Blogs

There's More To Do - Together.

Rachael Myers, Executive Director

We are grateful to the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness for providing leadership in conducting the One Night Count of people experiencing homelessness in King County, and to the volunteers who spent the night documenting this crisis.  

The number of people surviving outside in King County – 4,505 – is heartbreaking. On the morning of January 29th volunteers across King County counted those who are unsheltered - families with babies and school age children, people in wheelchairs, people sleeping on buses, senior citizens, and so many more. Some would leave their tents or cars in the morning to go to a classroom, or to a job. All are human, members of someone’s family, and all are depending on us to do a better job at solving this crisis.

Homelessness has been declared an emergency in Seattle and King County, but this crisis extends beyond these borders. Local communities all across Washington are experiencing a homeless emergency, and it is not a crisis they can solve alone. It will take the combined efforts of community members, local partnerships, the state, and the federal government all working together.

That’s why the Housing Alliance is working hard at the state level to fight for resources like the Housing Trust Fund and to protect the Consolidated Homeless Grant – both of which help local communities address homelessness. It’s why we’re working to improve tenant rights and protections, because unfair and unnecessarily barriers to housing - like landlords refusing to accept a housing voucher - are making this problem worse.

It’s also why we’re calling on the federal government to come to the table as a true partner in addressing the housing crisis that exists all across the nation. 35 years of cuts to federal housing programs have driven much of what we see on the streets today.

And it’s why we’re building a movement - of people who care, who will speak up, and who are willing to do the work.

We know how to solve this crisis.

What’s missing is the political will.

Join us in Olympia to talk to lawmakers on Feb 2 

Contact your legislators today 

Sign the petition calling for 7 million affordable homes across the country 
 



 

The Week In Housing Advocacy - Weeks 1 and 2

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

The 2016 state legislative session started on January 11th and it’s been a very busy two weeks! This email contains updates on how affordable housing and homelessness priorities are faring, plus a timely and important call to action.

The Week in Housing Advocacy will be published every other week throughout the session. On the off weeks we invite you to participate in advocate conference calls, which will include live updates from Olympia. These calls are open to all Housing Alliance advocates:

Housing Alliance advocate updates live from Olympia

All calls are at 12:00pm via this phone number and code: 1-866-339-4555, 2064429455

February 5
February 19
March 4
March 18

The Week in Housing Advocacy

The good news from Olympia is that affordable housing and homelessness are top-of-mind issues. The Housing Alliance has been joined by many in our efforts to eliminate barriers to housing and address the emergency of homelessness. The bad news is that Olympia is a very polarized environment and it is an extremely tight budget year. Despite these obstacles there are still opportunities to make real progress this session, but that hinges on whether or not lawmakers hear from you. There are many important issues lawmakers are grappling with and they need to hear that you want them to prioritize affordable housing and homelessness. Please take part in this week’s call to action to make sure lawmakers know that we need them to protect low-income renters from discrimination while also building more affordable housing!

Please call your lawmakers in Olympia. You can leave one message for all of your lawmakers (which includes two representatives, one senator and the governor). Call 1-800-562-6000 during 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM Monday through Friday.

Please call Monday with this simple message,

“Please outlaw discrimination based on a renter’s source of income by passing SB 5378 and HB 1565. We need to ensure that low-income renters are given an equal opportunity to apply for housing. And please fund the Housing Trust Fund at $10 million dollars to build homes for people with disabilities, seniors, homeless youth and more.”

Let us know if you get a response from your lawmakers! Email Teresa Clark, our new Mobilization Specialist at Teresac@wliha.org. (and if you haven’t seen it yet, check out Teresa’s blog post to learn more about her extensive background in community organizing.

$10 Million for the Housing Trust Fund

This year we are asking for $10 million to be allocated to the Housing Trust Fund in the Supplemental Capital Budget. This year is the second half of the biennium and the legislature can make additional appropriations and adjustments to the budgets that they passed last year. There is capacity in the Capital Budget to fund the Housing Trust Fund at this level, but lawmakers are getting a lot of asks. In order to secure this funding, lawmakers needs to hear from you.

