Blogs

New Housing Alliance team member!

Rhean Souders, Finance and Operations Administrator

My name is Rhean (which rhymes with Ian) Souders, and I started this week at the Housing Alliance as the Operations and Finance Administrator.

In this role I’ll be taking care of the internal needs of the office, from assisting both the Executive Director and Director of Policy and Advocacy to working on the budget and day-to-day finances, office management, and staffing processes.

My experience in these areas comes from over 10 years of work at The Seattle Times in a variety of administrative roles, and I’m excited for the chance to adapt those skills to the nonprofit world and the Housing Alliance in particular. Prior to my work at The Times I spent over four years serving and working with AmeriCorps*VISTA and other national service programs in Washington and across the country, and I’m thrilled to be working again toward resolving the problems of poverty. In VISTA I saw first-hand the effects of unstable living situations, especially on children, and I believe that working toward long-term solutions to basic needs like housing is absolutely essential to building a functional, sustainable, and just society. I look forward to participating in the Housing Alliance’s work in education and policy change to bring about those long-term solutions.

In Washington I’ve been both a “dry-sider” and a “wet-sider,” and I love spending time all over this incredibly diverse state. From the golden fields of the Palouse to the drizzly streets of Seattle, I feel right at home, and I’m glad to help make this a better place to live.

 


 

Community members rally to support legislative action on affordable housing crisis and underfunded mental health services

Joaquin Uy, Communications Specialist

Advocates from all over the state converged in Olympia on Monday, June 8 at 11am for a public hearing on newly introduced House Bill 2263. This bill will give local governments more options to address housing needs for people with mental illness, developmental disabilities, homeless families and youth, veterans, seniors, and domestic violence survivors.

As the state’s affordable housing and mental health crises have gotten worse, community leaders have been calling on legislators to respond. House members have come together to introduce HB 2263 that empowers local governments to create new resources for housing and mental health services in their communities.

The line of HB 2263 supporters clogged the
main hallway in the John L. O'Brien Building.

 

HB 2263 (Springer) expands on SB 5463 (Hill) by adding a component to allow counties and cities to address local affordable housing and mental health needs. Like the Senate bill, it also provides a “cultural access” component. HB 2263 creates an option for local communities to implement a new 1/10 of 1% sales tax to fund affordable housing, mental health treatment facilities, and services. If passed, counties are then empowered to enact this local option that would create a new funding source to serve vulnerable populations. Local implementation requires a county legislative body vote and allows for cities to implement if the county does not pass the option within two to three years depending on the size of the county.

“The legislature is in overtime as lawmakers struggle to reach agreement on how to address our states most urgent issues,” says Housing Alliance executive director Rachael Myers. “We are impressed that Representative Larry Springer and other House leaders are using this time to ensure our state does all it can to meet people’s most basic needs like housing, mental health care, and basic services that ensure people don’t become homeless when a crisis hits. We implore all state lawmakers to follow the lead of Representative Springer and his fellow bill sponsors to pass HB 2263 quickly and finalize a budget fully funding safety net services that prevent households from experiencing the brutality of homelessness.”


Hearing Room B was one of two full hearing chambers that served as overflow rooms for the HB 2263 hearing.

This local option has a precedent. It is similar to the Mental Illness and Drug Dependency tax (MIDD) implemented in 2005 (RCW 82.14.460). MIDD generated $96.6 million statewide in 2014 and has been enacted by 23 local jurisdictions including Walla Walla, Whatcom, King, and Skagit counties.

This bill comes at a time when our communities need more resources. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Washington is too expensive for our average income renters. The amount a household needs to earn to afford a modest rental home in this state has jumped by 10% or more from last year in Franklin, Benton, Pacific, Clallam (11%), San Juan (14%), Snohomish (26%), and King (26%) Counties.

Thought leaders across Washington recognize the strong link between the lack of affordable homes and other critical issues facing our communities, including chronic homelessness, health disparities that burden low-income households, and gaps in educational attainment that follow students who experience homelessness and housing insecurity. Many calling for the immediate passage of HB 2263 testified on Monday, with many other advocates in attendance to support. The people coming for the HB 2263 hearing filled three rooms, demonstrating the widespread support and need for a new source of funding for mental health programs and affordable housing.

You can still voice your support for HB 2263! Go here for instructions on calling the legislative hotline and advocating.

HB 2263 Press Release

HB 2263 FAQ Sheet

HB 2263 Overview

 

Community leaders calling for passage of HB 2263 include:


A packed hearing room watching Housing Alliance ED Rachael Myers speak in support of HB 2263.

Sonya Campion, Campion Advocacy Fund
Access to safe, affordable housing is a serious issue in our state. I am happy to see a proposal that allows communities to invest in providing homes for the most vulnerable people in our neighborhoods—youth, families, veterans, the elderly, and disabled. This is an important first step to ensuring that everyone has a safe place to call home.

Joe Cunningham, King County Family Coalition, Arc of King County
The amount and availability of affordable housing for people with developmental disabilities is woefully inadequate, and the amount spent is far short of what's needed. This comes at a time when the needs for housing for individuals with developmental disabilities are at an all-time high. This bill would provide local communities with a much-needed tool for addressing the shortage.

Dr. Darin Neven, Spokane Hot Spotters Community Action Group Medical Director & Emergency Physician
Housing is one of the most effective treatments available in medicine. Unfortunately, doctors cannot write a prescription for housing. This legislation will create the opportunity for counties to fund housing for the vulnerable homeless patients that need a housing prescription filled.

Michael Ramos, Church Council of Greater Seattle
Generating proactive and creative options to fund mental health and homelessness services is an imperative for our state at this time. A local sales tax option will help to address the urgent need for more programs and services for our fellow neighbors who are very low-income and very vulnerable.

David Webster, Department of Early Learning & Family Services, Opportunity Council, Whatcom County
Washington has made significant investment in early learning and is poised to deepen its commitment. I wholeheartedly support that wise investment. That said, there are no issues that undermine my staff’s good work with young children more than homelessness, frequent household moves to cope with housing affordability, and family mental health issues. Children are simply hard-pressed to learn and develop in a healthy fashion under the oppressive weight of homelessness and family mental illness. HB 2263 will provide the tools for communities to address these potent barriers to healthy child development and learning. It seems a wise insurance policy for our state as it deepens its resolve to see all children off to a good start.

 

List of official HB 2263 endorsers here:

  • All Saints Community Services - Puyallup
  • Ally Community Development - Seattle
  • The Arc of Spokane Home Ownership Opportunities Program - Spokane
  • Association of Washington Housing Authorities - Spokane
  • Beacon Communities - Tacoma
  • Beacon Development - Seattle
  • Bellingham Housing Authority - Bellingham
  • Blue Mountain Action Council - Walla Walla
  • Building Changes - Seattle
  • Campion Advocacy Fund - Seattle
  • Capitol Hill Housing Foundation - Seattle
  • Catholic Charities Housing Services - Yakima
  • Church Council of Greater Seattle - Seattle
  • Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason & Thurston Counties - Lacey
  • Community Frameworks - Spokane
  • Compass Housing Alliance - Seattle
  • Council for the Homeless - Vancouver
  • CUE Services, LLC - Vancouver
  • DESC - Seattle
  • El Centro de la Raza - Seattle
  • Emergency Support Shelter - Longview
  • Enterprise Community Partners - Seattle
  • Faith Action Network - Seattle
  • Friends Committee on Washington Public Policy - Olympia
  • Food Lifeline - Western Washington
  • Futurewise - Washington
  • Homes First! - Lacey - Olympia
  • Homestead Community Land Trust - Seattle
  • Housing Authority of Grant County - Moses Lake
  • Housing Consortium of Everett & Snohomish County - Everett
  • Housing Authority City of Kennewick - Kennewick
  • Housing Authority of Grant County - Grant County
  • Housing Development Consortium of Seattle/King County - Seattle
  • Housing Resources Bainbridge - Bainbridge Island
  • Imagine Housing - East King County
  • Impact Capital - Seattle
  • Inland Empire Residential Resources - Spokane
  • The Illumination Project - Seattle
  • Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness - Bellevue
  • Key Property Services, Inc. - Vancouver
  • King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence - King County
  • King County Housing Authority - King County
  • Longview Housing Authority - Longview
  • Lopez Community Land Trust - Lopez Island
  • Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) - Seattle
  • Member of Peninsula Poverty Response - Pacific County
  • Mercy Housing Northwest - Seattle
  • Multi-Service Center - Federal Way
  • National Association of Social Workers - Washington Chapter
  • Next Step Housing - Yakima
  • Northwest Council of Jewish Women - Seattle
  • Partners for Our Children - Seattle
  • Okanogan County Community Action Council (OCCAC) - Okanogan
  • Okanogan County Housing Authority - Okanogan County
  • Olympic Community Action Programs - Port Townsend
  • Opportunity Council - Bellingham
  • Pacific County Housing Authority - South Bend
  • Parkview Services - Shoreline
  • Peninsula Poverty Response - Ocean Park
  • REACH - Vancouver
  • Real Change - Seattle
  • Rebuilding Together South Sound - Tacoma
  • Renton Housing Authority - Renton
  • Rural Community Assistance Corp
  • SAGE Architectural Alliance - Seattle
  • San Juan Community Home Trust - Friday Harbor
  • SEIU 775 - Seattle
  • SEIU Healthcare 1199NW - Seattle
  • Seattle Housing Authority - Seattle
  • Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness - Seattle
  • Share - Vancouver
  • Shelter Resources, Inc. - Bellevue
  • SMR Architects - Seattle
  • Solid Ground Washington - Seattle
  • Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium - Spokane
  • Statewide Poverty Action Network - Seattle
  • Tacoma/Pierce County Affordable Housing Consortium - Tacoma
  • TONKIN Architecture - Seattle
  • Triumph Treatment Services - Yakima
  • United Methodist Church, Seattle District - Seattle
  • Valley Cities - Auburn
  • Volunteers of America - Spokane
  • Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence - Olympia
  • Washington State Community Action Partnership - Olympia
  • Washington State Hospital Association - Seattle
  • Washington Low Income Housing Alliance - Seattle

