Tenants rights

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 9

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Late on Thursday, March 13, the legislature adjourned (also known as "Sine Die"). After rumors of another special session began circulating earlier that week, the budget writers spent long nights seeking compromise and finalizing details. The agreed-upon budget was revealed at a Thursday press conference and then voted out of the House and Senate with large bipartisan support. See below for operating budget details.
 

Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge: "A Legislative Miracle"

We never gave up. And in the last hours of the session, the legislature took action on the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharges/Document Recording Fees. Grassroots advocacy and public pressure pushed this bill to the finish line. Senator Jan Angel (26th LD-Port Orchard) went from adamant opposition, to personally introducing the floor amendment. This was quite a remarkable turnaround in a matter of just two short weeks!! As one seasoned lobbyist noted, "ESSB 5875 passing is a legislative miracle."

Advocates across the state really made a huge difference. If you emailed or called your legislator, you should be proud that together we've preserved funds supporting programs and services that allow people to get back on their feet and leave the brutality of homelessness behind them.

Many lawmakers made notable remarks on the floor before voting on the bill Thursday night. We especially liked how Senator Marko Liias (21st LD-Mukilteo) described how remarkable it was he had the opportunity to vote on the bill that night.

When we pass out charts for school children explaining how a bill becomes a law, it does not cover bills like this one, that move through the process in different ways...It's also a testament to the power of everyday people in our democracy to speak up when they see a decision that they don't agree with. Everyday citizens like the local Catholic action folks that came and talked to me and I'm sure to many of my colleagues. Efforts by our news media through editorial boards and letters to the editor from around the state to talk about this issue. So I think this bill while it didn't come through the normal course, it is a testament to fact that our democracy works, that as legislators we listen and sometimes when we don't get it quite right, we fix our mistakes.
Senator Marko Liias (21st LD-Mukilteo)

You can watch his speech below.

And you can watch all the Senate floor speeches here.

Many lawmakers went above and beyond to get this bill passed. Senator Jeannie Darneille (27th LD-Tacoma) and Representative David Sawyer (29th LD-Tacoma) deserve special thanks for being the prime sponsors. Please send them a quick email to tell them how much you appreciate their leadership. But we'd be remiss if we didn't also point out the amazing, sometimes behind-the-scenes, work of the following lawmakers.

(Click on their names to send an email.)

Senate
Sen. Jeannie Darneille (27th LD-Tacoma)
Sen. Sharon Nelson (34th LD-Maury Island)
Sen. David Frockt (46th LD-Seattle)
Sen. Steve Hobbs (44th LD-Lake Stevens)
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th LD-Seattle)
Sen. Andy Billig (3rd LD-Spokane)
Sen. Don Benton (17th LD-Vancouver).
House
Rep. David Sawyer (29th LD-Tacoma)
Rep. Maureen Walsh (16th LD-Walla Walla)
Rep. Pat Sullivan (47th LD-Covington)

 


Legislators in support of ESHB 2368, the original Document Recording Fee Bill at our Thursday,
March 6th press conference.

Our Analysis of the Document Recording Bill that Finally Passed

In the end, it was ESSB 5875 that passed. You might remember that our preferred version of the bill ESHB 2368 died when Senator Jan Angel (26th LD-Port Orchard) refused to give it a vote in committee. The Majority Coalition Caucus introduced SB 5875 after intense public pressure. While the final bill isn't exactly what we wanted, it is a significant improvement because it pushes out the sunset dates until 2019. Here are more details on what the bill does:

