On October 8, at the steps of City Hall, a gathering of local Olympia renters rallied, hoisted signs and shouted chants asking the city to address barriers that make renting unaffordable for many. Protestors were advocating for a fresh ordinance that regulates fees and security deposits, known as a move-in fee payment plan.
Two members of the Washington Community Action Network (WashingtonCAN), Sarah Stockholm and Xochitl (So-chi) Maykovich, led the rally. WashingtonCAN has helped pass similar ordinances in Seattle, Tacoma, Burien, and Vancouver.
Total costs to rent an apartment in Olympia, including administrative fees, first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and security deposits, can run anywhere from $2,500—$3,000. This is a steep increase from 2011, when rent for a one bed-room apartment in Olympia averaged $600 per month. That price has jumped to nearly $1,100 a month today.
…the only change for landlords would be incremental payments, as opposed to total and upfront payments.
For many people at the rally, this figure represents 30-50% of their income. Those most at-risk from rising expenses are families, people with disabilities, seniors, and low-wage workers.
At the heart of the proposed ordinance is an installment payment plan for the renters’ biggest financial hurdles, coming up with first and last month’s rent and the security deposit. Instead of a lump-sum payment which could be as much as $3,000, the sum could now be broken into several payments. For instance, for rental agreements lasting longer than six months, these fees could be paid incrementally in six equal monthly payments.
The new ordinance regulates fees and security deposits in other ways as well. Prepayment of rent would be non-refundable. Security deposits will be fully refundable. Move-in fees would be nonrefundable. In addition, those fees could only be utilized for tenant screening and cleaning upon moving out. Fundamentally the only change for landlords would be incremental payments, as opposed to total and upfront payments.
After the rally and during the public hearing segment of the City Council meeting, Sarah Stockholm took the stand and addressed the council. “The cost of rent is rising and tenant protection is not. Renters are losing availability to affordable housing and paying up to 30% of their income. Those charges need to be capped and payment plans created.”