Sunday, January 19, 2020
Jan. 19, 2020

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City council approves housing ordinances

Vancouver takes steps to add protections for vulnerable renters

By , Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith

The Vancouver City Council unanimously approved three ordinances Monday night designed to protect vulnerable, low-income renters despite concerns about how the changes may play out.

The ordinances will give renters more time to find new housing when told to vacate or told that rent is increasing, and would prevent landlords from refusing to rent to people based on their source of income.

Many council members pointed out that affordable housing is an issue locally, statewide and nationally, and suggested pushing state legislators to be part of the solution.

“I’m going to have to support this, even though we might be making the wrong choice,” said council member Bill Turlay.

The ordinances become effective in 30 days.

One ordinance will increase the current vacate notice period from 20 days to 60 days, a time period that concerned some landlords. If the ordinance leads to higher costs, then landlords may increase rents, deposits and other fees to make up the difference. Landlords also questioned whether the ordinance would hinder situations where the landlords want somebody to leave the complex because they’re creating an unsafe environment to other tenants.

Average Rent in Vancouver

1 bed, 1 bath: $889.

2 bed, 1 bath: $975.

2 bed, 2 bath: $1,135.

3 bed, 2 bath: $1,278.

Source: Norris, Beggs & Simpson

“This is a very narrow change to the no-cause notice,” said Andy Silver, director of the Council for the Homeless, adding that the ordinance would leave for-cause notices intact.

Another ordinance will prevent landlords from refusing to rent to people based on how they pay for their rent, including through Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, public assistance, retirement programs and voucher programs. Over the last five years, there’s been a decrease in the number of local landlords participating in Section 8, a housing voucher program, though the number of vouchers has stayed fairly consistent.

The final ordinance would give renters an additional 15 days’ notice if the rent is increasing by 10 percent or more. The 45-day period is supposed to give people more time to possibly increase their income or find other housing and move out.

Mayor Tim Leavitt ended the discussion on a positive note: There are thousands of rental units that are slated to be built or are currently under construction in Vancouver, he said.

Housing market

Vancouver and the rest of the Portland metro area are experiencing unusually low vacancy rates, around 3 percent. In Vancouver, vacancy is about 1.5 percent on the west side and 2.4 percent on the east side, according to Multifamily NW’s spring apartment report.

Did You Know?

• The rental vacancy rate in Vancouver is about 2 percent.

In Vancouver, the average price of a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment is $889, according to Norris, Beggs & Simpson, a local real estate company. Apartment List, a national rental listing website, puts their estimate even higher: $1,000 for a one-bedroom rental in the city. That’s just under the national average price for a one-bedroom rental.

Recently released Census estimates say that nearly half of all renters in Clark County are cost-burdened. That means they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, a guideline determined by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith