Andrew Grant Houston, Seattle’s “queer” mayoral candidate, has not paid rent since the start of the pandemic and now reportedly owes more than $20,000 in back rent. Nationwide eviction moratoriums put in place during the pandemic have prevented tenants from being evicted. The moratorium is set to expire in August, and Houston is one of many tenants taking advantage of the situation. Before running for mayor, Houston, who goes by the nickname “Ace,” operated an architecture firm and worked as interim policy manager for Seattle Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda.
In April, the property management company that Houston “rents” from sent him an email saying, “I understand you are running for mayor, and on Teresa Mosqueda’s staff, our office recently received an inquiry from the press about the status of your rent balance. Before responding to them, we’d like to understand if you have any plans to get current on your outstanding balance of $14,485.” Jason Rantz has reported that Houston now owes more than $20,000 on his $1,695 per month apartment.
In an attempt to turn the situation into a campaign pitch, Houston’s communications director, Dylan Austin, said to KTTH, “Ace is one of an estimated 200,000 Washingtonians behind on their rents, in totals over $1 billion, Ace is the only candidate in this race who doesn’t own a home, and who has a stark contrast in personal wealth as compared to every other leading candidate (some in the millions).” Austin went on to say, “Ace has the same lived experience of many Seattleites who struggled before (and struggle now) in a pandemic to keep up with soaring rent prices and affordability issues in our city.”
One of Houston’s major campaign platforms is commercial and residential rent control. He states, “we need immediate and effective stability in our homes and for our small businesses.” On his website, Houston proposes limiting “rental and commercial increases to ‘inflation plus 2%’ or 4%, whichever is higher.” The website also says, “studies show rent control limits rent increases effectively in every place it’s implemented (New York, New Jersey, California, Maryland, and Oregon) – especially when coupled with closing secondary loopholes that otherwise weaken it and when building significantly more housing.” On the site, Houston declares, “Rent control is the proven harm reduction we need. We know it works.”
Houston has raised almost $412,000, with around 85% of donations coming from Seattle’s Democracy Voucher program. Recent polling suggests Houston is still a longshot for mayor, but his fundraising ability has surprised his opponents and the media. Houston’s rent, however, remains unpaid.