  • Extends the $40 homeless housing and assistance document recording surcharges through June 30, 2019. (The bill combined the sunset dates so both will now sunset at the same time).
  • Requires 45 percent of the state's non-administrative allotment of the surcharge fee revenue to be set aside for "private rental housing payments," which is defined to specifically exclude nonprofits.
  • Changes which documents that the fee applies to by striking the term "real property" and by excluding documents recording a state, county, or city lien or satisfaction of a lien. More analysis is needed to determine the impacts on revenue collected.
  • Requires an annual independent audit of the expenditure of the document recording fee revenue. And if the audit determines that the Department of Commerce has failed to set-aside at least 45% of the funds for private rental housing payments, the Office of Financial Management (OFM) must receive a corrective action plan from the department and must monitor that plan for compliance for the remainder of the fiscal year. If the department is out of compliance in any month during that period, OFM must withhold a portion of the department's expenditures equal to that made during the month that the department was not in compliance.
  • Requires that the Office of Financial Management secure a yearly independent performance audit of the department's data and expenditures and must include a random sampling of local governments, contractors, and housing providers. Requires that OFM meet with the department and "a landlord representative" to review the findings and that OFM provide the landlord representative with an opportunity to include written comments with the independent audit's findings. If the audit finds that the department has failed to set-aside 45% of the funds for for-profit landlords, then the audit must include a recommendation to the legislature on alternative means of distributing the funds. Additionally, OFM must secure another independent audit of the department's use of the funds which will include recommendations for policy and "operational improvements" on the use of the funds by counties and by the department. The report is due by December 1, 2016.
  • Requires local governments receiving the funds to maintain and distribute an interested landlord list and to take reasonable efforts to require local providers to conduct quarterly outreach to private for-profit landlords about opportunities to rent to the homeless.
  • Requires the department to convene a stakeholder group that includes real estate and private for-profit landlord representatives to find a new funding source that does not include a surcharge on document recording fees. The stakeholder group must be convened by 2017 and must submit a report to the legislature by December 1, 2017.

The Housing Alliance will be closely monitoring how all the new requirements play out.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th LD-Seattle) pointing out the highly problematic bill language containing the 45% quota for for-profit landlords (specifically excluding nonprofits with housing).
 

Majority Coalition Caucus Refuses to Pass Capital Budget

The Senate leadership refused to pass a Supplemental Capital Budget, thus disappointing stakeholders of all political persuasions. It was the first time since 1996 that such an opportunity was lost. The lack of a supplemental capital budget means that the we lose $5 million for energy efficient affordable housing, $2 million for weatherization, $6 million for capital projects serving people with chronic mental illness, and the earmarks for a handful of affordable housing projects.

The Housing Alliance will be working throughout the interim to deepen support for affordable housing among a variety of lawmakers. Stay tuned.
 

Final Supplemental Operating Budget

Here is a quick overview of how the final budget impacted key programs:

Housing and Essential Needs Program (HEN)

- No changes in program or funding.

Aged, Blind & Disabled Program (ABD)

 $850,000 in savings from SB 6573 swept to general fund.

HEN Incapacity Exams

 $600,000 in assumed Affordable Care Act savings swept to general fund.

Homeless Certification Pilot

 $26,000 from Home Security Fund used to fund two-year pilot based on the concept in HB 2415.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

Approximately $5.8 million was reinvested into TANF programs. Highlights include funding for:

  1. A 15% incentive payment for TANF households that participate in their individual responsibility plan for 20 hours or more a week.
  2. Modifying the AREN program from a $750 lifetime maximum to a $750 yearly maximum (AREN = Additional Requirements for Emergent Needs and is a program that provides emergency rent or utility assistance to TANF clients.
  3. Creating a Rapid Re-housing home visit/education pilot for homeless WorkFirst recipients.

An important TANF bill also passed in the last hours of the session. Here’s the summary from Laurie Lippold of Partners for Our Children.

HB 2585, the Kinship Child-Only TANF Bill, passed shortly before Sine Die (official adjournment of session). This bill remedies an eligibility inequity for relatives receiving child-only TANF and was essentially dead. With the "it's-not-over-'til-it's-over" mentality, advocacy continued. And in the end, the bill passed the Senate 48-0 with one excused. Now more caregivers will be eligible for child-only TANF funding to help support their families in times of need.

The Housing Alliance will be posting a blog update in the next week with more details on how TANF fared this session. Stay tuned!

   
We posted the left image on Facebook, once Sen. Angel killed ESHB 2368.
We then posted the right image after we learned about the four-year surcharge extension!

 

Extended Foster Care Bill

The Extended Foster Care Bill was one of the Housing Alliance’s support items, led by the The Mockingbird Society. Here’s another update from Laurie Lippold about how this bill, like the Document Recording Fee Bill came back from the dead to eventually get passed!

Again, the phrase "it's not over 'til it's over" could not have been truer than it was this session. By all accounts, HB 2335, the Extended Foster Care Bill, died in Senate Ways and Means. But through hard work and the commitment of a number of legislative champions, the bill passed shortly before Sine Die. Providing this extra support until age 21 has the potential to significantly improve outcomes for these young adults.

The final bill does the following:

  • Expands eligibility criteria to allow a youth to request extended foster care services if the youth engages in employment for 80 hours or more per month.
  • Limits expenditures on the new category of extended foster care to the funding provided specifically for this purpose.
  • Adds an effective date of March 1, 2015.

