Jan 22, 2023 5 min read

Council made revisions to the landlord-tenant ordinance, here are the details

Council made revisions to the landlord-tenant ordinance, here are the details
Controversial votes are on hold until problems with Spokane’s virtual public meeting software get fixed. (Photo illustration by Valerie Osier)
Table of Contents

CIVICS | Vote postponed again. Plus Spokane wants to buy Trent shelter and possible changes at the county jail.

Spokane City Council

Landlord-tenant ordinance: In response to public comment, city council made changes to the proposed landlord tenant ordinance. They also postponed the vote due to technical difficulties, allowing more time, and probably more changes, to the ordinance before voting.

City Council President Breean Beggs said that the city’s software that allows the public to attend and speak at council meetings virtually is glitching and the city’s legal department advised that they don’t hold any controversial votes until that gets fixed. The vote will be deferred until February and a final version of the ordinance is in the works that will take into account a fiscal analysis from the city’s finance department. However, the city council has released an updated draft of the ordinance that has some folks worried.

We’ll be doing a deeper dive once the final-final-FINAL version is up, but in the meantime, some key differences in the new draft include:

  • Landlords will all still have to get a $127/year business license, but now their property management company will be able to fill out the paperwork for them (if they work with a property management company).
  • The new draft ordinance no longer requires a $10/unit fee for landlords with more than four units. However, this may have to change in the next draft of the ordinance if the city finds that taking away those fees will leave Code Enforcement without enough money to perform the duties laid out in the ordinance, Beggs said.
  • The Legal Services and Relocation Program for tenants remains the same as before, but its funding will now come from the sales tax revenue from HB 1590 (a 1/10th sales tax for affordable housing passed in 2020) for the first five years. Council will allocate 2% of that tax (about $140,000 per year) each year until 2027. That’s considerably more funding than the first draft allocated. After 2027, funding will come completely from the successful litigation of bad landlords.
  • The universal background checks are now called portable background checks, but the function is still the same: tenants can use them across any application in the city to save time and money. Additionally, they would be valid for 90 days rather than 60 days.
  • The Residential Rental Property Mitigation Program for landlords remains the same as before, but will be funded differently: for the first five years of the fund, the money will come from 10% of landlord business license fees (it was 20% before). After 2027, the funding will come from code enforcement fines (though this may have to change in the next draft too if Code Enforcement doesn’t make enough money in fines to support the program).
  • The city utility department, rather than landlords, will be responsible for giving new tenants information for voter registration and what their tenant rights are.

The full draft ordinance is in the council agenda packet starting on page 260. Beggs, along with city council member Karen Stratton, are sponsoring and drafting the ordinance with input from the other city council members. You can find their contact information here to give input on the ordinance.

Read more about the first draft ordinance here.

Intention to buy:  
The City Council is set to vote on providing notice to the owner of the building the Trent shelter that the city intends on buying it. Last July, the city started negotiating with the owner, Larry Stone. The lease is set at $1.86 million per year and had a provision that allowed the city to have a purchase option that would expire on January 31.

In a council study session on Thursday, the council members discussed the pros and cons of buying the building, noting that the city is already paying maintenance and renovation costs for the shelter. Purchasing the building and adding plumbed restrooms and sleeping pods was added into the city’s 5-year Capital Improvement Plan late last year at an estimated cost of $4 million. The resolution doesn’t say what the estimated cost of buying the building will be, but says the funds for purchase may come from American Rescue Plan funds, Commerce Department Relocation funds, Real Estate Excise Tax funds, Spokane Investment Pool funds and 2021 accrued unallocated general fund budget reserves. Stone bought the building last spring for $3.5 million.

Agenda here
Monday, Jan. 23 at 6 p.m.
Council Chambers in the Lower Level of City Hall.
808 W Spokane Falls Blvd, Spokane, WA 99201
The meeting is also live streamed here.

Board of County Commissioners

No more border patrol detainees?: Just when we thought the county commission seemed awfully quiet this week, the consent agenda pulled us back in. The commission is poised to vote on terminating an agreement with the US Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and US Border Patrol that requires Spokane County Jail to house federal detainees. The resolution doesn’t give the reason for terminating the agreement that was signed in 2016.

Collective transparency: In another consent agenda item, the county commission is set to vote to encourage, but not require, collective bargaining contract negotiations to happen in a way that’s open to the public. The resolution is an effort to comply with the state supreme court ruling in Washington State Council of County and City Employees (WSCCCE) v. City of Spokane that said the city was violating state law by requiring collective bargaining to be done in a way that’s open to the public. Most labor negotiations take place behind closed doors, but in 2019, Spokane voters approved a charter amendment requiring public-sector collective bargaining with public sector unions like WSCCCE to be public. The union sued the city in 2020 to once again make the negotiations closed to the public. The state supreme court ruled in favor of the union.

Sewer fees: The county commission will also hold a public hearing on amending county sewer fees. According to the agenda packet, the fees will go up by about $1 per month, depending on the type of building that is being served.

Agenda here
Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 2 p.m.
Public Works Building
1026 W Broadway, Spokane, WA
Commissioner’s Hearing Room, Lower Level
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Spokane City Plan Commission

Planning for less car-centric transportation: This week’s Plan Commission meeting furthers last week’s discussions about improving bike parking in the city. The staff recommendations in the agenda include plans for short-term and long-term (think indoor) bike parking. They also look at ideas to leverage bike infrastructure to reduce car parking requirements for new developments. Reducing parking is a favorite policy of urbanists seeking to build more dense transit-oriented cities and lower the cost of development. This Sightline Institute series delves into some case-studies from Oregon, which slashed parking mandates statewide last year.

New historic district: The Plan Commission is also considering the creation of a new historic district in Cliff Cannon, the Cannon Streetcar Suburb Historic District. The new district would create tax incentives and open up grant funding for property improvements in the area for homes that aren’t already listed as historic properties. That’s raised concerns from some, which can be read in the meeting packet. In some cases the comments are pretty spicy, such as questions about how equitable it is for the city to be giving people tax breaks to renovate their homes.

Agenda here
Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 2 p.m.
The meeting is hybrid with access link in the agenda
Council Chambers in the Lower Level of City Hall
808 W Spokane Falls Blvd

Spokane Housing Authority

Open Housing on Wednesday: The Spokane Housing Authority is opening the waiting lists for 10 different housing locations across the county starting January 25. There’s a tight sign-up window that closes on February 3 so if you are voucher eligible, or know someone who is, get on those lists asap. For more information about eligibility check out this link.

Waitlist sign-ups can be done in person at 25 W. Nora Ave., Spokane, WA 99205 or online at spokanehousing.org. SHA’s phone number is (509) 328-2953.

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