How housing and homelessness ballot initiatives are faring so far in this year’s election

On the Nov. 7 ballot, voters across Washington decided questions on renter protections, affordable housing and encampments.

By: - November 8, 2023 11:30 am

A ballot drop box in Olympia (Laurel Demkovich/Washington State Standard)

This story was updated at 5 p.m. Friday to reflect the latest results.

In local elections around Washington, measures to protect renters are so far receiving mixed support, while initiatives to impose new restrictions on homeless encampments and raise millions of dollars for affordable housing are receiving strong backing from voters.

County auditors continue to count mailed-in ballots following Election Day. But here’s a look at where these local initiatives stood as of Friday.

Tenant protections  

Both Tacoma and Bellingham had similar ballot measures intended to protect residential tenants. 

As of Friday, voters in Tacoma were narrowly voting in favor of the city’s proposition, though results remain too close to call. About 49.4% of people voted against it while 50.6% voted in favor. 

Under the Tacoma proposal, landlords would have to give two notices to tenants before raising rent and at least six months notice of pending increases. And they would have to pay for relocation assistance if they make significant hikes. The measure would also prohibit landlords from evicting people during cold weather, or during the school year if a tenant is a student. 

In Bellingham, voters were more supportive of renter protections. As of Friday, 62% of ballots were for the measure there, and 38% against it. 

Under that initiative, landlords have to give 120 days notice for rent increases. Landlords also have to cover some relocation expenses if they raise rent 8% or more. 

Homeless encampments

A Spokane initiative would put restrictions on the locations of homeless encampments, prohibiting them within 1,000 feet of any public or private school, public park, playground or licensed child care facility.

The measure is set to pass, with 74.5% of voters in favor of it as of Friday and 25.5% opposed. 

But legal challenges against the initiative likely lay ahead. 

Opponents say it goes against a 2018 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that found local governments couldn’t ban camping on public property unless they could offer people in encampments another place to stay. 

A lawsuit filed in August challenged the measure on the grounds that the initiative would supersede the city’s authority. Backers of that suit sought to have the proposition removed from the ballot, but a Spokane County Superior Court judge denied the request. 

Housing levy

Seattle offered a ballot measure that would renew – and increase – a city property tax levy that supports affordable housing programs. The measure will likely pass. Almost 67.6% of people voted in favor of the proposition while 32.4% voted against it, according to results on Friday. 

The proposition would renew the levy for another seven years and could raise around $970 million. The revenue would fund housing and services for low-income households, seniors, people with disabilities and people who are unhoused.

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Laurel Demkovich
Laurel Demkovich

Laurel joined States Newsroom in 2023 after almost three years as a statehouse reporter for the Spokesman-Review. She covers state government, the Legislature and all other Olympia news.