Militant Journalism

Tenant Bill of Rights initiative passes in Tacoma

With nearly all ballots counted, Citizens Initiative No. 1, the Tenant Bill of Rights has secured a narrow victory in Tacoma. On Nov. 14, the Pierce County Elections office said they had finished counting nearly all ballots countywide, and Initiative 1 was ahead by 361 votes.

“Against the odds, Tacoma tenants just won the strongest protections in Washington State,” said Campaign Manager Ty Moore. “Our grassroots movement overcame an intense disinformation campaign from a deep-pocketed opposition that shattered all spending records for Tacoma city-wide elections. We overcame the City Council’s attempt to put a competing measure on the ballot. It’s a real David vs Goliath moment and a historic victory for 100,000 Tacoma renters.”

Corporate landlords own a vast amount of real estate in the Tacoma area. These profit-driven corporations monopolize the housing market and alienate people in low-income brackets from their right to a home. In 2022, 70% of apartments sold in the United States were bought by private investors. Rent in Tacoma increased more than 40% in the last five years, the highest year-to-year rent increase rate in the Puget Sound area (Apartmentlist Data 2022), while holding some of the most regressive tenants rights laws in Washington, which has resulted in an alarming eviction rate. This is why the campaign to pass a Tenant Bill of Rights resonated with working-class people in Tacoma.

Initiative #1 will penalize landlords for unethical behavior and expand housing rights for all Tacoma families and tenants. The initiative outlined by Tacoma for All “is designed to protect families, promote community, stabilize the rental market, and reduce homelessness.” Landlords will be obligated to provide relocation assistance to tenants facing unfair rent increases. Furthermore, protections would be granted to students and senior citizens, and includes a restriction on evictions during the city’s coldest months, November through April. 

Volunteer petitioners including members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation worked hard all summer to collect the signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot, then carried out a grassroots campaign to pass the measure.

Signing a voter pledge card for Initiative 1 at the PSL table at Tacoma’s Hilltop Neighborhood Faire. Liberation photo

Michael Hines, President of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 367, emphasized labor’s central role in the victory. “As the largest union in Pierce County, UFCW 367 was proud to help initiate and lead the campaign,” Hines said. “The labor movement backed Initiative 1 because housing costs keep rising faster than wages, forcing more and more workers into housing insecurity. To secure a decent standard of living, dignity, and hope for the future, our movement needs to look beyond the workplace and fight for the whole person where they live. This is how we create real and lasting change.”

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