TACOMA, Wash. — Earlier this week, Gov. Jay Inslee debuted a plan to give counties time to set up rental relief programs in the hopes of preventing a wave of evictions when the state's moratorium comes to an end.
“We’ve invested a billion dollars in our renters and landlords to make sure we create a good transition,” said Washington House Speaker Laurie Jenkins.
But a part of that transition has some renters worried.
Starting July 1, landlords will be allowed to raise rent in certain circumstances. The move is a departure from the previous moratorium, which froze rent prices while the state dealt with COVID-19.
Now some renters are worried about keeping a roof over their heads.
“I’ve rented in Tacoma for about 4-5 years now, and thankfully, I was able to move into a slightly larger space, and that fit within my budget, but it fit within my budget. So if there was something that made my landlord, such as this, increase the rent just a few hundred dollars, that might put me out,” said Michealea Lemons of the Hilltop Action Coalition. “That’s really scary because as much as I want to help the community, I’d be struggling myself, and that creates a lot of tension and nervousness and anxiety, and you know, it’s terrifying.”
There's also some concern for communities and residents that were being priced out of their homes even before the pandemic began.
“Our Hilltop area is being gentrified, we’re being pushed out,” Lemons said. “If this is another way for renters to push out our elders and people who’ve lived here for years, again, it’s terrifying.”
Some organizers say they understand that it’ll take time to see what the practical effects of Inslee’s plan will be, but they will be watching.
“Once we see how this runs, even after two weeks, we’ll kind of be able to see,” Lemons said. “Organizations in the community that are working towards communicating to individuals or sharing information or protecting clients will let the governor know how this went, in the nicest way possible, I hope.”
While Inslee’s news plan does give landlords the right to raise rents moving forward, they still can’t attach fees to late payments. As far as evictions go, the proclamation says renters can’t be evicted over past due rent until rental assistance programs are fully in place and operational, and a renter can’t be evicted moving forward if they can show they’ve taken action to try to pay their rent.