Here is a quick overview of key talking points you can use when you talk to lawmakers. To get a copy of our Housing Trust Fund briefing paper, click here.

What:

  • The Housing Trust Fund supports community efforts to ensure the availability of safe, healthy, and affordable housing by providing loans and grants for construction, acquisition, and rehabilitation of low-income multi-family and single-family housing
  • A new $10 million investment in the Housing Trust Fund will build over 280 additional permanently affordable homes for homeless families with children, seniors, veterans, homeless youth, farmworkers, people with disabilities and more.

Why:

  • There is a great need for permanent affordable housing in every community in Washington State (share an example from your community).
  • The Point In Time Count in January 2015 counted 19,418 people experiencing homelessness that night, across the state. Over 7,100 of them were unsheltered, including families with children and unaccompanied youth. This is a 3% increase from 2014.

Housing costs are increasing across the state while take-home pay for those with the lowest incomes significantly declined from 2009:



Outlaw Discrimination Based on a Renter’s Source of Income

SB 5378 was heard before the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee on Thursday, January 21. 13 people testified in support, including a for-profit landlord and a fire-fighter injured on the job who is now a section 8 tenant. Many others signed in with support for the bill. The lively hearing went for over an hour and the committee members were very engaged. Be sure to take action today by calling the legislative hotline to urge your lawmakers to pass the bill. But if any of the below is your Senator, you have an especially strong opportunity to support the passage of this bill. Each Senator below is on the committee and their votes are critical. If you live in their district, please call them directly to urge them to quickly pass SB 5378 out of committee:

Senator Email Phone
O'Ban, Steve (R)
Committee Chair
28th LD (Lakewood, Tacoma)
Steve.Oban@leg.wa.gov (360) 786-7654
Miloscia, Mark (R)
Vice Chair, bill sponsor
30th LD (Federal Way)
Mark.Miloscia@leg.wa.gov (360) 786-7658
Darneille, Jeannie (D)
Ranking Minority Member
27th LD (Tacoma)
Jeannie.Darneille@leg.wa.gov (360) 786-7652
Hargrove, Jim (D)
24th LD (Clallum, Jefferson
and Grays Harbor Counties)
Jim.Hargrove@leg.wa.gov (360) 786-7646
Padden, Mike (R)
4th LD (Spokane County)
Mike.Padden@leg.wa.gov (360) 786-7606


Senator Nelson calls for $300 million to be allocated to the emergency of homelessness

Senator Sharon Nelson, 34th LD and Senate Democratic Leader, is calling on her colleagues in the legislature to respond to the emergency of homelessness by allocating $300 million from the state’s “rainy day fund” to the Housing Trust Fund, homelessness services, shelters, Hope Beds and more. Thursday on TVW’s Inside Olympia, Senator Nelson answered questions about her plan. She says, “I believe that we do have an emergency in this state. When you look across the state and see that we have close to 34,000 kids who are homeless, this is a crisis…. We can do better.” See the whole interview and hear what Senator Nelson says about the Housing Trust Fund and other 2016 legislative priorities (and if you attend Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day on February 2nd, you’ll hear from her yourself during the opening ceremony!):



Tight Budget Once Again

Everyone in Olympia was hoping for a ruling on Initiative 1366 sooner than later, so there was a strong sense of relief when on Thursday the King County Superior Court issued their ruling that 1366 is indeed unconstitutional. I-1366 is the Tim Eyman initiative that narrowly passed in November with 51% of the vote. If enacted, the legislature would have to either send a constitutional amendment to the people that would require a 2/3 super majority vote of the legislature to raise taxes or face an automatic decrease in the state sales tax. On April 15, 2016, the state retail sales tax rate would decrease from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent resulting in a loss of over $8 billion dollars in general fund revenue over the next 6 fiscal years. This would put a $1.5 billion hole in the current budget and then cost the state $1.5 billion each fiscal year. Hence, the strong sense of relief that I-1366 appears to be heading to the dustbin. However, the case could now be sent for additional consideration by the State Supreme Court so the issue may not be finalized yet. 