Special thanks to Laurie and to Jim Theofelis from The Mockingbird Society for their amazing advocacy for children in foster care.
 

The Interim: A Great Opportunity to Advancing Affordable Housing and Homelessness Issues

The interim is a strategic time to educate your lawmakers to deepen their support of our issues. The Housing Alliance is putting together an interim workbook (stay tuned for more details). But in the meantime, we encourage you to start thinking about doing some or all of the following:

  • If you work at an affordable housing organization, invite all your local lawmakers to tour your homes or of the site that you wish to build a future project. We can help you prepare fact sheets about local need and provide any other support you may want.
  • Invite your legislators to meet at your local shelter or where you meet clients. Share with them the realities that people in their district are facing and consider inviting someone directly impacted by your services to join you. The Housing Alliance can provide support, especially in prepping people to share their stories.
  • When you meet with lawmakers, be sure to involve your board. This can both help to educate your board on how decisions made in Olympia and in D.C. impact your organization's efforts, while also educating lawmakers from a variety of perspectives.
  • If you are an individual advocate, unaffiliated with an organization, please also consider meeting with your lawmaker to tell them why you care about ending homelessness and expanding access to affordable housing. The Housing Alliance can support you and provide talking points.

Again, thank you for being an advocate and for taking action this session. As the passage of ESSB 5875 attests, advocacy can achieve the impossible. Let's keep it up and and make more progress to expand access to affordable housing and to end homelessness. Housing Advocates have a lot to do during the interim to build more legislative champions. Our sister organization, the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund will also be very active this summer and fall.

To learn more, sign up for updates and news by clicking here.

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 7

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy
Ben Miksch, Affordable Housing Policy & Advocacy Specialist
Kate Baber, Homeless Policy & Advocacy Specialist

Last week was so full of ups and downs, so full of developments, twists, and turns, that it is really hard to believe all the action was packed into just five days.

Monday
The week started with the release of the Senate Operating and Capital Budgets with a mysterious placeholder for a bill with no content about the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) and Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) programs (see below for an explanation).

Tuesday
ESHB 2368, the Homeless Housing & Assistance Surcharge Bill (aka the Document Recording Fee Bill), was heard in the Senate.

Wednesday
The House released their budgets with a very disappointing Housing Trust Fund allocation.

Thursday
The Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee heard SHB 2537, the Fair Tenant Screening Act. Then that same committee failed to vote on ESHB 2368 when Senator Jan Angel (R-27th LD) refused to allow a vote.

Friday
Senator Sharon Nelson (D-34th LD) attempted a dramatic floor procedure called a “Ninth Order” to force a vote on ESHB 2368. It failed, but it raised the stakes and the profile of the bill dramatically.

And all week, impressive numbers of advocates across the state were taking action to tell lawmakers to do the right thing. The week of action culminated on Friday with a Capitol Call-in Day of Affordable Housing and Homelessness Action. By midday, so many people had joined that the state hotline operators reported a huge volume of calls.

 

Take Action: Continue the Calls!

With less than two weeks left (session is scheduled to end on March 13), we’ve got to keep the pressure on our lawmakers to invest deeper in the Housing Trust Fund and to pass ESHB 2368 without significant compromises! If you haven’t taken action yet (or lately) please do today. It isn’t too late to call. If you already called on Friday, please find at least one person today that didn’t, and ask them to call. Share with them how easy it was and offer to stand by their side while they make the call themselves. Here is the phone number and sample script:

Call 1.800.562.6000 between 8:00am-8:00pm and leave one message for all of your lawmakers (including the Governor):

"Please make sure the homeless housing and assistance surcharge fees don’t sunset by supporting E-S-H-B 2368. And neither the House nor the Senate Capital Budget invests enough in affordable housing. Please help ensure all Washington residents have opportunities for safe, healthy affordable homes by making a deeper investment in affordable housing."

Read on for detailed updates (and don’t miss the update on the Document Recording Fee Bill).

 

Special Thank-Yous

  • Dave Finet from the Opportunity Council who drove from snowy Bellingham *twice* to testify for the Document Recording Fee Bill and for the Housing Trust Fund.
  • Thomas Green who came for the third time this session to share his personal story to illustrate the importance of the Fair Tenant Screening Act.
  • All the dedicated Vancouver advocates, including Andy Silver and Craig Lyons who have gone above and beyond to organize their community and educate their lawmakers to pass the Document Recording Fee Bill!

