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Opinion
The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
 

Local View: Rent control makes for healthier communities

By Julie Crites
Published: February 26, 2023, 6:01am

When my husband and I carefully planned for our retirement, we didn’t anticipate rent gouging. I have been a nurse for 43 years. I’m still working for Veterans Affairs as a nurse case manager. When my husband retired from his career as a business owner in 2019, we sold our home in Salmon Creek to downsize and cut back on our expenses, in anticipation of the need to make ends meet on a fixed income.

We moved to Woodland into a manufactured home we bought. When we moved here the monthly rent for space in this park was $685 a month. When we signed the paperwork, the property management said our rent won’t be increased within the first year. But eight months later we got a notice of rent increase. Our monthly rent in the park has been raised three times and is now $1,000 per month. We don’t have any clue, where does this stop? There’s no limit on how much property owners can raise rents in Washington.

As a homeowner, you know your mortgage isn’t going to change much. But when you are renting, whether it’s an apartment or house or the fee to lease space in a manufactured home community, you don’t have that security.

There are no amenities in our park. The property management is supposed to maintain the systems like air conditioning in the clubhouse, but it went out two years ago and it’s still broken. They don’t maintain the drains in our streets, so there is always standing water when it’s raining. They used to provide sewer and garbage, but now they are requiring us to pay for that on top of the $1,000 rent each month.

So much for our careful planning. Fortunately, we can afford it, at least for now. It’s our neighbors we are really concerned about. Single seniors on a fixed income have no extra money to put into keeping their homes up now that so much more is required for rent.

Living in a manufactured home community, you can’t just move out like if it was an apartment. You have to sell your home. So homes are slipping into disrepair, places in our park are taking longer to sell. The value of everyone’s homes here will go down.

This year there are several bills in the Legislature that would help protect tenants from rent gouging practices. It’s not a surprise that property owners are fighting these measures. They say it puts a burden on landlords. What about the burden that’s being placed on people faced with massive rent increases? There’s already not enough affordable housing in the area. What happens when more of us are displaced because we can’t afford the rent?

We know there are good, responsible landlords out there. But we need protection from outrageous, unchecked rent increases that displace young and old alike. Communities where people have predictable, reasonable rent increases are safer, more stable communities.

My husband and I have no idea what will happen down the road. When you are living on a fixed income, you have to know what you’ve got to work with. You need to balance your health care needs, insurance co-pays, trips to visit your family. When we suddenly have to pay far more in rent, other needs go unmet. If the rent is so high you can’t afford to take that trip to visit family regularly, your mental health suffers. There are so many impacts.

I’m concerned about us. But I’m more concerned about my lower-income neighbors, friends and families, and our younger generation – my nieces and nephews. If they can’t afford to rent, what will they do?

I’m retiring at the end of this year. My husband and I always thought we were doing OK. But it’s getting really tight for us. I hope our legislators will support rent stabilization measures and give our communities the stability we all deserve.


Julie Crites is a nurse and lives with her husband in Woodland.

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