordable Housing Demonstration Program, Budget, Staff Compensation, Federal Legislative Agenda, Police Chief Recruitment
Posted on 10/28/2022
Illustration displaying icons related to housing and legal documents.

The City Council adopted renter protections and extended the end date of the Affordable Housing Demonstration Program. They continued discussions of the 2023–2024  budget, hearing from department leaders presenting details of their budget requests. They approved staff salary survey recommendations to be included in the proposed budget, approved a federal legislative agenda for 2023, and discussed recruitment of the new police chief.

Affordable Housing Demonstration Program Extended

The City Council extended the Affordable Housing Demonstration Program through December 31, 2024, allowing for five total projects to be approved in the program. There are currently two projects that have been approved to participate in the program, and an application has recently been submitted for a third.

If the ecoTHRIVE project is approved by the City Council, that would leave room for two more projects to participate in the program.

New Renter Protections Adopted

The City Council adopted updates to Burien’s existing suite of renter protections, originally passed in 2019. The updated renter protections go into effect immediately, before the end of Burien’s eviction moratorium at the end of the month.

  • Rent increases: A new section on rent increases was added. Specifically, a landlord may not increase rent unless they have provided 120 days’ prior notice of a rent increase over 3% and 180 days’ prior notice of a rent increase over 10%. Rent increases cannot go into effect prior to the completion of the term of the rental agreement. Notice of rent increases of 3% must follow requirements set by Washington State law. Landlords are also not allowed to increase rent if the dwelling unit has “defective conditions” making the rental home uninhabitable.
  • Move-in fees cap: Move-in fees, including security deposits, nonrefundable move-in fees, or last month’s rent, may not exceed the cost of one month’s rent. Exceptions were listed for subsidized housing where the amount of rent set is based on income.
  • Installment payments: In the previous version of the law, tenants in longer term agreements were allowed to pay move-in fees in installments. The updates now allow tenants in a six-month or longer rental agreement to pay move-in fees in installments. Renters in rental agreements lasting fewer than six months must be allowed to pay fees in two equal installments.
  • Just cause eviction requirements: Burien’s existing “just cause eviction” ordinance was updated to add that landlords may not evict residential tenants from rental housing units if the units are not licensed with the City of Burien or if the required rental housing inspection is not completed by the deadline.
  • Late fees: Late fees cannot exceed $10 per month. No other fees, such as attorney fees or other legal costs, can be charged to the tenant. Any notice to pay or notice to vacate must include text, in at least 16-point font: “You have 14 days to pay the rent required by this notice. After 14 days, you may pay the rent but will have to include a late fee totaling at most $10.00 per month for each month of rent owed. If the landlord has started a court case to evict you and the case is filed in court, you will need to pay court costs as well before the hearing date to avoid eviction.”
  • Social Security numbers: Social Security numbers cannot be required to apply for a rental home. Alternative methods of proving financial eligibility must be accepted. If the prospective renter offers an alternative financial qualification document, the landlord must offer the same terms as if a Social Security number was provided.
  • Due date adjustments: Tenants are allowed to adjust the due date of rent payments if their regular and primary source of income, monthly source of governmental assistance, or fixed income source such as Social Security is received on a date that is incompatible with paying rent on the date specified in the rental agreement. Landlords are not allowed to refuse to rent to a prospective tenant or terminate a lease based on a request for a due date adjustment.
  • Certificates of inspection: Not complying with inspection requirements will now incur penalties for every day the unit operates without a certificate of inspection. After 30 days of noncompliance, the property will be deemed uninhabitable.

Compensation Survey Recommendations Approved for Inclusion in 2023–2024 Budget

The City’s financial policies (see page 5-2 of proposed 2023-2024 budget) direct the City staff to evaluate staff compensation compared to similar jurisdictions in the region.

For the 2022 salary and benefits survey, City staff evaluated 50 job classifications encompassing 80 positions, including union, regular, and intermittent status employees. An additional evaluation of two positions, recommended by staff for reclassification, was also performed.

Key findings from the survey included:

  • Half of the positions had salaries 2.5% or more below market rate
  • Policy on vacation accrual lags other jurisdictions

Staff recommended market adjustments to staff salary and benefits based on the survey, adding $259,000 in 2023 and $305,160 in 2024 to the proposed salary budget. The City Council approved inclusion of the staff recommendation in the proposed budget document that will be voted on in December.

City Council Continues Discussions of 2023–2024 Budget

City department leaders presented an overview of their budget enhancement requests. Staff also recommended that cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for staff salaries be 6% in 2023 and 3% in 2024. The COLA would be 9.5% for union-represented positions in 2023. Staff benefits costs are expected to rise between 3–4%.

Federal Legislative Agenda Focuses on Housing, Youth, Airport Issues, and Public Safety

The City Council discussed their 2023 federal legislative priorities, placing approval on the next meeting’s consent agenda. New priorities for 2023 focus on airport issues, housing, youth programs, co-response model for public safety, and support for South King Housing and Homelessness Partners programs.

The City Council establishes state and federal legislative priorities every year. A legislative agenda enables staff and the City’s contract lobbyists to advocate and support legislation that benefits the City of Burien government and the Burien community.

City Council Gives Direction on Police Chief Job Announcement

The City Council discussed a proposed job announcement for chief of police of the Burien Police Department. The position is only open to King County Sheriff’s Office employees.

The City Council discussed language they wanted to add to the job description and announcement. They approved language be added that addresses the following topics:

  • Engage with all communities within Burien
  • Active attendance and participation in public events
  • Work to become active member of the community
  • Active engagement in alternative policing – Leading With Services

Recruitment will begin this fall, with the public invited to participate in the evaluation of candidates through community meetings and other public processes. The goal is to have a new chief of police hired by January.