 


 

First Update from the Special Session

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Second Special Session Starts Today

The first legislative special session ended yesterday without a resolution on the operating budget. The Governor held a press conference that same evening and immediately issued an order to lawmakers to come back for another 30-day special session. While lawmakers technically have the next 30 days to finish their business, pressure is mounting for them to finish as quickly as possible.

You can still advocate during the special session!

The legislature has until July 1 to come up with a budget that helps restore the state social safety net and adequately funds affordable housing. Compromise takes a long time. And we believe legislators will be able to come up with a budget that'll satisfy both chambers. Until then, it is still extremely important that lawmakers know you are still paying attention and still holding them accountable to passing a budget that contains new revenue sources.

Please Take Action Now!

Good Revenue News

A little earlier this month, the State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council announced that revenues are coming in stronger than projected for the current budget (+$106 M) and for the next budget (+$309 M). This means that revenue and economic trends are moving in the right direction, but there unfortunately still isn’t enough revenue to meet progressive budget goals. We can’t fund current obligations while both meeting the Washington State Supreme Court mandate to increase state funding for basic education and at the same time making progress towards restoring the over $12 billion in cuts made to the state budget since the Great Recession.

Senate Operating Budget Redux

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leadership released a new operating budget. While they provided a briefing of a new budget during a Senate Ways and Means meeting, they retreated from the standard democratic practice of allowing a public hearing. The bill moved from the committee on a party line vote, but it wasn’t voted on the Senate Floor before the session adjourned. You can read a broad overview of the budget and the near-term impacts of not enacting new revenue here.

Senate leadership remains resistant to enacting new and fair taxes that will get our state onto a sustainable budget path and out of the short-term budget-cutting patches that lawmakers have relied on for many budget cycles. While we are thankful our affordable housing and homelessness movement has successfully organized to protect safety net services like the Housing & Essential Needs and Aged, Blind & Disabled programs (respectively rental assistance and basic cash assistance for disabled adults), much more needs to be done to ensure our state has the resources needed to fund basic services that prevent and end homelessness over the next budget cycle. We urge state lawmakers to keep pushing for a final budget resolution that meets the needs of the most vulnerable and to enact fair revenue solutions like a capital gains tax.

Click here to send your lawmakers a message today to remind them they should prioritize affordable housing and homelessness during the ongoing budget negotiations.

Learn more about a capital gains tax from the Washington State Budget & Policy Center.