Read more about the impact of this ruling from the Olympian

Despite the apparent relief from I-1366, the legislature is still in another tight budget year with very little room to address any emerging needs. Even an ask for a modest $3 million for the Consolidated Homelessness Grants is a tall order. But there is still an opportunity to remedy the cuts to homelessness services that are being implemented across the state.

Prevent cuts to homeless services

The Housing Alliance is calling on the legislature to allocate $3 million from the state’s general fund to backfill the cuts to the Consolidated Homeless Grant. The total shortfall is $7.5 million but there is an identified source for the balance, hence our ask of “$3 million in new dollars and $4.5 million in expenditure authority to the Department of Commerce”.

The Housing Alliance needs you to educate lawmakers on the impact of the $7.5 million shortfall. Please contact Teresac@wliha.org with examples of how the cuts are impacting your community. Stories that illustrate the impact of services funded by the State Consolidated Homeless Grants are also needed.

We hope to see you on February 2 for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day!

The Housing Alliance’s annual lobby day is one of the best opportunities to educate lawmakers on what they can do the help end homelessness and expand opportunities for affordable housing. If you haven’t signed up already, we encourage you to register soon so you can take part in this exciting, effective and informative day of action. Check out the details here.

Progress on Fair Tenant Screening and Eviction Reporting

We are excited to share that, thanks to Senator Mark Mullet, 5th LD, that an agreement has been reached that will make progress on the Fair Tenant Screening Act and on how evictions are reported by tenant screening companies. SB 6413/Mullet and HB 2811/Walkinshaw will make important progress on both these issues, while in exchange allowing landlords to have an additional seven days in which to postmark the return of a deposit. The Housing Alliance strongly supports these bills and encourages lawmakers to vote yes. It is rare to find agreement in which all stakeholders feel that they’ve gained something and the compromise that Senator Mullet has brokered is long-awaited. It will have a significant, positive impact on the lives of Washington’s many tenant households.


Thank you for advocating for affordable housing and ending homelessness. The victories from 2015 and previous legislative sessions show that we can move mountains when we come together to advocate for change. And we can make more progress this session. Please take action today and stay tuned for more advocacy opportunities.

Meet Teresa!

Teresa Clark, Mobilization Specialist

Earlier this week I joined the staff of the Housing Alliance as Mobilization Specialist. As a Seattle-area native and long-time organizer, I am alarmed by the growing rates of homelessness, housing instability, and economic displacement in my region and statewide. I am energized by the opportunity to enter this work at such an urgent and exciting time.

I come to the Housing Alliance from the Washington Community Action Network, where I was most recently the Organizing Director, but have served in many capacities for the better part of 10 years. I'm excited to use my background in community organizing, coalition work, and leadership development to help advance the goals of the Housing Alliance. I especially hope to bring the intersectional perspective I have developed through working on many racial and economic justice issues to my work in housing. 

I have seen over and over as an organizer how strategically mobilizing a community of people can lead to big wins, and I'm honored to start the next chapter of my organizing career as part of the Housing Alliance team.

Stay tuned for more from me on the Housing Alliance's Board Advocacy Project, our Tookit to Combat the Stigma and Criminalization of Homelessness, plus important action alerts throughout the legislative session. I look forward to working together as a community of advocates this session and beyond!

2016 Supplemental Budget 1.0 – Our Analysis

The Housing Alliance Policy and Advocacy Team

Governor Jay Inslee introduced his 2016 Supplemental Budget Proposal on December 17, 2015. The release of the Governor’s budget signifies the beginning of the state’s supplemental budget development process and sets the tone for the upcoming legislative session. We are pleased to report that the Governor’s proposal protects vital homelessness safety net programs and makes a number of positive, targeted investments to expand access to affordable housing. 

Before delving into the budget details—here is a quick refresher of our state’s budget process. Washington’s budget operates on a two-year, biennial calendar. On odd years, such as 2015, the legislature passes a full biennial budget. On even years, like 2016, the legislature passes a smaller supplemental budget that amends the larger budget to reflect the changing needs within our state, such as natural disasters, caseload changes, and emerging issues in our economy and local communities.

The Governor’s Supplemental Operating Budget proposes $2.8 million in new housing services, and his Supplemental Capital Budget proposal includes $11.5 million in new affordable housing investments (scroll to bottom of post for details). In addition to housing investments, the Governor’s budget also appropriates new funding for our state’s mental health system and modest investments for other community needs.

Affordable housing, homelessness, and other important community programs were protected and received modest investments because the Governor opted to close four tax-loopholes to raise revenue. We applaud the Governor’s leadership in examining and closing tax-loopholes. We urge the legislature to build upon these loophole closures and raise additional new revenue so our state has adequate resources to ensure all people have access to safe, healthy, and affordable homes. Check out the Washington State Budget & Policy Center’s blog post for a more in-depth analysis of the tax-loophole closures in the Governor’s proposal.

The Governor took an important step forward by introducing a supplemental budget proposal that protects our homelessness safety net and makes a number of targeted investments to expand access to affordable housing. Thus, we encourage you contact Governor Inslee to thank him for his continued commitment to expanding access to safe, healthy, and affordable homes.   
Here’s how you can contact Governor Jay Inslee: 

Last of all, we hope you can join us in Olympia on February 2, 2016 for our annual Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day! This is a great opportunity to meet directly with your lawmakers during the legislative session and share why funding affordable housing and homeless programs is a priority for you. 

Governor’s Supplemental Budget Summary

Operating Budget Homelessness Safety Net Appropriations 

Governor Inslee’s Operating Budget proposal includes $2.8 million in new housing service investments and protects critical homelessness safety net programs. 

  • $2,800,000 is for supportive housing services and short-term rental assistance for people leaving or at risk of needing inpatient behavioral health services. Services will be delivered through four new housing and recovery services teams modeled after the Housing and Recovery Through Peer Services (HARPS) Program
  • Aged, Blind, and Disabled (ABD) Program is protected—no cuts and no additional investments were made. ABD helps permanently disabled adults and elderly immigrants meet their basic needs by providing modest cash assistance. 
  • Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) is protected—no cuts and no additional investments were made. HEN provides rental and utility assistance to adults with temporary disabilities while they are recovering. 
  • Medical Care Services (MCS) is protected—no cuts and no additional investments were made. MCS provides health coverage to people who receive financial support through the Aged, Blind, and Disabled program but are unable to receive Medicaid health coverage. 
  • SSI Facilitation Services are protected—no cuts and no additional investments were made. These services assist permanently disabled adults reach economic security by applying for federal SSI benefits. 
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is protected—no cuts and no additional investments were made. TANF helps low-income families with children meet their basic needs through a modest cash grant and services. 

Capital Budget Affordable Housing Appropriations

Governor Inslee’s Capital Budget proposal includes $11.5 million in new affordable housing investments. This allocation represents a significant percentage of the overall Capital Budget and includes the following appropriations:

