Tenant relocation assistance draws emotional testimony


A proposal for tenant relocation assistance led to some often-emotional testimony during the Oct. 2 Tacoma City Council meeting. The assistance would not be available to a tenant who is evicted for failure to pay rent, or engaging in behavior that would justify an eviction, such as criminal activity. It is for people forced to move because their landlord plans to demolish the structure, change its use or conduct extensive renovation.

It would allocate up to $2,000 per housing unit to cover moving costs and expenses related to the new rental home, such as a damage deposit or hooking up utilities. The cost would be split evenly between the city and the landlord. It is meant for tenants earning 50 percent or less of the average median income of Pierce County. The average median income here is currently $28,571. If approved, the program would go into effect on Feb. 1, 2019.

The city held several meetings with stakeholders in crafting the proposal. Representatives of several groups that represent landlords, such as Rental Housing Association of Washington and Washington Landlord Association, as well as some “mom and pop” owners, attended these sessions.

Most speakers urged to council to adopt the proposal, with several claiming the assistance is not a high enough amount. Amy Tower, a volunteer organizer with the Tacoma Tenants Organizing Committee, said the assistance “is so desperately needed.” While she wished it were a higher amount, she termed it “a step in the right direction.

When residents of the Tiki Apartments were displaced earlier this year, the city contracted with Comprehensive Life Resources to assist tenants in finding new homes. Nathan Blackmer, an employee of the organization, said the average cost of assisting them has been $1,820. He said one in three now live outside the city limits of Tacoma, which he said is turning into “an economically gated city.”

Nicholas Bostwick described his recent purchase of a house in Tacoma. He had to evict the tenants due to conditions of his Federal Housing Association loan. He gave them 60 days to move. He fears tenants could refuse to pay rent or utilities for several months while occupying a home they will soon vacate. “Where is our help?” he asked.

The council will take further action on the topic at an upcoming meeting.

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