Capital Budget Update

The status of the capital budget, which is the source of funding for the Housing Trust Fund, remains in limbo as well. The state must pass an operating budget, but they don’t technically have an obligation to pass their other two budgets (the capital budget and the transportation budget). The House capital budget included $80 million in new funding for the Housing Trust Fund, while the Senate’s proposed budget included $65 million. We urge lawmakers to accept the House Capital Budget, which passed during the regular session with overwhelming bipartisan support, 96-2. Take action today to urge lawmakers to pass a capital budget that includes at least $80 million for the Housing Trust Fund.

 

Next Steps

The Housing Alliance will keep you updated with significant developments during the second special session. Lawmakers have to finalize the budget before July 1, which is the first day of the next budget cycle. We expect that lawmakers will finish in time to avoid a government shutdown. While the final budget outcomes are yet to be determined, it is clear that advocacy created the political pressure and deep education needed to elevate affordable housing and homelessness as central issues this year. We urge you to keep up the advocacy both during the second special session and into the interim. The Housing Alliance has tools and resources to support your advocacy, and we want to partner with you. Let us know if you are interested in hosting meetings with your lawmakers during the coming months–together we will keep moving forward.

If you need a refresher, here's the current status of our bill and budget priorities during these past couple of sessions.

 

 


 

Reflections on EAP@COEH

Paige McAdams, Communications Intern

The recent 25th Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness saw the first-ever EAP at the Conference on Ending Homelessness or “EAP@COEH”, a collaboration with the Housing Alliance’s Emerging Advocates Program. A large part of advocacy lies in telling stories and why they matter. That’s why the alliance also believes that the most appropriate people to explain why affordable homes and ending homelessness are so important are people who have experienced homelessness themselves.

The Emerging Advocates Program (EAP) began in 2013 as a summer/fall workshop series devoted to equipping people who have lived these stories with the necessary tools to engage in the advocacy process. The goal of EAP is for participants to gain skills and experience that will prepare them for advocacy leadership and for working toward positive policy change.

EAP@COEH included three EAP-specific workshop sessions. Participants were also required to attend five workshops of their choice from among nine recommended ones designated for the EAP@COEH program.

Ten people from all over the state participated in this inaugural program. Four others who completed a similar program last fall also joined. The EAP workshops included:

  • An introductory session explaining the Emerging Advocates Program, the Housing Alliance, and exploring the concept of advocacy and issues surrounding homelessness/affordable housing.
  • A workshop regarding storytelling in an advocacy context in which participants utilized a personal anecdote in a letter on affordable housing funding to state senators.
  • EAP 2013 graduate and artist/advocate Shelby Powell facilitated an evening Art Advocacy Studio, where participants could utilize their creativity to create artwork focused on advocacy messaging.
  • EAP 2013 graduate Kirk McClain facilitated the "Peer Support Breakfast", a gathering for anyone at the conference who identifies as having been homeless, including but not exclusive to the EAP participants.

“I loved seeing the Emerging Advocates Program participants networking with each other and with others at the conference, sharing their questions and ideas in the workshops,” says EAP staff lead Alouise Urness. “And I look forward to hearing their voices in the ongoing advocacy to make sure that there can be opportunities for safe, healthy, affordable homes for all people in Washington.

Overall, EAP@COEH participants and organizers believe the program was a success to be repeated for next year’s Conference on Ending Homelessness in Spokane. “Based on feedback from attendees, it was a huge win to have a space at the conference for folks with direct experience to come to the table and broaden the conversations to work for positive policy change and long-lasting shifts that end homelessness in our state, “ says EAP staff facilitator Andrea Marcos.

EAP and the Housing Alliance will continue to promote advocacy across Washington state to ensure that all residents can thrive in safe, healthy, and affordable homes.

Photos: Top-right: EAP attendees in the workshop Keep Your HeART: Art & Advocacy learn about incorporating art into advocacy and vice versa.
Bottom: Some of the EAP@COEH attendees at the 25th Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness.

 


 

Rents continue to be Out of Reach for too many across Washington

Joaquin Uy, Communications Specialist

In order to afford a modest, one-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent in Washington, renters need to earn $17.26 per hour. This is Washington’s 2015 one-bedroom Housing Wage, revealed in a national report released today. Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy organization National Low Income Housing Coalition and the statewide legislative advocacy organization Washington Low Income Housing Alliance jointly released the Out of Reach 2015 report.

