A powerful new set of health and safety protections are coming to the renters of Kent, Washington. At its March 20 meeting, the Kent City Council voted unanimously to adopt the Rental Housing Inspection Ordinance before a packed audience. The ordinance establishes a proactive system for ensuring that rental housing owners maintain their properties and provide healthy and safe living environments to their tenants. The adoption of this ordinance by the Kent City Council culminates a year of hard work by Futurewise staff, our partners at Living Well Kent, and a diverse group of community stakeholders.
In Spring 2017, the City of Kent hired Futurewise and Living Well Kent, a non-profit organization with deep roots in the Kent community, to design a policy that addresses the highest priorities of Kent’s renter community. A series of community forum events were held throughout the summer and over 180 participants shared their experiences with rental housing. The stories and data collected at these events formed a body of knowledge which served as the foundation for the new rental inspection policy.
The policy borrows best practices from cities with similar rental inspection ordinances like Tukwila, Bellingham, and Seattle; while responding to the specific context of Kent’s rental housing market. Landlords of multi-family rental properties now need to register their business and demonstrate that they are meeting the health and safety standard by having a third-party inspector conduct an inspection with the city’s new checklist.
While a policy like this is only one tool in the toolbox of cities facing challenges with housing quality and affordability, the collaborative labor of groups like Living Well Kent, Housing Development Consortium, and the Somali Youth and Family Club creates a powerful network of equitable development advocates. Futurewise is pleased with the policy, hopeful that it will yield positive outcomes for Kent’s renter community, and proud to participate in the coalition of partners who made it all possible.