Senior facility rent hike attributed to $15 min. wage

TACOMA - It's the talk of the Narrows Glen senior living facility. A $300 a month rent hike has the normally mild mannered Joy Kooley rather ornery.

"Well it's just so stupid," she said Monday.

In August, residents received a letter notifying them of the increase. In it, the executive director said the hike was due to "several municipalities in the area moving toward a $15 minimum wage increase."

Family members of the residents argue Tacoma is not one of those municipalities, so Narrows Glen wouldn't have to pay its workers more money.

"They're stealing from us," said Kooley, who is 91.

KING 5 tried to talk to management at Narrows Glen about the letter, but they refused.

According to the Washington Health Care Association there are several factors driving up assisted living rents across the region. One is the fact that facilities are having to pay for their employees health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act. Also, the cost of keeping certified nursing aides is increasing because nursing homes and hospitals pay more than assisted living facilities. What may be the actual cause in this case, however, is a concern that current Narrows Glen workers might leave for jobs in SeaTac and Seattle, which have approved a $15 minimum wage. In order to keep quality employees, Narrows Glen would need to pay them more.

If any of those are the case, family members simply wish management would be clear about it.

"If they need a cost increase, fine," said Rolf Grunden, Kooley's son-in-law. "Tell them that. But don't lie to them."

In the meantime, residents like Kooley and her friend 96 year old Wally Stevens worry they might not be able to stay at Narrows Glen much longer because at $3600 a year more, their money will run out much more quickly. If that happens they could be forced into a group home funded by Medicaid.

"I've paid this place $360,000 since I've been here," said Stevens. "They're going to price this place right out of business."

"I don't know how people are going to live here in the coming years," added Joy.


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