Tacoma city officials discuss updates to Rental Housing Code
Tacoma residents staged a rally in front of City Hall today calling for stronger protections for renters.
TACOMA, Wash. Dozens of people showed up in front of Tacoma’s City Hall on Thursday calling on the city to do more for tenants.
The rally was organized by Tacoma for all. One of its members, Prachi Goyal said she struggled to cope with the city’s rent increase and said that if nothing is done, people will be forced to find other places to live, a trend she says has begun.
“In my apartment, there are posters like, if you refer a friend, you can get $200 off or whatever,” she said. “You’re seeing that more and more often because a lot of apartments are struggling to fill up based on the price they’re offering.”
The group also put forward a proposal for the city called the Tenant Bill of Rights. The initiative calls for stronger protections for tenants, such as financial support for tenants if they have to relocate and longer time to notify tenants of the increase rent. It also says landlords will be prohibited from evicting tenants with certain occupations or carrying out evictions during the cold months and school year.
“These are safeguards that many people and communities in King County already have in the books,” said Bill Hanawalt, a Tacoma homeowner and proponent of the proposal, which is nothing new. “And we know that the people in Tacoma in particular, in our community, need those protections, too.”
But Mark Melsness of Spinnaker Property Management said there could be unintended consequences.
“If an occupant stops paying rent for any reason and they have this protection, they can literally stay in the home for eight months before the housing provider that receives any rent. “The other effect is that it doesn’t make the tenants liable for those costs.”
Tacoma’s Community Health and Safety Committee included some of the proposal’s recommendations in its discussion of how to update the City’s Rental Housing Code.
Melsness said that while he understands his desire to help, the city should consider all the consequences before making a decision.
“I think trying to make a claim that has a negative impact on one or more aspects of this relationship for affordable housing is going to be costly and create an even greater divide for affordable housing. with those responsible for bridging the gap and coming to an agreement,” he said.
Meanwhile, Goyal is simply hoping the city can bring some relief, because she doesn’t want to have to leave Tacoma.
“My partner is a public school teacher in Tacoma. He works here, I live here, I will have to move for the rest of my life. I don’t want to do that.”