Bellingham minimum wage, Seattle housing measures likely to pass

As votes are still being counted, the two initiatives appear to clear while Tacoma’s rental protections proposal is too close to call.

A picture of a voter putting their ballot in a drop box.

Voters drop off ballots at the White Center Library ballot box on voting day, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

Voters in Tacoma appeared to be approving a sweeping package of tenant protections after Thursday’s vote count, after trailing in early election results. A win for Tacoma Measure 1 could represent one of the most ambitious efforts to protect renters as the city – and state – face a dire shortage of affordable housing.

More ballots will be tallied in the coming days and the results could flip again. A win there would join other housing-related city initiatives that were passing in Seattle and Bellingham.

In Thursday afternoon’s vote dump, Tacoma’s Measure 1 was passing 50.6% to 49.4%. 

In a statement before the vote dump, Ty Moore, campaign manager of Tacoma For All, the group that campaigned for the measure, predicted it would pass.

“While it may be pretty close, we continue to feel confident we'll have a clear majority in the days ahead,” Moore wrote in an email. “I think Tacoma is on the verge of passing the strongest tenant protections in Washington state.”

If it ultimately passes, Tacoma’s Measure 1 would require landlords to adhere to tenant protection laws before being able to start an eviction or raise rents. Evictions would be prohibited during winter weather and for tenants who are also students, during the school year. Landlords would be required to provide a notice of six months for rent increases. Additionally, they would also have pay assistance to renters relocating due to significant increases. The initiative also puts a cap on late fees of $10 per month.

As such, the proposal drew a well-funded opposition campaign from rental and real estate interests.

A campaign committee registered to the Tacoma Pierce County Association of Realtors spent $371,000 in an effort to defeat Measure 1.

As Washington experiences a shortage of affordable housing around the state, other housing-related measures are passing elsewhere.

In Seattle, voters were passing Proposition 1 by 68% to 32%. That measure replaces an expiring Seattle Housing Levy and will fund housing and related services for low-income households, people with disabilities, seniors and people experiencing homelessness.

That seven-year property tax would begin at roughly 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, with the city’s regular tax rate not increasing beyond $3.60 per $1,000 in assessed value. Qualifying people could be exempted from the tax, including veterans with disabilities and seniors.

In Bellingham, voters were approving measures to increase the city’s minimum wage and to provide some tenant relocation assistance in certain circumstances after a rent increase.

The group Community First Whatcom worked to pass those initiatives, which also had the endorsement of the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, the Whatcom County Democrats and the United Food and Commercial Workers 3000. 

Voters were approving Initiative 1 by nearly 58%. That measure would put Bellingham’s minimum wage at $1 above the state’s minimum wage. It would take effect on May 1, meaning the wage would then rise to $17.28 hourly. Campaign organizers said housing costs there were a key reason to pursue higher wages.

Bellingham voters also were signaling support for Initiative 2, which provides tenant protections, by an even bigger margin with nearly 61% of votes counted. That measure would require landlords to give 120 days’ notice in advance for a rent increase. If the increase is 8% or more during a 12-month rolling period, tenants could qualify for relocation assistance.

Meanwhile, Spokane voters passed by a wide margin a city measure to prohibit homeless encampments in swaths of the city. Proposition 1 is passing with 75% and would bar encampments within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, public parks or licensed child care facilities.

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