And again, thanks for being an advocate for affordable housing and ending homelessness.

 

The Housing Trust Fund

The Housing Alliance was extremely disappointed with both the House and Senate Capital Budgets. Although the Senate’s lack of any appropriation was no surprise, the House’s low appropriation was. We knew that the capacity of the Supplemental Capital Budget was very low, but we had hoped for a deeper investment.

The House budget allocated $5 million for energy efficient housing (this was originally in the governor’s budget). The House also allocates $2 million for weatherization of homes for low-income homeowners. This program pays for weatherization specialists to perform air-sealing work, to add insulation, to seal leaky duct seams, and to replace inefficient appliances in the homes of low-income residents. And the House budget also includes a $6 million pot that housing for people with chronic mental illness can apply for (although they will compete with a large list of other important capital needs related to treatment for people with mental illness). Additionally, the House also funds a handful of individual projects, including a King County Housing Authority project called Vantage Point.

We also have a new budget tracking tool that allows you to quickly compare all three budget proposals.

 

Housing and Essential Needs/ Aged, Blind & Disabled and the Mysterious Bill Unveiled

The House of Representatives’ supplemental budget proposal makes no changes to the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) and the Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) programs that offer various types of assistance to people with long- and short-term disabilities. The 2013-2015 Biennial Operating Budget’s HEN and ABD appropriations are carried forward.

A collective sigh of relief was exhaled across the state last week when the Senate’s Operating Budget made no attempt to gut HEN and ABD. Another sigh of relief happened when the content of a mysterious new bill was revealed on Tuesday.

The bill in question was SB 6573The Senate’s supplemental budget proposal assumes the passage of this bill. Senate Bill 6573 basically changes the definition of disability for the HEN and ABD programs. If passed, this bill would result in $850,000 in ABD and Medicaid savings due to ABD recipients moving from ABD to HEN, and then from “Presumptive SSI” Medicaid to “expansion” Medicaid (that’s the Medicaid that has been expanded thanks to the Affordable Care Act). The Senate proposes to transfer this savings to the Operating Budget’s General Fund. We support SB 6573, but believe the savings should be reinvested into HEN to accommodate the resulting pressure on the HEN caseload. This is especially important since HEN is nearly at capacity and may not be able to serve a larger caseload without additional resources.

The Senate’s budget proposal also assumes $600,000 in HEN and ABD incapacity exam savings due to Medicaid expansion. This savings is transferred to the operating budget’s general fund. We are concerned that this saving assumption is too high, and we believe any savings should be reinvested back into HEN and ABD rather than the general fund.

The Housing Alliance urges the legislature to pass SB 6573 and to reinvest its savings into HEN. Any incapacity exam savings should be reinvested back into HEN and ABD. 

 

 

SHB 2537 - The Fair Tenant Screening Act

SHB 2537 by Representative June Robinson (38th LD) had a hearing on Thursday in the Senate, but the committee chair, Senator Jan Angel (26th LD), refused to bring it up for a vote. This means that the bill has died because last Friday was the cutoff for bills to leave a policy committee. But not all is lost. The bill had a long journey and we educated a lot of lawmakers on the importance of this issue along the way. Our sponsors and allies in the legislature are frustrated by the landlord lobby’s opposition and are ready to keep the fight going in 2015. We’ve also made in-roads with some stakeholders who were previously opposed and we will hit the interim running to move this and other tenant protections forward. Representative Robinson, Senator David Frockt (46th LD), tenant advocate Thomas Green, the YWCA of Seattle/King/Snohomish Counties, Solid Ground, the Tenants Union, Columbia Legal Services, Partners for Our Children, parent testifiers Jason and Lila, and more, have all worked hard on this bill. We think it is safe to say that none of us are giving up, and we will be back in 2015 to eliminate this unfair and unnecessary barrier to housing.

 

ESHB 2368 - The Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge

As those of you who have read any of the flurry of news articles on this (see the list below), last week was very dramatic for this important bill. Here is a quick recap:

Thursday
ESHB 2368 was scheduled for executive session in the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance (FIHI) Committee (being scheduled for executive session is typically needed in order to get a committee vote). But FIHI Co-chair Senator Jan Angel (26th LD) abruptly adjourned the committee before allowing a vote on it. TVW cutoff but we were able to get the audio and that recorded Senator Don Benton (17th LD), Senator Sharon Nelson (34th LD), and FIHI Co-chair Steve Hobbs (44th LD) in a heated disagreement with Senator Angel. Unfortunately, she was obstinate and would not reopen committee. Also, Senator Benton made it known at that moment that he was indeed planning on attaching a very bad amendment to the bill. This was a surprise because by all accounts he had withdrawn it. The amendment would have both fees sunset together in 2020, make the 45% set-aside of the state’s portion permanent, limit that set-aside only to for-profit landlords (explicitly excluding nonprofits), and add a host of other extremely problematic requirements.

