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Olympia holds off on mold standard

DEANA POOLE THE OLYMPIAN
OLYMPIA -- Olympia City Council won't take immediate action to adopt mold standards or a tenant relocation assistance ordinance, but the issues aren't off the table indefinitely.


Council members decided late Tuesday night to talk with county officials about a tenant relocation program, which would provide financial assistance to tenants who are forced out of apartments deemed substandard.


Members also agreed to work with state and county officials in collecting mold data, and to hold off on developing a city standard for how much mold is too much to live with.


With a tenant relocation ordinance, a landlord is required to help pay tenant costs, with a match from the city.


The cities of Seattle, Bellevue and Auburn have approved a tenant relocation ordinance, but only Seattle uses the measure frequently, Assistant City Manager Steve Hall said.


Generally, landlords don't hand over the required money easily, with most cases requiring a lengthy court battle, Hall said.


In the end, it's only the city's money, about $1,000 per tenant, that residents receive, Hall said.


Another disadvantage is the amount of time and money it takes for a city to enforce the ordinance, Hall said.


Council members encouraged the staff to talk with the county about using some of next year's HOME funds to help relocate residents countywide. The money would be administered by the county but not available until September, Hall said.


HOME is a federal program that provides grants for states and local governments to rehabilitate affordable housing and provide rental assistance to low-income people.


Councilman Curt Pavola encouraged the city to continue looking at forcing landlords to help pay a tenant's relocation costs.
"I would hate to lose the part of the state law that holds the landlord accountable," he said.


In the meantime, money is available to help residents forced to move out of Forest Glen.


The Housing Authority of Thurston County, with a match from the city, received a HOME grant last week.


Some of that money, about $140,000, will be set aside to help families living in Forest Glen relocate if the city finds their apartments uninhabitable.


Area residents, who sat through a 41/2-hour meeting, encouraged council members to meet with landlords and tenants when crafting any future relocation ordinances.


Pat Tassoni of the Thurston County's Tenant Union said involving stakeholders will help make the ordinance more applicable.
"We've been lucky in Olympia that it hasn't come up before and unfortunately it'll probably come up again," he said.

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