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News / Northwest

Tacoma renter initiative is likely to pass as final votes are counted

By Heidi Groover, The Seattle Times
Published: November 20, 2023, 7:56pm

After nearly two weeks of neck-and-neck results, Tacoma voters are still favoring a sweeping set of new rental regulations, with very few ballots left to be counted.

The vote is the latest effort to add tenant-friendly reforms to a regional housing market where high costs and slim supply are squeezing renters.

Initiative Measure No. 1 would enact the state’s strongest pro-tenant policies, including six months’ notice for all rent increases, caps on late fees and move-in fees, limits on evictions during the school year and winter months, and a mandate that landlords pay tenants who move out after rent increases of 5 percent or more.

About 50.4 percent of Tacoma voters are backing the initiative as of the latest ballot count released Monday. The measure leads by a narrow 363 votes but appears likely to prevail when the county certifies the election later this month.

Just 50 ballots are left to be counted across Pierce County, according to the county elections office. Another 139 Tacoma ballots are considered “challenged,” meaning they have signature problems. The county contacts those voters to attempt to fix the issue.

Still, those appear unlikely to change the outcome because the initiative leads by more votes than there are challenged ballots.

The county could also still receive other lingering ballots that voters mailed on time but that have not yet arrived, but the number of arriving ballots has dropped off sharply nearly two weeks after Election Day.

The photo finish follows a heated campaign that drew nearly half a million dollars in spending between the two sides.

Labor unions, progressive groups and the Democratic Socialists of America campaigned in favor of the measure, arguing that Tacoma renters need the additional protections as the city gentrifies and high rents squeeze working-class tenants.

The election result, although narrow, shows that Tacoma residents are dissatisfied with more timid landlord-tenant reforms that the Tacoma City Council has favored, Tacoma for All campaign manager Ty Moore said last week.

“The housing crisis is bad enough that we need much bolder solutions,” Moore said, “and there is an appetite amongst voters for bolder measures.”

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