Every year, Out of Reach reports on the Housing Wage for all states, counties, metropolitan areas, and combined non-metropolitan areas in the country. The report presents housing costs nationwide, highlighting the gap between what renters earn and what it costs to afford rent at fair market value.

According to the report, this state is the tenth most expensive state for renters. There is no doubt that the high cost of rental housing is driving increases in homelessness. According to an article published recently in the Journal of Urban Affairs, an increase of $100 in median rent for an area results in a 15 percent (metro areas) and a 39 percent (nearby suburbs and rural areas) increase in homelessness.

The hourly wage (working full-time) needed to afford a modest 2-bedroom apartment jumped by at least 10 percent in six counties:

County Percentage increase of hourly wage needed to afford a home
King County 26%
Snohomish County 26%
San Juan County 14%
Clallam County 11%
Pacific County 10%
Benton County 10%
Franklin County 10%

“Opportunities for safe, healthy, affordable homes are decreasing across Washington at alarming speeds,” says Housing Alliance Executive Director Rachael Myers. “We knew this trend would happen. That’s why we’ve been working to protect vulnerable renters and increase funding for affordable homes. While lawmakers failed to pass legislation to protect tenants this year, they still have an opportunity to invest in affordable homes before the special session is over.”

While the lack of affordable housing is a large part of why homelessness rates are increasing in Washington, wages have also not kept pace with rising rents. The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour without an increase since 2009, generating debate and calls to raise the wage both at the state and federal levels. In no state, even those where the minimum wage has been set above the federal standard, can a minimum wage renter working a 40-hour work week afford a one-bedroom rental unit at Fair Market Rent.

Working at the minimum wage of $9.47 in Washington, a family must have 1.8 wage earners working full-time, or one full-time earner working 73 hours a week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment.

Affording a rental home continues to be difficult even in Seattle, which has the highest minimum wage in the country at $15. The one-bedroom fair market rent in the city is a whopping $1,150, the highest in the state. Someone earning $15/hour would need to work 59 hours per week or 1.5 full-time jobs to afford this rent.

This is why advocates continue to work at the federal level for national solutions to the nation’s growing housing affordability crisis. The Housing Alliance joins with the National Low Income Housing Coalition in supporting the National Housing Trust Fund, which will provide communities with funds to create homes that are affordable for people at the lowest income levels.

You can view/download the entire report here.

Compare data from cities and counties to state data here.

 


 

GiveBIG Day of Champions—The Basics

Paige McAdams, Communications Intern

May 5, 2015 is the Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG Day of Champions, a one-day-only online donation event designed to raise money for nonprofit organizations. Contributions from GiveBIG sponsors are used to stretch donations made to nonprofits, up to $2,500 per donor, per organization. To paint a better picture, GiveBig Day 2014 stretched each donation by about 8 cents per dollar.

Also all GiveBIG Day donors are in a pool to be randomly selected for a Golden Ticket. Recipients of the Golden Ticket will receive a $100 Starbucks gift card as well as an extra $1,000 to your selected nonprofit from the Seattle Foundation.

GiveBIG is a huge day for Seattle nonprofits, and it will be an especially big day for the Housing Alliance. Thanks to a few Champion Board Members and Supporters, any online donations made to the Alliance anytime on May 5 will be matched 1:1. Any donation up to $6,000 is eligible for this 1:1 match. This plus the GiveBIG stretch means that your donation will be more then doubled!

Donating to the Housing Alliance on GiveBIG Day will help us take our mission to the next level. Our recently released 2015-2018 Strategic Plan is moving us forward, and donations received through GiveBIG will be key in doing so.

Affordable homes remain out of reach for too many Washingtonians, particularly those with the lowest incomes. We see these inequalities in our communities every day, from the street to the classroom. The reasons for homelessness and housing instability are complex, and are at the core of our public policies. Change is difficult, but it is not impossible. The Housing Alliance seeks swift, decisive, and thoughtful change. To bring about that change, we work to bring people and organizations together in order to have the greatest impact on policy.

Your donation will support a strong, statewide movement for affordable homes and an end to homelessness, and there’s no better way to give then on Seattle’s GiveBig Day of Champions.

Click here at bit.ly/GIVEWLIHA on May 5, 2015 to GiveBig with the Housing Alliance!

