Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023
Rent increase leading to Washington family facing homelessness

More than half of Clark County households spend over 30% of their income on rent, and evictions are on the rise.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Down a dirt road, surrounded by farmland, sits a light green two-bedroom modified trailer off of Northeast Healy Road in Amboy, Washington. The sun peaks through the trees as Jason Zellman and his partner Luci Haning walk down the porch steps. 

They’re about to face eviction after their landlord raised their rent more than double, from $800 per month to $2,000. Pretty soon they’ll have to leave the peaceful property they’ve called home for the past three years.

“We’re in dire straits,” said Zellman. “We don’t know where we’re going to go. We have no savings.”

Also living with them is a 16-year-old and two cats. During the pandemic, both Zellman and Haning lost their jobs.

“Through COVID and everything we’ve paid our rent, we’ve always paid our rent,” said Zellman.

“It’s sickening,” said Haning. “I have a knot in my stomach all the time.”

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Their living room is filled with moving boxes as they spend each day in fear of eviction — they can’t pay the increased rent and haven’t found an affordable apartment.

“Every minute could be it,” said Zellman as he leaned against the stove. “If we hear a car come up the driveway, we’re like, ‘Who is that, is that them?’”

“It’s a way to force us out because they know that we can’t afford it,” said Haning.

In March the landlord sent them a notice stating that rent will increase to $2,000 a month starting June 1. The notice was joined by other warnings, including a 14-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Vacate and Reasonable Payment Agreements, which Zellman and Haning said they followed. KGW reached out to the landlord’s attorney for comment but did not hear back.

“For the first time in my life, I’m 49, I feel completely helpless. I’m in a situation where I have no backup, no resources, everything has been exhausted,” said Zellman.

Once Washington’s eviction moratorium lifted in the end of February, many rents across Clark County increased by about 15%. There’s also been a rise in evictions, according to Roy Johnson, executive director of the Vancouver Housing Authority.

“It really creates where they’re having to live in situations they normally wouldn’t want to, like being homeless,” Johnson said.

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More than half of Clark County households are spending over 30% of their income on rent.

“It’s a daunting problem,” Johnson said.

“Housing is largely out of reach for many typical folks in Clark County,” added Charlene Welch, who works with the Council for the Homeless. The organization helps vulnerable families in Clark County access housing support, such as emergency shelter and rental assistance.

According to an annual report by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, for families in Clark County to afford a two-bedroom apartment they need to work 67 hours a week and earn at least three dollars above minimum wage.

“Working an average job in Clark County can still not give you enough income to be able to afford renting in the private market,” Welch said.

Zellman is still in disbelief.

“Never did I think I would be in a situation like this,” he said.

The Vancouver Housing Authority has three affordable housing buildings opening this summer. Their goal is to open two low-income housing complexes a year. If you or someone you know is facing homelessness in Clark County, you can call the housing hotline at 360-695-9677.

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