Tenants protest outside city hall as Tacoma rents increase four times faster than Seattle

TACOMA, Wash. — Market experts are warning that the affordability gap between Tacoma and Seattle is narrowing, with Tacoma rents increasing four times faster than those in Seattle.

Frustrated tenants protested Thursday outside Tacoma City Hall. They want councilmembers and the mayor to crack down on local landlords using a so-called “renter’s bill of rights”. Some people born and raised in the Grit City argue they can no longer afford to live there.

Jeff Tucker, a Senior Economist at Zillow is not affiliated with the growing movement but can speak to the economic factors fueling their complaints.

“I think the pandemic sort of accelerated a trend that was already underway,” said Tucker. “Seattle was the poster child for rising housing costs all through 2013 – 2020. So, it was already a huge challenge for people to afford to live here, and the pandemic sort of supercharged that.”

Tucker says once remote work kicked in, people started relocating outside the city. He argues the consequence of that is higher housing costs spreading even further out.

Analyzing the numbers, Tucker found while rent in Tacoma remains more affordable than in Seattle, incomes in Tacoma are lower. When comparing local rents to local incomes, the rent burden for the typical renter in Tacoma is actually higher than in Seattle proper.

Devin Rydel Kelly is a representative of Tacoma 4 All, the group rallying behind the renter’s bill of rights. Rydel Kelly, says the South Sound has seen an influx of investment and growth. However, that progress is changing the character of neighborhoods like Proctor and Hilltop.

“Developers come in and they put in these nice market-rate apartments that people can’t afford to live in,” said Rydel Kelly. “We’re a working class town without a lot of resources and a lot of tax base but with a lot of rich folks moving here.”

Looking ahead, Tacoma voters may face two competing ballot initiatives in November, each offering different solutions to address the growing housing crisis. One initiative focuses on stricter regulations for landlords using the renter’s bill of rights, while the other proposes a milder alternative.