Advocates argue for more tenant protections in Spokane

As rent prices continue to climb throughout Spokane County, many tenants are struggling to afford a place to live.

“Tenants are really desperate right now, and what we are asking the city to do is create some ordinances that are going to help people,” said Terri Anderson, interim executive director of the Tenants Union of Washington State.

At Monday nights city council meeting, tenants and union representatives put pressure on council members to pass more tenant protection laws. Several tenants of the Westview Manor Apartments said their rent is going up nearly $500 dollars next month. The apartment’s owner was murdered last December, and the new owner is raising rent to make unit upgrades.

“That kind of told me right then and there that he wasn’t interested in anything but getting us out of there,” said tenant Rick Schmidt.

Anderson said rent increases like that are essentially eviction notices, and 30 days is not enough time for people to pack up, move, and find another place to live. Anderson wants council members to extend the notice period when rent goes up more than 10 percent. She also wants the city to pass a just cause eviction law, like other major cities.

“Tenants in Spokane can be evicted with a 20 day notice for no reason whatsoever. Even if they’re current on rent, and they’re obeying the rules, and we think that should change,” Anderson said.

Council president Ben Stuckart said the city needs to focus on creating more affordable housing.

“If we do not support policies that create more supply, no matter what laws we pass, or regulations we put in place, if we don’t have the supply of housing, we’re going to continue to have the same problem,” Stuckart said. He also noted that the city’s Strategic Investment Fund, which passed in December, puts $2 million aside for affordable housing. The city is also plans to invest more than $300,000 in a pilot program to help renters relocate, and find more affordable housing.