Friday
Senator Nelson (34th LD) with her caucus colleagues, attempted a floor procedure called a “ninth order” in which a bill can be pulled straight from a committee to the floor for a vote. Unfortunately the motion failed along party lines 26 to 23, but this action raised the profile of the bill dramatically. In a statement by Senator Nelson’s caucus Senator Christine Rolfes and Senator Steve Hobbs had these fierce comments to share:

"In my district, and in districts across the state, this is the most important source of funding we have to help the homeless. People are playing politics with an issue that should be supported by everyone. There shouldn’t even be a second thought."
Senator Christine Rolfes (23rd LD)
"To simply do away with a primary source of funding that actually helps solve the homeless problem is ignorant at best and evil at worst."
Senator Steve Hobbs (44th LD)

You can also watch the Ninth Order action here:

We are not done yet! Because of both the amazing advocacy coming on this issue from all over the state and because of last week's drama, the bill has received a lot of media and public attention. This helps us enormously in our efforts to seek other means of getting the bill passed. Stay tuned for updates and next steps and please help us keep the pressure on by making a call to your lawmakers today (if you didn’t on Friday). And please get others to join you in your advocacy.

In the meantime, Senator Sharon Nelson and Senator Steve Hobbs deserve quick email of thanks for their extraordinary efforts last week. Please encourage them to keep fighting!

Click here to send a thank you email to Senator Sharon Nelson.
Click here to send a thank you email to Senator Steve Hobbs.

List of media reports about Thursday evening's FIHI drama:

Publicola - Morning Fizz: "What a Weird Evening."
Tacoma News Tribune - Shared Senate committee leadership turns contentious over homelessness money
The Stranger SLOG - 
Republican State Senator Shocks Colleagues, Kills Funding for Homeless Programs
Spokesman Review - 
Flurry of excitement in the Senate
Crosscut - Angel kills housing bill
Ballard News Tribune - Kohl-Welles appalled by Republicans' move to keep Washington Families out in the cold

 

Homeless Children’s Education Act

Thanks for our friends and advocates at the UW Children & Youth Legislative Advocacy Clinic (CAYLAC) for this update:

SB 6074 had a successful hearing last week in the House Education Committee who then passed it out unanimously. It is now in the House Rules Committee for a second reading! Likewise, HB 2373 was passed out of the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education and is now in the Senate Rules Committee. The Senate budget included funds for the small fiscal impact of the bill, but the House budget did not.

Advocates, including the Housing Alliance, urge the House to amend their Operating Budget to include the necessary funds.

 

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

The House of Representative’s supplemental budget proposal reinvests $17.023 million in TANF underspend funds back into the program. This investment is an important first step to rebuilding this critical family safety net program, which was deeply cut during the Great Recession. Some of the highlights in the House budget that are closely related to homelessness and housing stability include:

  • Creates a 15% incentive payment to families who meet DSHS engagement requirements. In 2011, the TANF cash grant was cut by 15% and is now $372/month for a family of two, or just 30% of the federal poverty level. This incentive payment will provide much needed resources to families to help pay for their basic needs, including rent and utility bills.
  • Restores the Additional Requirements for Emergent Needs (AREN) assistance amount to a maximum of $750 per household per year rather than per lifetime. AREN provides emergency housing and utility assistance to struggling families and helps them avoid eviction and homelessness. This appropriation would restore a 2011 budget cut, which reduced AREN assistance to $750 per lifetime. Currently, 13.6% of TANF families are homeless, so the restoration of AREN assistance is critical.
  • Funds House Bill 2585, which will ensure kinship care providers who rely on unearned income, such as retirement income, have equal access to child-only TANF assistance. This bill will help low-income grandparents and other kinship care providers meet their families’ basic needs when they assume care of a child relative.
  • The Senate’s budget proposal reduces WorkFirst funding by $4.11 million, but does not cut the TANF cash grant. The Senate appropriates $52,000 to fund SB 6394, which expands kinship care providers’ access to child-only TANF.

