Tacoma ‘Tenant Bill of Rights’ wins by fewer than 400 votes

Nov 14, 2023, 8:25 AM | Updated: Dec 9, 2023, 10:48 am

Tacoma Measure 1...

Tacoma building with apartments available to lease. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Tacoma’s Measure 1, an initiative that would give renters more protections, passed with voters during the 2023 election, nearly split the city’s votes. Just over 50.4% voted for the measure, while about 49.6% voted against it.

The gap between yes and no settled at just 370 votes, with yes receiving 21,903 votes and no receiving 21,533, according to Pierce County’s elections data.

More on the bill: Court scraps Tacoma City Council-backed renter’s measure for Nov. ballot

Measure 1 — also known as the Tenant Bill of Rights — creates a defense against student/school year evictions and evictions between Nov. 1 and April 1. Additional protections for service members, seniors, families and others with protected status would also be created with the passage of this measure, including preventing evictions.

Landlords would have to comply with health and safety laws before raising rent or evicting a tenant. Rental fees would be limited while landlords would also be required to provide two notices to increase rent and offer relocation assistance when the increase is 5% or more, according to the Pierce County’s official local voters’ pamphlet.

The initiative has been backed and supported by Tacoma For All, a coalition that includes the Tacoma Democratic Socialists of America and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 367.

“All the policies in Citizens Initiative Measure No. 1 are modeled on existing laws already passed in cities across Washington,” Tacoma For All wrote on its website. “Tacoma tenants deserve the same protections already enjoyed by hundreds of thousands statewide. Most landlords operating in Tacoma don’t live here. No wonder the opposition ‘No on Measure 1’ campaign is almost entirely funded by outside business interests who don’t care about the people of Tacoma.”

As part of a statement last month, Tacoma for All Campaign Manager Ty Moore expressed confidence in the early results, saying “our base of support – tenants, young people, working class folks – tend to vote late.” Moore added a level of excitement in the statement as well.

“We’re thrilled to be on the verge of this victory for 100,000 tenants and all working families in Tacoma,” Moore said. “We’re going to win the strongest tenant protections in (the state of Washington). The people of Tacoma face the highest eviction rates in the state and have seen rents rise 43% over the last five years, so no one should be surprised by this result.”

Moore credited the win to “the strength of the labor and community movement organized by the Tacoma for All and supported by numerous prominent endorsing organizations and individuals.”

“This win comes down to the power of our coalition and a real army of volunteers,” Moore added as part of the statement. “The members of Tacoma DSA and UFCW 367 deserve special recognition for launching this campaign and seeing it across the finish line.”

Opposition to Measure 1

But landlords have vehemently fought against this measure, citing legislation like the Tenant Bill of Rights would force them to take their rental unit off the market.

“We do not want to (complete) any eviction, we work with them,” Debby Herbert, a property owner in Tacoma previously told The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH. “This will prevent us evicting for nine months during the school year. But it can be for anyone (who) is a student, even if they take just one online class, and they can be of any age. So, it’s ripe for abuse.”

Developing story from Max Gross: Why Seattle ‘nightmare tenant’ can now stay in rental into 2024

Sean Flynn, president and executive director of the Rental Housing Association of Washington, described the Tacoma measure as containing “the most draconian landlord restrictions in the state,” according to Crosscut.

According to Measure 1, when rents go up more than 5%, eligible landlords must offer two months of rent assistance to tenants who can’t afford the increase and move out. For a rent increase of over 7.5%, the assistance increases to 2.5 months. For 10% or more increases, three months of assistance would be required.

Ballots will continue to be counted and certified several weeks after Election Day, according to the Pierce County Auditor’s Office.

Contributing: Steve Coogan

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