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Tacoma city officials discuss updates to Rental Housing Code

Tacoma residents held a rally in front of City Hall today calling for stronger protection for tenants.

TACOMA, Wash. — Dozens showed up in front of Tacoma’s City Hall Thursday calling for the city to do more for its renters.

The rally was held by Tacoma for All. One of its members, Prachi Goyal said she’s struggled to cope with the city’s rent increases, and said if nothing is done, people will be forced to find other places to live, a trend that she says has already started.

“In my apartment, there are these posters that’re 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 in based on the price that they’re offering.”

The group also put together a proposal for the city called the Tenant Bill of Rights. The initiative calls for stronger protections for tenants, such as financial assistance for tenants if they have to relocate and longer times to notify tenants of rent increases. It also says landlords would be prohibited from evicting tenants with certain occupations, or carry out evictions during the cold months and school year.  

“These are protections that many people and communities in King County already have on the books,” Bill Hanawalt, a Tacoma landlord and supporter of the proposal, said this isn’t something new. "And we know that folks in Tacoma in particular, in our community need those protections as well.”

But Spinnaker Property Management’s Mark Melsness said there could be unintended consequences.

“If an occupant stops paying rent for whatever reason and they have this protection, literally they could be in the home for eight months before any rent would be received for that housing provider,” he explains. “The other impact is that it doesn’t leave the renter unresponsible for those costs.”

Tacoma’s Community Vitality and Safety committee included some of the proposal’s recommendations in its discussion on how to update the City’s Rental Housing Code.

Melsness says while he understands the desire to help, the city should consider all the consequences before making a decision.

“I think trying to make a statement now that has a negative impact on one or more sides of this relationship for affordable housing is going to become costly and create an even greater divide on those who are responsible to shrink the divide and come to an agreement,” he said.

Meanwhile, Goyal simply hopes 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’d have to move my whole life. I don’t want to do that.”

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