The Housing Alliance urges the legislature to adopt the House of Representative’s TANF supplemental budget proposal since it makes significant investments to improve TANF families’ housing stability and economic security.

Please stay tuned for more information about our policy and budget priorities. Like last week, a lot can happen this week. And we’ll need your quick and consistent advocacy to ensure legislators do the right thing.

 


 

Our 2014 Budget Analysis

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy
Kate Baber, Homelessness Policy and Advocacy Specialist

For a quick comparison of each of the three budgets, check out our new Budget Tracker here.

Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Budget

Neither the House nor Senate Capital Budget invest deeply in affordable housing. The Senate budget invests nothing. The House does a lot better with a $5 million allocation for energy efficient housing (this was originally in the governor’s budget). Go here for more information on this particular budget item and search for "High Energy Efficient". The House also allocates $2 million for weatherization of homes for low-income homeowners. This program pays for weatherization specialists to perform air-sealing work, to add insulation, to seal leaky duct seams, and to replace inefficient appliances in the homes of low-income residents. And the House budget also includes a $6 million pot that housing for people with chronic mental illness can apply for (although they will compete with a large list of other important capital needs related to treatment for people with mental illness). Additionally, the House also funds a handful of individual projects including a King County Housing Authority project called Vantage Point.

The Housing Alliance urges both the House and Senate to invest deeper in affordable housing.

Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) & Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) Programs

The House of Representative’s supplemental budget proposal makes no changes to HEN or ABD from last year. The 2013-2015 Biennial Operating Budget’s HEN and ABD appropriations are carried forward.

The Senate’s supplemental budget proposal assumes the passage of Senate Bill 6573, which would change the definition of disability for the HEN and ABD programs. 

If passed, this bill would result in $850,000 in ABD and Medicaid savings due to ABD recipients moving from ABD to HEN, and from Presumptive SSI Medicaid to the expansion of Medicaid from the Affordable Care Act. The Senate proposes to transfer this savings to the Operating Budget’s General Fund. We support SB 6573, but believe the savings should be reinvested in HEN to accommodate the resulting HEN caseload increase. This is especially important since HEN is nearly at capacity and may not be able to serve a larger caseload of people without additional resources.

The Senate’s budget proposal also assumes $600,000 in HEN and ABD incapacity exam savings due to Medicaid expansion. This savings is transferred to the Operating Budget’s General Fund. We are concerned that this saving assumption is too high. And we believe any savings should be reinvested back into HEN and ABD rather than the general fund.

The Housing Alliance urges the legislature to pass SB 6573 and to reinvest its savings into HEN. Any incapacity exam savings should be reinvested back into HEN and ABD.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

The House of Representative’s supplemental budget proposal reinvests $17.023 million in TANF underspend funds back into the program. This investment is an important first step to rebuilding this critical family safety net program, which was deeply cut during the Great Recession. Some of the highlights in the House budget that are closely related to homelessness and housing stability include:

  • Creating a 15% incentive payment to families who meet DSHS engagement requirements. In 2011, the TANF cash grant was cut by 15% and is now $372/month for a family of two, or just 30% of the federal poverty level. This incentive payment will provide much needed resources to families to help pay for their basic needs, including rent and utility bills.
  • Restoring the Additional Requirements for Emergent Needs (AREN) assistance amount to a maximum of $750 per household per year rather than per lifetime. AREN provides emergency housing and utility assistance to struggling families and helps them avoid eviction and homelessness. This appropriation would restore a 2011 budget cut, which reduced AREN assistance to $750 per lifetime. Currently, 13.6% of TANF families are homeless, so the restoration of AREN assistance is critical.
  • Funding House Bill 2585, which will ensure kinship care providers who rely on unearned income, such as retirement income, have equal access to child-only TANF assistance. This bill will help low-income grandparents and other kinship care providers meet their families’ basic needs when they assume care of a child relative.

The Senate’s budget proposal reduces WorkFirst funding by $4.11 million, but does not cut the TANF cash grant. The Senate appropriates $52,000 to fund Senate Bill 6394, which expands kinship care providers’ access to child-only TANF.

The Housing Alliance urges the legislature to adopt the House of Representative’s TANF supplemental budget proposal since it makes significant investments to improve TANF families’ housing stability and economic security.

