Hey MTV, Help Me Find an Affordable Crib

Lakewood has no limit on how much monthly rent can be increased, giving students the difficult task of finding an affordable home

Everyone deserves access to clothing, food and shelter. They are essentials to living and surviving. But can you imagine not having access to these essentials? For many college students, there is uncertainty with securing a warm place to come home to.

Pacific Lutheran University held the Ruth Anderson Public Debate on Oct. 1, debating rent control in Tacoma and surrounding areas. Rent control is the limit the amount a property owner can charge for leasing and lease renewal for a home or apartment.

There were two opponents on each side for and against rent control. Summer Ash, a senior at PLU, argued that the increase in rent costs forces people to move out of the city they grew up in. “We aren’t afraid of growth and development,” said Ash. “But we have to recognize that new development is not being conducted in a way that is uplifting to all Tacoma’s residents.”

Hannah Backus, also a senior at PLU, was against putting a cap on rent. Backus emphasized the rights to own property and do with it what you please. “This is where rent control unknowingly seeks to undermine the principle of the American Dream, by trivializing the ownership of property,” said Backus.

Pierce College students have a variety of living circumstances. Some live alone, with their families or with roommates, and each present challenges when working a part-time job and furthering their education.

Keara Tiedeman, a student at Pierce, is working part-time as a nanny and attending school full-time to make ends meet. Tiedeman lives in an apartment with her girlfriend and her roommate, both being military veterans, and says the housing allowance they receive every month helps them afford their apartment. “If we didn’t get that housing allowance,” she said. “I don’t think we would be able to go to school because it pays all of our rent.”

Tiedeman hasn’t had the most pleasant experience at her current living space - It’s impossible to find parking, there are loud neighbors and every time a new lease is signed, the rent increases. She says if she was a landlord and raised prices, she would need to be reassured that tenants are responsible and have stable jobs. “Society puts a label on people who only work minimum wage jobs, that they are younger and less reliable, so I can see both sides.”

Erin Teston, a criminal justice major at Pierce, has lived independently for 27 years and has had experience with apartment living. “I don’t agree with rent control,” he said. “But I do agree with a level of which the rent can be increased.”

He described a time when he was 22 years old, was divorced and moved into an apartment as a single dad on a tight budget. He was alarmed when his landlord gave him an increase of $50 on rent, with one month’s notice.

Living on your own without any help from family or friends can be difficult in any situation. Teston said requirements to get an apartment didn’t align with the cost of the apartment because residents must make three times more than the monthly rent. “It is attempting to survive, that’s the best way to describe it,” he said. “It puts shackles on people that want to go to school with those requirements.”

As a communication manager in Lakewood, Trini Balles said she must abide by specific codes that take a lot to maintain the property, which includes 522 units. “Residents don’t anticipate an increase in rent and the increase is based on the market and what everyone else is charging,” said Balles. “Landlords have to keep some sort of renewal process to sustain the property and market control.”

Balles has been in the housing industry since 2002 and managing apartments across Pierce and King county. She makes herself accessible to residents either in person or via email based on her past experiences with apartment living; but she expects her residents to be consistent with the lease. “Having the same communication is huge to having a good relationship with the landlord or property manager,” she said.

With the population in Washington State nearing eight million people, the demand for affordable housing increases. The average monthly apartment cost in Lakewood is $926. For many full-time students working part-time, this cost causes an unbearable burden and limits their access to housing. How can apartment managers and leasing companies ensure they are able to make a profit while meeting the needs of a financially diverse population?

“I think there should be some kind of regulation put on rent.”

~Lydia Fitzsimmons

“Every human being deserves housing. Landlords don’t deserve the right to just make endless money. There is a very easy way to

change that.”

~William Wasson

“Sometimes they do overcharge [landlords]. They just want to make a lot more money than they are already making. It’s definitely going up right now [the prices]. I’m renting so I know.”

~Krystal Robles

“Right now is tricky. Many people are unable to afford both [school and rent] when you’re not being supported. I’m working two jobs

right now.” 

~Chris Hetter

“I think that rent control in Tacoma is pretty high. It’s also hard to get into a lot of communities depending on your background and how much you make. Even when me and my wife were qualified we were still denied, and we fixed what they told us to fix and tried to come back and we still got denied. They wanted their own type of people in that area. I was making way more than what they were asking for. They are really picky in who they let live in certain places, and they’re background.” “You should give me what I’m paying for.”

~Melonie Washington

Abri Wilson / Staff Illustrator

Veronica Lu / Staff Photographer