Seattle's plans to fix your "unconscious bias"

September 30, 2016 | By ETHAN BLEVINS

seattle-skylineSeattle has decided to force landlords to accept the first prospective tenant that walks through the door. Why? Because you may be a racist and not even know it; your unconscious biases could control your rental decisions. Seattle is not content with stopping you from listening to the devil on your shoulder. The city also wants to guarantee that the shoulder devil isn’t mounting a covert op. So Seattle will simply remove your ability to decide who you rent your own property to. As long as the first person to apply meets minimum credit standards, a landlord will have to rent to him.

The scheme can’t be constitutional. The Constitution does not just protect you from a total taking of your property without compensation; it also prevents the government from destroying fundamental aspects of property ownership. Here, by forbidding landlords from selecting their own tenants, Seattle destroys your right to lease your property to whomever you wish.

Governments can sometimes get away with trampling property rights if the law serves a compelling interest. But unconscious bias? The very concept concedes that the City cannot even prove its existence.

The rule is also just bad policy. Many small-time landlords in Seattle have their life savings wrapped up in their rental property. Seattle asks them to entrust that precious investment with whomever walks in the door first. Such landlords may raise rents to filter out undesirable tenants or get out of the rental business altogether. The result will be an even worse housing crisis.

And this rule hurts the poor. Housing will go to those who can snatch up rentals the fastest. These will tend to be people with flexible work schedules and regular access to the internet during the workday. In other words, the higher-paid office employee will win out over the less fortunate blue-collar worker. While the City is fretting over your unconscious bias, it remains blind to its own unintended consequences.