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 6

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Last week started with huddles of advocates and lobbyists outside the Senate and House chambers, sending last minute pleas to lawmakers to advance or oppose bills. In the end, the House voted out over 300 bills, with the Senate voting out just over 180. Over 1,600 bills were introduced this year and many are now "dead." Though some policy bills with a state budget impact can be considered "Necessary to Implement the Budget" or NTIB and are exempt from many of the cutoffs.

Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge Bill (ESHB 2368) & Tenant Screening Act (SHB 2537) Updates

Even though there is only three weeks of the legislative session left to go, a lot of hurdles and developments lie ahead for affordable housing and homelessness priorities. Policy bills have to clear committees by this Friday the 28th, and then bills with a fiscal impact have to clear the fiscal committees by Monday the 3rd. Luckily, Senator Steve Hobbs (44th LD) and Senator Mark Mullet (5th LD) successfully pushed for both the Fair Tenant Screening Act (SHB 2537) and the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge Bill (ESHB 2368), aka the "Document Recording Fee Bill" to be scheduled for hearings in the Senate. ESHB 2368 is set for a 1:30pm hearing on Tuesday and SHB 2537 is set for 1:30pm on Thursday. Tune in to TVW to watch the hearings live. Advocates and service providers are lined up to testify and will share their stories on why these bills are so important.

Double Action Advocacy!

Senate Policy Action 
House Budget Action

ESHB 2368 (Homeless Housing & Assistance Surcharge) and SHB 2537 (fair & portable tenant screening reports) are still in the Senate. Help us get these passed out. And the House is set to release their budgets this week. Tell your representatives you support a sizable investment in the Housing Trust Fund.  Click here to start the email process.

And please send this link around so others like you can take action: http://bit.ly/1fbYgaD

Once/if the bills clear that committee, the Fair Tenant Screening Act will advance to the Senate Rules Committee, and the Surcharge Bill will advance to Senate Ways and Means. Stay tuned to the Housing Alliance all week for updates.

Everyone Should Have the Opportunity to Live in a Safe, Healthy, & Affordable Home

With the Senate and House budgets expected to be released this week, we will finally learn what each chamber has in store for the Housing Trust Fund. The size of the Capital Budget has been a moving target, and many were waiting for last week's official revenue forecast to see if any significant changes were in store to the previous revenue projections. The budget news was relatively goodno negative surprises because the revenue is coming in closely to what was last projected. There is a small (in state budget terms) increase of $30 million expected, and it is certainly good news that the state keeps heading in the direction of growth rather than the painful budget deficits of so many previous cycles.

Stay tuned for updates on the Housing Trust Fund and on the other important budget related programs like Aged, Blind and Disabled and Housing & Essential Needs.

A Week of Action!

This week is a critical week to make your voice heard. Please join us in pushing for the Senate to pass the Fair Tenant Screening Act and the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge Bill and for both chambers to support a deep investment in the Housing Trust Fund!

Here is what you can do this week:

Monday
Email your elected officials today. We make it easy to do. Click here to start. Then spread the word on Facebook and Twitter using this link: http://bit.ly/1fbYgaD

Make sure your friends, colleagues and family join you in advocacy. Also, watch for budget updates. The Senate is expected to release their budgets today, Monday.

Tuesday
If you work at or are on the board of a nonprofit or a company committed to expanding affordable housing and ending homelessness, then send an organizational letter to local lawmakers. We have sample letters for the Housing Trust Fund and for the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge Bill ready to go.

Click here to download the Sample ESHB 2368 Organizational Letter.
Click here to download the Sample HTF Supplemental Appropriation Organizational Letter.
Please email Ben if you need anything else (and please send us a copy of the letter!)

Wednesday
Get ready for Friday's Affordable Housing and Homelessness Call-in Day! Spread the word to your colleagues and on social media! Also, watch for budget updates. The House is expected to release their budgets this Wednesday.
Thursday
Rest your fingers and get ready to call the capitol tomorrow!

Friday
Call 1.800.562.6000 between 8:00am-8:00pm and ask all of your lawmakers to:

"Please make sure the homeless housing and assistance surcharge fees don’t sunset by supporting ESHB 2368. And neither the House nor the Senate Capital Budget invests enough in affordable housing. Please help ensure all Washington residents have opportunities for safe, healthy affordable homes by making a deeper investment in affordable housing." *

*Script updated February 27, 2014, 9:46pm.

Once you've made your call, please tell the world that you took action by proudly displaying our "I-am-an-awesome-advocate badge" on the square photo of your Facebook profile and Twitter page. It's easy:

1. Download the image below by dragging it from here to your desktop or by right-click on it and then clicking "save image as" and saving it on your desktop.