 

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 15

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Final Week of the Regular Session

As predicted, the legislature adjourned the regular session on Friday without reaching agreement on a budget. The main budget under negotiation is the biennial operating budget, which by law is needed by July 1. Legislators will need to come back during what is called a “special session” to continue to negotiate the budget, and the governor announced that this session will start this Wednesday, April 29.

You can still send emails during the special session!

The 2015 Washington State Legislative Session officially ended Friday, April 24. Legislators will begin the special session Wednesday, April 29 to finalize a budget. So you still have an opportunity to tell your legislators to pass a final budget that includes both creating new sources of revenue and making deep investments in both affordable housing and safety net services.

Take Action Here!

Learn at Lunch
2015 Session Wrap-up

Join the Housing Alliance to debrief the session and to discuss how affordable housing and homelessness issues fared. We will discuss what to expect for this special session and what advocates can do to ensure that the final budgets include the House’s affordable housing allocations.

2015 Session Wrap-up Webinar
Wednesday, April 29
12:00pm - 1:00pm

Register here!

After $12 billion in budget cuts to safety net services that protect our most vulnerable community members since the “Great Recession”, the legislature faces a clear choice to enact revenue. To fully maintain the safety net at current levels, while also meeting the state Supreme Court mandate to invest more in basic education, revenue is indeed needed. New revenue streams should have been instituted long before the legislature enacted the $12 billion in cuts. But the legislature has tangible and fair tax options before them now. The special session gives lawmakers the opportunity to continue negotiations over the variety of tax options currently on the table, including a Capital Gains Tax and a Carbon Polluters Tax bill.

See previous blog posts for more details on the tax options on the table.

Mixed Bag Session

This session was a mixed bag with some important policy achievements. Extended Foster Care (SB 5740), the Homeless Youth Act (SB 5404), and the King County Stadium Bonds bill (HB 1223), which will allow for $45 million in new bonds for affordable housing, are important accomplishments this session. Missed opportunities include the Source of Income Protections bill (HB 1565) which would have outlawed discrimination against renters relying on government assistance to make ends meet and the Fair Tenant Screening Report bill (HB 1257) which would have allowed renters to pay for one comprehensive tenant screening report while applying for housing. And with many important affordable housing and homelessness programs still awaiting a budget allocation—such as the Housing Trust Fund—the overall impact of the legislative session remains to be seen.

You Still Made a Difference!

Clearly, affordable housing and homelessness advocates have risen up this session and were heard loud and clear. From the record-breaking attendance at this year’s Homeless Housing and Advocacy Day to the thousands of advocacy phone calls, emails, letters, and meetings, you were a powerful presence in Olympia.

Affordable housing is a significant issue on the radar of budget negotiators, but advocacy will still be needed to ensure that the final budgets fully reflect our shared priorities.

 

You Can Still Make a Difference!

If you haven’t already taken action this last week to tell your lawmakers that the final budget needs to fully invest in affordable housing and homelessness prevention programs, please do so now. And please stay tuned for updates and opportunities to take action.

Please take action today to send your lawmakers a strong and clear message about what the final budgets should include.

As always, stay tuned to the Housing Alliance’s social media (Twitter and Facebook) throughout the week for timely updates.

 

Join the Housing Alliance Team!

Now you have an opportunity to join our awesome team leading the movement to ensure all Washington residents have the opportunity for safe, healthy, affordable homes in thriving communities. We are searching for an Operations and Finance Administrator. Go here for details and how to apply.

 

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 14

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

One More Week...

This is the last week of the regular 2015 state legislative session, and the House and Senate remain divided on critical components of the operating, capital, and transportation budgets. The main issue continues to be revenue. The question before lawmakers is whether they will get our state off the path of budget deficits and safety net cuts and onto a sustainable path with the revenue needed to fund our basic needs this year and in years to come. After many sessions of budget cuts, lawmakers have solid proposals before them to increase revenue while fixing our regressive tax system that currently allows wealthy households to pay significantly less of their income in taxes than lower income households.

Only One Week Left in
the Regular Session.
Please take action!

The 2015 Washington State Legislative Session officially ends Sunday, April 26. Legislators are likely to go into what's called a special session to finalize a budget. So you have just this week left to tell your legislators to pass a final budget that includes creating new sources of revenue and making deep investments in both affordable housing and safety net services.

