With a slight margin, Tacoma voters rejected an initiative to expand tenant rights in the election results published on Tuesday

However, the race remained very close after the initial vote count.

Initiative No. 1 was trailing, with 51% of the voters casting their ballots against it. There are still more ballots to be counted in the coming days.

Sponsored by a progressive coalition called "Tacoma for All," the initiative would require more advance notice for rent increases, limit evictions during the winter and school year, and require landlords to compensate tenants who move out after a certain rent increase.

Despite the initial vote count showing a deficit, supporters of the initiative stated on Tuesday evening that they hope to pull ahead.

"People in the working class, tenants, and workers tend to vote later," said Jenn Barfield, a campaign spokesperson. "The margin is so close that we're confident we'll ultimately win."

As Tacoma tenants grapple with rising rents and evictions, "this initiative is about stopping the bleeding," Barfield said, describing it as the "strongest tenant protection in the state of Washington."

Opponents argued that the results were too close to predict such an outcome.

"Sometimes ballots break this way, and sometimes they don't," said Sean Flynn, executive director of the Washington Rental Housing Association. The close race "speaks to the fact that these issues are complex, and this was not a decision made overwhelmingly by the people of Tacoma... because it's the wrong solution."

Like renters throughout Washington state, Tacoma tenants have faced housing shortages over the past decade. According to the city's 2021 report, from 2016 to 2019, Tacoma saw a 21% increase in average rent while renters' average income increased by only 12%.

Supporters of Initiative 1 argued that the new tenant protections would prevent more tenants from becoming homeless due to rent increases or evictions.

Landlords and realtors financed the opposition campaign, spending at least $371,000 in the weeks leading up to the election. They argued that these rules would force small landlords to sell their properties, take them off the rental market, or transfer them to larger corporations that could charge higher rents.

Donors to the campaign in support of this initiative included unions and the Democratic Socialists of America. On election day, the campaign raised around $122,000.

If approved, this measure would require Tacoma landlords to provide two notifications of rent increases: one six months in advance and another three months in advance. This would be more than the current city requirement of four months.

If a landlord raised the rent by 5% or more, and the tenant decided to move out, the initiative would require the landlord to provide relocation assistance, which could be as much as two to three months' rent, depending on the size of the rent increase, if requested by the tenant. This measure would exempt rentals with four or fewer units where both the landlord and tenant reside on the same property from the tax on rent.

This initiative would provide tenants with legal protection against certain evictions during the winter months and during the school year if a child, parent, guardian, or educator lives in the home. Landlords could still evict under certain circumstances, including health and safety risks, drug-related disturbances, or if the landlord wanted to move into the rental unit.

This measure would also cap move-in fees at one month's rent, pet deposits at 25% of the rent, and late fees at $10 per month.

Seattle and other nearby cities have enacted similar rules in recent years as renters have faced rising housing costs.

In Tacoma on Tuesday, voters also supported a relocation assistance measure, with 58% of the vote. This measure would require landlords who raise rents by 8% or more to provide tenants with four months' notice and offer assistance with moving to certain tenants.