The Seattle City Council passed a new law this week that prevents landlords from offering special deals to people who work at specific companies.
The ordinance, passed unanimously Monday, bans “preferred employer” programs used by landlords to discount fees and other rental-related payments for employees of companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and others.
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights began investigating the programs last year to find out if they violated fair-housing guidelines in a market that has seen rental prices increase over the past several years, in part due to the growth of the local tech industry. The office found that the programs may constitute discrimination under Seattle’s Open Housing Ordinance. From the office:
Data has shown workforce gaps exist in the tech sector, for example, based on gender and race, which negatively impact groups who are currently underrepresented in the tech workforce. Given Seattle’s high rents and increasing unaffordability, incentives and opportunities for certain groups over others may perpetuate existing racial, gender and other social inequities.
Ultimately, the council decided on Monday to outlaw the programs.
“Tenants benefiting from preferred employer rental discounts aren’t the tenants that need assistance in the affordability crisis Seattle faces,” Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who sponsored the ordinance, said in a statement. “It’s the renters who are on social security or who receive child support assistance that need a helping hand, and that’s who this law was intended to aid.”
The new law also prevent landlords from discriminating against potential tenants who use Social Security, unemployment insurance, veteran’s benefits, child-support payments, and other assistance programs to earn income and pay rent.