  • $5,000,000 is for the Weatherization Matchmaker Program to help make low-income homes more energy efficient.
  • $2,500,000 is for the Housing Trust Fund Portfolio Preservation Program to preserve existing housing trust fund projects operated by local housing authorities and serving very low-income and homeless households. 
  • $1,500,000 is for rapid housing improvements to bring private market rental homes into compliance with established housing standards in order to improve access to housing for families using rental assistance programs. Property owners will be required to maintain the unit for housing choice voucher recipients for an appropriate period of time after repairs are completed. 
  • $1,275,000 is for a rapid housing acquisition demonstration to develop congregate small unit dwellings or convert single-family homes into multi-family homes. 
  • $1,000,000 is for the Housing Trust Fund to build affordable senior housing. 
  • $125,000 is to create a landlord mitigation fund available to landlords who have rented to tenants with housing choice vouchers and whose rental units are in a jurisdiction that prohibits denying tenancy based solely on the applicant's source of income. 
  • $100,000 is for a study of housing opportunities for veterans experiencing homelessness and the conversion of units to provide permanent supportive housing for geriatric veterans with psychiatric disorders.

 


 

This election, stand for affordable homes for all!

Reiny Cohen, Director of Communications

Be on the lookout, your ballot is arriving this week!

What’s great about voting by mail in Washington is that we have plenty of time to educate ourselves about the issues. The bummer is, sometimes people forget to mail their ballot back in time. Don’t let this happen to you!! This election is critical to our mission - ensuring all people have the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home. We made some great progress in 2015 and we need your help to keep the ball rolling. Every vote is important. Mail in your ballot!


2015 Housing Alliance Endorsements

I-1366 NO! (Washington State)

I-1366 is sponsored by Tim Eyman and associates. The intent is to coerce Washington state lawmakers into passing a constitutional amendment to permanently require a two-thirds vote to raise revenue. If the legislature fails to amend the constitution by April 15, 2016 with this requirement, the state sales tax would be cut by 13%, resulting in $8 billion in revenue lost over the next six years. 

The state budget has already been cut by more than $11 billion since 2008. Further reductions would lock into place our inadequate and regressive tax structure and result in drastic cuts for safety net services, public education, and more. We encourage you to VOTE NO!

I-122 YES! (Seattle)

Initiative 122 is a campaign finance reform initiative on the ballot for Seattle residents that would change the way political campaigns are financed to allow every voter to become a campaign donor. It limits big money interests in city policy-making, increases accountability and transparency in local government, and gives ordinary people a stronger voice in local government.

Public campaign financing in other cities has increased voter participation among members of historically disenfranchised communities. We believe that implementing this reform would make it easier for low-income people to impact city elections and city policy decisions. We encourage Seattle residents to VOTE YES!

Check your mailbox to see if your ballot has arrived, and be sure to mail it back by Tues, Nov 3rd! If you do not receive your ballot, contact your county elections office. 


 


 

Announcing a new member of the Housing Alliance family!

Reiny Cohen, Director of Communications

Hello friends! My name is Reiny Cohen, and I am very excited to announce that I am the new Director of Communications for the Housing Alliance!

It's been an interesting journey to get here - I was an on-air personality and behind the scenes production guru for a variety of radio stations in Seattle from 1999-2014. Most recently you may have heard me on 94.9 KUOW/NPR. After a long career in radio I decided to pursue a path in to the advocacy world - I worked on a candidate campaign, followed by a legislative campaign, and finally landed here, where I get to be a voice for an issue I so deeply care about. 

The Housing Alliance does amazing work and I am honored to be joining such a talented and passionate team. I look forward to getting to know the members and will try to cross paths with as many of you as possible.

Stay tuned for exciting news on interactive communications and story telling to come in the near future!

-Reiny

Feel free to contact me any time - reinyc@wliha.org, 206-442-9455 x208

This is not goodbye...

Ben Miksch, Affordable Housing Policy and Advocacy Specialist

 

As some of you may have heard already, tomorrow I will be parting ways with the Housing Alliance and heading off in search of new adventures.

 

This was a decision that I made several months ago, and I have to say that it has was a very hard decision to make. My experience over the last four years here has been an incredible and transformative journey, and it's hard to imagine giving that up.

 

But I keep reminding myself that I'm not really leaving the Housing Alliance. Sure, starting on Friday I won't be an employee of the Housing Alliance. But the Housing Alliance isn't just an organization and its employees. The Housing Alliance exists to serve as a vanguard and a steward to the movement organized around ensuring that everyone in Washington has the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home that is part of a thriving community.

