Tacomans deciding on progressive renter protections

Zev Cook prepares to address the crowd of supporters gathered at Real Art Tacoma on election night. (Credit: Lauren Gallup / NWPB)
Zev Cook prepares to address the crowd of supporters gathered at Real Art Tacoma on election night. (Credit: Lauren Gallup / NWPB)



Update Nov. 20, 2023, 3:05 PM —  The latest round of election results for Citizens’ initiative Measure No. 1 kept the outcome the same, with the measure passing by 363 votes. The Pierce County auditor’s office is estimating there are only 50 ballots left to tabulate for the county, but results aren’t final until the election is certified on Nov. 28. That’s when the office is planning to next update the results.

Update Nov. 14, 2023, 3:05 PM —  As more votes are tallied, the outcome of Citizens’ initiative Measure No. 1  is a nail-biter, with votes for and against still less than 1% apart. The latest tally shows the measure passing, by 361 votes now. Avid followers of the results in Pierce County will have to wait until Nov. 16 for another update — and the results won’t be final until the election is certified Nov. 28.

Update Nov. 13, 2023, 2:00 PM —  Early Monday afternoon, Pierce County released the latest round of results from the Nov. 7 General Election. Citizens’ initiative Measure No. 1 is still passing, but by a smaller margin — supporters are ahead by just 332 votes. The county is estimating there are only 350 votes left to count. Continue to check back here for updates on this race.

Update Nov. 9, 2023, 5:30 PM —  The third round of ballot results from the Pierce County Auditor’s Office Thursday saw the current standings on Tacoma’s Citizen’s Measure No. 1 flip from failing to passing — with a narrow lead of just under 500 votes. There are still 6,000 votes to count. Here are the latest election results for the county. The next round of results will be shared Monday, Nov. 13, according to the auditor’s office. 

Update Nov. 8, 2023, 4:50 PM —  The second round of ballot results from the Pierce County Auditor’s Office Wednesday narrowed the gap between voters opposing and voters supporting Tacoma’s Citizen’s Measure No. 1. Initial results have it failing now by less than 1% of votes counted, with 50.65% of votes counted saying no and 49.35% of votes counted saying yes. Here’s the latest election results for the county.

Previous coverage, Nov. 7, 2023 —  

After Tuesday night’s general election, Tacoma’s Citizens’ Initiative Measure No. 1 was failing by a slight margin.

Still, the mood at Real Art Tacoma, where supporters of Measure 1 and City Council candidate Jamika Scott gathered election night, was electric.

The first round of results showed 51% of ballots returned voted no, with yeses and noes separated by just under 600 votes. 

Tacoma For All organizer Zev Cook kept the mood positive, announcing the results to the crowd.

“Tonight with 49% of the vote, we are looking at an extremely likely win for our initiative,” Cook said, met with cheers from the 70-some people gathered in support.

There are still votes to count. The Pierce County Auditor’s Office couldn’t say how many late Tuesday night, as staff continued to pick up ballots from drop boxes across the county — and more ballots could still be delivered by mail. Kyle Haugh, elections manager in the auditor’s office, said the county predicted 35% voter turnout. Initial results Tuesday night accounted for 18.19% turnout.

Ty Moore, Tacoma For All’s campaign manager, spoke to the crowd after the results came in.

“We know who voted tonight. It’s overwhelmingly, statistically, it’s going to be the wealthier, whiter — All the landlords already voted, I tell you that,” Moore said.

Tacoma For All Campaign Manager Ty Moore kept the mood upbeat as the first round of election results came in Tuesday night. (Credit: Lauren Gallup / NWPB)

Tacoma For All Campaign Manager Ty Moore kept the mood upbeat as the first round of election results came in Tuesday night. (Credit: Lauren Gallup / NWPB)

Supporters and those behind the initiative have had no qualms being honest about the pressure the measure would put on landlords.

“We made no bones about it, it will add some additional burdens on landlords,” Moore said. But, he added, the group wants smaller landlords to be supported and sustained. “With the market increasingly dominated by big outside property management companies and investors, that’s the problem we were trying to address.”

What changes would the initiative make, if passed?

The measure proposes a slew of new protections for renters in the city, including prohibiting evictions between Nov. 1 and April 1, called “cold weather evictions,” and evictions for students, parents and educators during the school year.

The language in the measure states it is meant to “protect families, promote community, stabilize the rental market, and reduce homelessness.”

There are also protections for renters included in the measure for when a landlord raises rent.  Landlords would have to provide two notices of a rent increase, the first between 210 and 180 days before the increase would go into effect. There are also scenarios where landlords would have to provide relocation assistance to tenants who cannot afford the rent increase. The breakdown of those situations can be found in the measure.

The measure is also seeking to cap fees for late rent to no more than $10/month. 

Who supported the initiative? 

Cathy Pick knows first-hand what it’s like to be behind on paying rent. She is a lead organizer of the Tacoma Tenants Union. She said when her family was nearly evicted, organizers of the measure rallied support for her.

She said the company that owned the property she was almost evicted from is an out-of-state private equity firm.

“They don’t care about my missed payment. That’s nothing to them,” Pick said. “Nobody wins by having me and my family out on the street.”

Pick said she is passionate about protecting school children from evictions. Over 2,000 students in the Tacoma School District are reported as homeless or facing housing insecurity. 

“I really hope that this initiative passes, because what’s gonna happen when this passes, it’s going to reverberate around the whole state,” Pick said. 

She and other supporters of the initiative hope that if the protections pass here, it could expand around Washington.

Who opposed it?

The committee “No on Tacoma Measure 1” formed at the end of September.  It raised the most money of all committees formed around the ballot measure — a whopping $361,430.35 — and spent even more, $371,175.84. That puts them over $100,000 in debt, according to the Public Disclosure Commission. The majority of those dollars were contributed by businesses. 

Sean Martin is the CEO of the Tacoma Pierce County Association of REALTORS. That is one of the groups behind the committee, whose interests lie with realtors.

The Citizens’ Initiative secured its place on the ballot this summer but the committee formed at the end of September. That’s because there was confusion as to what voters would have a chance to decide on, Martin said.

He’s referring to a competing ballot measure the city attempted to get to voters. A Pierce County superior court judge turned that measure down because the Tacoma City Council had adopted the ordinance in July, prior to placement on the ballot.

“We think that the city took a measured response that was balanced for both the housing provider and for renters, and we think that measure one just goes way too far,” Martin said.

The city’s updated Tacoma Rental Housing Code addresses some of the same issues brought up in the measure but has differences. For example, the city caps late fees for rent at $75/month. 

What’s next?

“If we pull out a victory here, I think we see this very much as the beginning,” said Campaign Manager Ty Moore.

The next round of results are expected Wednesday afternoon, according to the Pierce County Auditor’s Office.

NWPB will continue to update this story as results are released. The election will be certified Nov. 28.