Take Action Here!

Learn at Lunch
2015 Session Wrap-up

Join the Housing Alliance to debrief the session and to discuss how affordable housing and homelessness issues fared. If there is a special session, we will discuss what to expect and what advocates can do to ensure that the final budgets include the House’s affordable housing allocations.

2015 Session Wrap-up Webinar
Wednesday, April 29
12:00pm - 1:00pm

Register here!

It is unlikely, although not impossible, that the House and Senate will be able to reach a compromise between the two profoundly different approaches to their budgets before this regular session ends. The House’s Budget includes new revenue, while the Senate’s relies on cuts, transfers and other budget “gimmicks”. If by April 26 (the last day allowed for regular session) no agreement is reached then Governor Jay Inslee will have to call lawmakers into a special session. It is not known what the governor’s plans are. He could call them back immediately or delay the special session convening to give lawmakers a break.

 

You Can Still Advocate!

Advocates can still influence the outcome of the final budget. You have all this week to insist that your lawmakers fund the Housing Trust Fund at $80 million and include all of the House’s operating budget allocations for safety net programs that prevent and end homelessness. You can help ensure our legislative champions stay strong and less supportive lawmakers have a reason to change their minds.

Please take action today to send your lawmakers off with a strong and clear message about what the final budgets should include.

As always, stay tuned to the Housing Alliance’s social media (Twitter and Facebook) throughout the week for timely updates.

 

Join the Housing Alliance Team!

Now you have an opportunity to join our awesome team leading the movement to ensure all Washington residents have the opportunity for safe, healthy, affordable homes in thriving communities. We are searching for an Operations and Finance Administrator. Go here for details and how to apply.

 


 

A Housing Alliance Welcome to...

Paige McAdams, Communications Intern

My name is Paige McAdam, and I am thrilled to be the new communications intern for the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and moved to Seattle in 2011 to attend Seattle University, where I am now a senior political science major planning to attend law school in the fall. In the long-term, my goal is to provide legal services to those who need it most. My specific areas of interest are in civil rights and bankruptcy law.

I chose to move to Seattle because of the sense of community here, which can be rare in large cities. Four years later, I still see that sense of community every day and am so glad to be a part of it. My time at Seattle University has allowed me to become well versed on social justice issues and has given me a variety of opportunities to work within Seattle. During my freshman year, I was a contributing writer for Seattle-based street newspaper Real Change. I have also worked extensively in youth development, and I currently tutor math and science at Washington Middle School where roughly half of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

I also worked as a mentor and academic tutor at a local nonprofit. The bright, dedicated, and endlessly talented kids that I worked with have inspired me beyond belief. And as cliché as it sounds, I’ve learned more from them then they have from me. As a result, I am extremely passionate about ensuring that all children have access to the resources they need to tap into all their potential.

These experiences showed me the importance of creating dialogue and conversation regarding issues of poverty and homelessness. When I saw the opportunity to work with the Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness, I jumped at the chance to work with others striving to end homelessness. Lack of affordable homes is a huge problem in Washington State, and I believe whole-heartedly that it is a problem with a solution. With over 18,800 people facing homelessness in our state, I believe that we can do better.

I look forward to working with the Housing Alliance and learning more about the ways that systematic inequalities and issues lead to homelessness, as well as the ways that we can prevent this from happening. As a political science major, I have a strong interest in the ways that policy directly affects people, and am so excited to be working with like-minded advocates working towards change in Washington State.

As a communications intern for the alliance, I’ll be working on social media, research, data analysis, graphics, and anything else that comes my way. I am looking forward to learning more about nonprofit communications, and am excited to work with the alliance as well as the Seattle U Project on Family Homelessness and its other partner organizations.

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 13

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Legislative Items Still in Motion

The end of the regular session is rapidly approaching, and budget-related issues received a lot of attention last week. Lawmakers also spent a lot of time considering bills that have made it to the floor of the House or Senate. To get there, the bill had to make it through their own chamber of origin and then through the opposite chamber’s policy and fiscal committees. Bills not considered necessary to implement the budget (NTIB) will need a vote by Wednesday, April 15.