 

We're all part of the Housing Alliance, because we all own this movement together.

 

And I can't say enough about what a relief that is to me, because I would never want to say goodbye to the community that I've had the incredible good fortune to join through this work. You all are some of the most incredible people I've ever met, and the depth of the heart, courage, kindness, passion, dedication, and expertise that I've witnessed in this movement is staggering.

 

This is already going on too long, so let me close with this Harry Potter-style moving picture that really feels like a far better description of my experience here and of what I love most about our movement than I'll ever be able to put into words:

 

 

 

Cheers,

--Ben Miksch

 

P.s. If you ever need to get ahold of me, you can always find me at twitter.com/Ben_Miksch.

 

 


 

California Here She Comes

Honah Thompson, Social Justice Intern

Tomorrow I will be saying goodbye to the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and the lovely state of Washington. I have learned more than I could have imagined in my year as a part of the United Church of Christ's Justice Leadership Program, and so many of my new skills and understandings come from the amazing folks I have met through my work at the Housing Alliance.

A year ago, I'm not sure I could tell you what a state senator or representative (or a governor for that matter) does. I didn't know how to talk to a law maker about issues that matter to me. I had no idea what it would be like to plan (or even attend) an advocacy day or statewide conference. I would vote whenever it was convenient, but I didn't realize how greatly the issues on the ballot affect my community and the issues I care so much about. Fastfoward to now, I am actively engaging in what is going on at the capitol, I am making phone calls and sending emails to people I know and total strangers to tell them about what is happening in the world of advocacy and policy, and so much more that old Honah would be too afraid to try. 


Now that my internship year is over, I will be moving back to California to attend graduate school at U.C. Berkeley for a masters in social work with a medical concentration. But I couldn't just leave quietly. I had to go out with a Housing Alliance Karaoke session inspired farewell (set to R. Kelly's Ignition (Remix)).

Now, um, usually I don’t do this but uh…
Go ‘head on a break ‘em off wit a lil’ preview of the goodbye speech

No I’m not trying to be rude,
But hey Brianna I’m feeling you
The way you dance break the way you do
Rep that Action Fund crew
That’s why Kate B’s up in yo gill
Tryin’a book conference hotels
Y’all must be an advocacy coach
The way you got me playing the field
So WLIHA gimme that BAP BAP
Lemme give you that EAP EAP
Runnin ‘round the capitol
Red scarves on our shouldos (?)
While they say on the radio

Goodbye Housing Alliance
Fresh advocacy compliance
Ben you rollin that body
Got every corgi here wishin
Joaquin not here to tweet it
I’m like so what I’ll use wit
Come the freakin’ weekend baby
Gonna read Alex’ tool kit

House, House, House, House, House, House, House
House, House, House…. Senate

Facebook a picture of a goat
Rachael email out a meeting note
Alouise and Andrea
Turnin’ out EAP advocacy playas
Yo I’m feelin what you feeling
No more hope and wishing
Rheans bout to order you new keys
And help clean up the kitchen

So gimme a safe house house
Give it to me for dirt cheap
Michele runnin back and fo’
West Seattle to the Capitol
While they say on the radio

Goodbye Housing Alliance
Y’all got chocolate down to a science
Honah’s rolling to Cali
Just north of Silicon Valley
Kate M don’t karaoke
Except when she does karaoke
Come the freaking weekend baby
I’m gonna be outtie

Whiskey poppin at the happy hour
We got food everywhere
Don’t let the intern starve…
We got Kate B to my left
Kate M on my right
We bring em both together we got staffing done right
Then after retreat it’s the (happy hour)
Then after whiskey sour it’s the (karaoke hour)
And round about 5 you gotta (clear the office)
Then take it to yo room and work from home

