Eastern Washington Legislative Conference 2019
Two nonprofits work to keep people housing
Terri Anderson of the Washington State Tenants Union in Spokane and Kay Murano of the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium discussed legislation to help keep people in housing.
"We are nervous with half-to-one percent vacancy rate in Spokane where half the residents—115,000 people—are renters," said Terri.
She said the Washington Residential Landlord-Tenant Act from the 1970s still defines the tenant-landlord relationship. Under it, landlords can terminate rental agreements in 20 to 30 days, just after collecting rent, so the renter has no funds to find a new rental.
"We are focusing on local ordinances, such as one to end no-cause notices. Just-cause agreements require landlords to have a cause for terminating a rental agreement—such as failure to pay rent or breaking the agreement," said Terri. "Seattle recognizes 16 'just' causes."
"A tenant who asks a landlord to fix the stove may be given a notice. Then a new tenant moves in with appliances that don't work," she said.
Terri suggests that the city establish a pre-paid relocation fund for tenants when a landlord's property is condemned. The city pays the tenant and collects from the landlord. She helps tenants organize.
Kay said there are eight bills to increase the 20-to-30-day notice to 120 days for changing rents, for changing from apartments to condos, or demolishing to do rehabilitation.
"It's hard for a renter to find a place in 20 days, so tenants feel insecure. The goal is to reduce homelessness by reducing the number of evictions," Kay said.
She also said there is need to build more affordable homes.
"If we have more housing stock, there is less concern about homelessness," she said, urging people to advocate for the legislature to increase the Housing Trust Fund and the Housing and Essential Needs funding.
For information, call Terri at 464-7620 or Kay 325-3235.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, March, 2019