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Renton Families Get Reprieve In Fight To Stay In Their Apartments

Renton, a city southeast of Seattle that's home to the Seattle Seahawks practice facility and a Boeing plant, has a population of 106,000 according to the 2020 U.S. Census.
CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
"Renton sign" by Westernyankee is licensed under CC BY 3.0

More than 60 Renton families who rely on rental assistance are getting a reprieve weeks after landlords told them they would have to vacate their apartments.

Tenants of the Renton Woods and Grammercy complexes have faced displacement since the summer, when landlords said they would no longer accept Section 8 vouchers, according to advocates with the Tenants Union of Washington State.

Last week, landlords agreed to reverse or amend their decisions, allowing residents to stay in their apartments for at least the immediate future.

"We've won this first battle, and we're able to keep people in place for at least the time being," said Hana Alicic, a community organizer with the Tenants Union of Washington State.

But, she added, the problem is likely to grow more common for Section 8 recipients in Western Washington.

Landlords, she said, appear less willing to accept low-income tenants amid the region's spiking rents and swelling demand for apartments.

"We're hearing increasingly that, for folks with vouchers, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find housing," Alicic said. "This is really concerning to us, especially considering the homelessness and housing affordability crises that we're in the midst of." 

Renton Woods's owners said in a statement that they have "chosen to withdraw" from the Section 8 program, but would allow recipients to stay until June 30 so children could finish the school year.

They will provide $2,000 in relocation assistance to tenants who agree to "certain move-out conditions" before November 30, said a statement from Julia Peckham, president of the company that owns the complex, Calibrate Property Management.

Representatives of Fairfield Residential, the company that owns Grammercy, said they notified some Section 8 recipients in late July that their leases would not be renewed because their units were slated for renovation.

But they said they reversed the decision after learning  tenants would be competing for new apartments with voucher recipients recently displaced from other complexes.

"This unfortunate combination of circumstances would put a severe burden on our residents if they have to compete for housing with others," company representatives said in a statement. 

The Grammercy owners added that they may "give some non-renewal notices in the future" to finish renovations but "will make best efforts to avoid disrupting the everyday lives of our residents."

Section 8, as the federal government's housing choice voucher program is commonly known, provides subsidies for low-income families to pay rent in the private housing market.

Seven Washington cities and counties have laws preventing landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their sources of income, according to a report by the Poverty & Race Research Action Council. 

The Renton City Council was scheduled to discuss such a law Monday evening.

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.