Can I get a BAP BAP
Can I get an EAP EAP
Make it rain peanut butter
KIND bars by 24’s
While they say on the WLIHA blog

Goodbye Housing Alliance
I left clean towels in the kitchen
Honah rolling that body
‘cause she and Kate B leg wrestlin’
Sippin on French press coffee
One day you’ll make color copies
It’s a freaking Wednesday baby
We can have waffle fun

Goodbye Housing Alliance
I would have stayed but now no chance
I’ll be rolling to Berkeley
And not livin’ in a church
No more Migliore
I gotta get back to the bay
I’ll probably miss you
But I’m not doing social work halfway

Yo we off in this jeep
Heading to Olympia
Blasting the radio
KIND bars in the back of the truck
Bouncing up and down
Because 75 mil
Do the goodbye remix
Honah’s peacin’ out…


 

 


 

It’s been an honor and a pleasure…

Joaquin Uy, Communications Specialist

When I first joined the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, I had received various warnings from friends. Working for a legislative advocacy organization would make me an official Olympia insider. And seeing front row how laws really are made and passed would…basically kill my soul. I received warnings of horse-trading and backroom deals…politics!

Three years later, I’m thrilled to say that my friends were wrong. My experience at the Housing Alliance hasn’t jaded me. In fact, I continue to be inspired. And much of that inspiration comes from you the advocates.

You are the foundation of the Housing Alliance. Every year, an astounding mass of people send emails to their elected officials, converge on Olympia for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day, gather at the Conference on Ending Homelessness, retweet and repost Housing Alliance social media posts, send us awesome notes about a legislator meeting, and so much more. And what’s even more amazing? The advocacy numbers keep growing. The movement to ensure all Washington residents have an opportunity to live in safe, healthy, affordable homes in thriving communities increases every year.

I could give you numbers and datasets about the advocacy network’s growth. But what I’ll treasure most from my time here at the alliance is meeting you face-to-face and exchanging stories.

Lisa, who is an Emerging Advocates Program graduate and Real Change vendor went from advocacy newbie to creating a web page to help folks share their own personal stories of homelessness.

Jamie runs a youth program. While, she advocates for affordable housing in the Asian/Pacific Islander community, she was also moved to share her own story at Advocacy Day. Almost in tears, she broke down how repeat tenant screening fees prevented her from accessing a home in increasingly unaffordable Seattle.

Andrea recently arrived to Washington State to start a new life with her family, after losing nearly everything to a hurricane. Despite an unsteady few months, they found a home and Andrea recorded her family’s story to use for advocacy. She also became a social media advocacy powerhouse.

During the gloomy days of session, when it seemed like all housing and homelessness legislative hope had passed, it’s these stories that kept me going.

That’s also why I made sure that as much as possible our communications to you was exciting and creative. You deserve emails that aren’t boring, that break down the wonk and make the enigma that can be the legislature easy to decipher and think about. Whether, it’s a thank you that includes animation of an excited jumping dog or a clapping rabbit, I wanted to make the world of housing and homelessness policy accessible. I wanted you to look forward to reading (or skimming) our emails. And based on our open rates, I think we’ve succeeded.

That’s why it is with a heavy heart, that I depart from my position at the Housing Alliance. An awesome opportunity has presented itself at the City of Seattle, and I would be foolish to pass on it. Besides, I believe someone else, someone new, should experience the joy and wonder of this unique perch at the alliance. A new face should join this small and impactful team. My coworkers are a lot like you, driven, passionate troublemakers dedicated to fighting evil, whether through securing a sizable investment in the Housing Trust Fund or educating legislators about laws that will protect tenants. I’m going to really miss the Housing Alliance team.

But as you might already know, I’m quite active online. This isn’t good-bye. It’s I’ll see you around. Keep in touch. You can always find me here: twitter.com/joaquinuy.

It’s been an honor and a pleasure working with you as a Housing Alliance staff member. And it will continue being an honor and a pleasure standing shoulder to shoulder with you as a fellow housing and homelessness advocate.

