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Need assistance filling out the Rental Relief application? Here's where to go

Staff from The Zone will provide assistance to Spokane residents who may have questions about COVID Rental Relief.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Residents in Northeast Spokane can attend a workshop Monday to get assistance filling out the Rental Relief application.

Staff from The ZoNE, a partnership of organizations and families committed to building positive futures in Northeast Spokane will provide a space for residents to fill out the COVID Rental Relief application and get their questions answered.

The workshops will be held on Mondays on July 19 and 26 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Northeast Community Center.

Those who attend the workshops can expect language support, access to computers, printing and scanning, help to understand forms and trusted staff and volunteers to help you navigate resources.

On July 1, landlords were allowed to raise rent in certain circumstances. The move is a departure from the previous moratorium, which froze rent prices while the state dealt with COVID-19.

This has led to renters across Spokane saying they're facing increases of hundreds of dollars.

"My rent's going up over 60 percent. I did the math right when we got the notice and it was like 65, 66 percent and I can't afford that anymore," said Jillian Gamache, who rents an apartment with her boyfriend on the South Hill.

Gamache and her boyfriend moved to Spokane about a year ago to avoid rising housing costs in the Seattle Tacoma area. They aren't the only ones either, as Spokane real estate agency Kiemle Hagood said in a report that 59 percent of renters moving from out of the area came from Seattle in 2020.

But now, Gamache and her boyfriend are on the move again. They're moving into a home in Spokane that's cheaper per square foot than their apartment.

"We found, actually, a house that dollar for dollar, square footage wise, costs less. We were really lucky to jump on that because if we were like five minutes later to getting our application in, we wouldn't have gotten it because everyone is trying to move," Gamache said. "So, we have a place to go but yeah, there's no way we'd want to stay there since its going up so much so fast."

Out of town renters is just one factor in the rent increase. Landlords have previously said a lack of housing has caused supply to fail to keep up with demand. The pending rent increase for many renters is also the first time landlords have gotten a chance to raise rental rates since Governor Jay Inslee implemented an eviction moratorium last March. 

Only July 1, landlords were again able to give the 60 day notice required to raise rents. This spike in rental prices has led to people making the decision to find a new place to live.

"I'm moving out of my apartment, and four other people just in my building are moving out, and I think there's 12 or 13 buildings in the complex so I know there's more than just the four or five of us moving out because of the increase," Gamache said.

Gamache said they saw the increase coming because the complex stopped allowing people to do leases earlier this year, instead telling tenants they were only offering month-to-month agreements. She also said they asked if rental increase was going to come with renovations or better accommodations, but they didn't get an answer.

All of this has led to a stress situation for renters such as Gamache.

"Its been so stressful. I haven't been able to sleep. I've been trying to stay a little bit later and get some extra hours at work so that I can just afford to finish out my month at the apartment and then move out, because even moving on itself is expensive," Gamache said.

While Gov. Jay Inslee’s new plan does give landlords the right to raise rents moving forward, they still can’t attach fees to late payments. 

As far as evictions go, the proclamation says renters can’t be evicted over past due rent until rental assistance programs are fully in place and operational, and a renter can’t be evicted moving forward if they can show they’ve taken action to try to pay their rent.  

Many people in the Spokane area can relate to this situation, and in addition to the Rental Relief application, the Tenants Union of Washington State is organizing renters to ask lawmakers for protections. Washington state does not have a limit on how much a landlord can raise rents. The city cannot put a cap on rent increases because only the state has the power to do that.

The Tenants Union is instead asking renters to ask lawmakers to pass two protections. First, to require landlords to provide relocation funds to tenants forced out by high prices. Second, to extend the rent increase notice from 60 to 90 days so renters have time to find alternate housing.

The Tenants Union of Washington is also holding a meeting on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. to teach tenants about newly created tenant protections to avoid eviction and how to comment on the plan and to talk about what to do about the rent increases. 

The meeting will be held on Zoom. Register for it in advance, here.