Important bills continue to await for a vote including SHB 1223 (Springer), which will provide $45 million in bond revenue to King County for affordable workforce housing in transit-oriented neighborhoods. You can help push this bill forward by emailing your senator. Our friends over at Housing Development Consortium make it easy for you to take action. Simply click here to start. The Extended Foster Care bill, SSB 5740 (Fain) is still in House Rules and needs to be pulled to the floor where it can be voted on. Stay tuned to our social media feeds (Twitter and Facebook) for updates and action requests if these bills need another advocacy push to move to final passage.

Learn at Lunch
2015 Session Wrap-up

Join the Housing Alliance to debrief the session and to discuss how affordable housing and homelessness issues fared. If there is a special session, we will discuss what to expect and what advocates can do to ensure that the final budgets include the House’s affordable housing allocations.

2015 Session Wrap-up Webinar
Wednesday, April 29
12:00pm - 1:00pm

Register here!

Good News from Last Week

The Homeless Youth Act - SB 5404 (O’Ban) passed last Friday with a strong bipartisan vote. It’s now on its way to the Governor for his signature. Since it was what’s called “Governor Request” legislation, we are confident that the Governor will sign it soon. Thanks are due to Senator Steve O’Ban (28th - Lakewood) who was the prime sponsor. Please take a minute to send him a quick thank you for his leadership. Go the House Bill Report to learn about the final bill.

 

The Senate Capital Budget is Released!

The Senate both released and then had a public hearing on their capital budget last Wednesday. We were pleased to discover that their Housing Trust Fund allocation isn’t too far off of the House’s allocation, signaling an opportunity for the final budget to include the House’s $80 million. To read an analysis of both budgets, please see our blog post.

For the Senate capital budget hearing, two Housing Alliance Emerging Advocates Program graduates made the trip to Olympia to share how homes funded by the Housing Trust Fund has impacted their lives. Susan Russell and Nick Reyes educated lawmakers about root causes of homelessness and how the state’s investments can transform lives. TVW highlighted their compelling testimonies in their daily roundup of the important events of the day. You can view it below:

It is very significant that both the House and Senate capital budgets have prioritized the Housing Trust Fund. This is no doubt due to your tireless advocacy for affordable housing that has been building in strength each year. Thank you to every advocate who has been educating and urging your lawmakers to adequately fund affordable housing. We aren’t done yet and need to keep pushing so the final budget includes the House’s capital budget allocation levels.

 

Operating Budget: Next Steps

The biggest difference between the House and Senate operating budgets is how they are funded. The House’s budget includes new revenue from both tax reforms and the closing of special tax preferences. The Senate’s budget includes cuts to state agencies, savings from not enacting state employee bargaining agreements, and other so-called “gimmicks” to avoid new revenue. The Senate operating budget also makes significant cuts to TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) and doesn’t include funding for important safety net programs such as state food assistance.

Overall, we believe the state needs more revenue to get us off the path of budget deficits and social service cuts. The Housing Alliance is relieved both houses made no cuts to the Housing & Essential Needs/Aged, Blind & Disabled programs and SSI Facilitation services. But we know that these programs remain at risk each year unless our state reforms our tax policies. Washington has the most regressive tax system in the country, meaning that households with the lowest incomes contribute significantly more of their incomes in taxes than the wealthiest. Our lawmakers have a real opportunity for reform this year. HB 2224 (Carlyle), which we covered in last week’s blog post, is the revenue bill that would create a capital gains tax among other things.

We urge all affordable housing and homelessness advocates to contact your lawmakers to ask them to pass this bill. Even if your lawmaker has previously told you that they will not support progressive tax reforms, they must hear from constituents who will support them if they change their minds. United For Fair Revenue is organizing a “Tax Week of Action.” Join in by calling your lawmakers today and urge them to “Pass HB 2224 because we need fair tax reforms and sustainable budget solutions.” You can learn more here. 

 

The End is Nigh

The last day of regular session is Sunday, April 26. The very significant differences between the House and Senate’s budgets will be difficult to reconcile by then. If they are unable to come to a final agreement, they will still end the session on that day, but will need the Governor to call them to back for what’s called a “special session.” The Governor could do that immediately, or could wait until the budget negotiators have a final deal. The coming weeks will provide more insights on what to expect. As always, stay tuned to Housing Alliance social media for updates.

 


 

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