P.S. Know anyone who'd be a great fit for my position? Send them the Communications Specialist job position. Thanks!

P.P.S How awesome is it to leave on such a high note?!

 


 

Historic gains for affordable housing this legislative session!

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

This past Wednesday night was more than a good night. It was an astonishing testament that advocacy works. Since January, over a thousand of you took action again and again. You told lawmakers to not leave town until they had done everything possible to expand access to affordable housing and to end homelessness. They heard your message!

Big Wins for HEN/ABD and TANF

In the dramatic hours before the end of the state’s fiscal year, Washington lawmakers secured significant new state dollars for affordable homes. And they passed several bills that will create new funding sources for housing, services, and mental health facilities. Further, the final state operating budget, signed into law at 11:30 Tuesday night, includes full funding for the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) and the Aged Blind & Disabled (ABD) programs. And it funds many other important priorities, including a nine percent increase in the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) cash grant!

$75 Million for Affordable Homes!

But wait, there’s more! Lawmakers also passed a capital budget that provides $75 million for affordable housing and $15 million for weatherization of homes owned by low-income homeowners. The $75 million for the Housing Trust Fund will create nearly 2,000 homes for seniors, homeless families, people with developmental disabilities and mental illness, veterans, homeless youth, and more. It will also create 500 new safe, healthy beds for farmworkers.

HB 2263 Creates a Local Option for Affordable Housing and Mental Health Services

If you are not already jumping up and down, consider that lawmakers also passed HB 2263 late Wednesday night. This bill provides local communities the option of asking their voters to support a new tax for affordable housing and mental health facilities. Those funds could also be used for operations and maintenance needs as well as homeless services. A similar local taxing authority for mental health services brought in nearly $100 million across the state in 2014 alone.

Check out this video of nonprofit board members from around the state testifying for HB 2263!

Funding for Affordable Homes Near Transit

And that’s not all! Lawmakers also passed SB 5987. This transportation package includes significant new dollars for affordable housing and services in the Puget Sound region. The bill requires that at least $20 million be provided for affordable housing near transit. It also establishes that 80% of the surplus properties in light rail stations must be made available for affordable housing. Additionally, an amendment by Representative Jessyn Farrell (46th LD, Seattle) creates a funding source for the Puget Sound region of up to $518 million for services to improve educational outcomes in early learning, K-12, and higher education. This includes, but is not limited to low-income, homeless, or foster care youth.

These new dollars for the Puget Sound region are on top of the victory earlier in the session via Representative Larry Springer’s (45th LD, Kirkland) HB 1223. This bill secured at least $45 million for new affordable housing in transit areas.

A Big Win for Permanent Supportive Housing!


Whether you attended Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day earlier this year, or met with your legislator or their staff in-person, or sent an advocacy email supporting our legislative agenda, you helped make this session historic!

In addition to all the great legislative news, the Housing Alliance recently received this info: the state’s Health Care Authority is submitting a federal waiver request to the feds that includes the ability for our state to use Medicaid funds to pay for the medically necessary services delivered in permanent supportive housing. This was a top legislative priority for the Housing Alliance this year! Even more, the federal government issued a bulletin late last week confirming that Medicaid dollars can be used for these services.

All Because of You...

All of this great news means new resources are coming to our communities to create affordable homes and fight homelessness. And it couldn’t be at a more important time. You told your lawmakers to do more and they listened.

Thank you for your advocacy.

There is more to do, and we hope that you will continue to join us as we work to build on these victories in the 2016 legislative session.

Stay tuned. We’ll have an opportunity for you to thank lawmaker champions and please plan now for in-district advocacy opportunities this summer and fall. Consider inviting your lawmakers to your board meeting or to tour affordable homes built with state dollars. The Housing Alliance can assist you in your advocacy efforts, including with getting your board involved with advocacy! It works, let’s keep it going!

 


 

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