2. Then upload the image to the square picture in Facebook and...
 
...the only picture available to you in Twitter.

3. Don't forget to follow-up with your friends and get them to make calls and change their photos too.

Special thanks to Stephanie Velasco at Housing Development Consortium of Seattle/King County for designing the graphic!

Thank you again for all you are doing to advance affordable housing and homelessness issues this year. Advocates across the state have turned the notch up this session and it is working! From Vancouver to Yakima, to Spokane and Bellingham and more, you are being heard by your lawmakers. We've had more bipartisan support this year than in recent memory. And the fact that our issues are still moving is a testament to the deep dedication of all of you. Keep it going!


Never too early to start advocating!

 


 

Why the Homeless Housing Assistance Surcharge Sunset CANNOT Wait!

Ben Miksch, Affordable Housing Policy and Advocacy Specialist

ESHB 2368 – the bill to remove the sunset on the Homeless Housing Assistance Surcharge (a.k.a. document recording fees) – is currently sitting in the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee awaiting a hearing. A number of hurdles still stand in the way of Governor Jay Inslee signing the legislation into law. And the amount of time we have to clear those hurdles is shrinking quickly.

Housing advocates all over the state are doing a great job talking to legislators about the importance of preventing the sunsets of over 60% of funding for homeless housing in every county. You’ve also been great at educating lawmakers about how the cuts would shut the doors at emergency cold weather drop-in centers, domestic violence shelters, housing for homeless youth, and effective, life-saving programs throughout the state. But a lot of legislators have responded with something along these lines:

"This is a really important issue and I support it. But the sunset isn’t until July 2015. Can’t we wait until next year?”

That’s not an unreasonable question if you’re working off of a timeline that looks a little like this:

But that timeline isn’t the whole picture. The truth is if ESHB 2368 isn't passed this year, programs will have to implement cuts before the legislature has a chance to pass a bill in 2015.

Homeless Housing Assistance Surcharge revenues are awarded on a competitive basis. The next funding rounds will begin to take place this fall (2014) in most counties. Even if passing a bill in the 2015 Legislative Session was a sure thing, counties aren't able to contract for services based on what the law might be. Funding projections must be based on current law and that means a cut of $10 on July 2015 and of another $20 in July 2017.

That means this fall, local communities will have to start preparing for cuts to be implemented in early 2015.

This is what the timeline really looks like:

The legislature must act now if they want to prevent vulnerable populations like veterans, people living with mental illness, domestic violence survivors, homeless families, and others from being impacted by those cuts.

Take action! Tell your legislators ESHB 2368 can’t wait until next year!

If you need to see the numbers on how badly the cuts will be for state and county homelessness funding, check out this handout here that also summarizes the urgency to get ESHB 2368 passed this session.

The Housing Alliance is circulating a sample letter for organizations to fill out to send to their legislators. We don’t have a lot of time on this! If your organization is willing to fill out a letter, especially if your organization uses these fees to provide services to your community, please contact me at benm(at)wliha(dot)org as soon as you can.

CORRECTION: The first timeline had incorrect years listed. They are correct now.


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 5

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

The legislative session has officially passed the halfway mark. So, last week was filled with a flurry of activity as advocates, lobbyists, and legislators worked to make sure their bills passed the fiscal committee cutoff of last Tuesday and then to make sure their bills passed the Senate or House floor later in the week. Monday and Tuesday of this week will be especially busy in Olympia because the house of origin cutoff is Tuesday the 18th. This means that bills must be voted on in their chamber of origin (either the House or the Senate) by Tuesday in order to keep moving. Luckily, the Housing Alliance's two policy bills SHB 2537 (the Fair Tenant Screening Act) and ESHB 2368 (ending the sunsets of homeless housing and assistance surcharges) both passed the House Floor on Thursday the 13th. This means that they are still alive. Their next hurdle will be in the Senate. Both have to be heard and passed out of the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee by Friday, February 28 in order to keep moving. (Read below for more on both these bills.)

Housing Trust Fund and Other Budget Issues

The fate of budget related issues like the Housing Trust Fund and the Housing & Essential Needs and Aged, Blind & Disabled programs all are unknown until the legislature releases the first budgets. We expect to see budgets sometime around Monday, February 24. Stay tuned for updates and action alerts as we get closer. But please continue to advocate and educate your lawmakers on the importance of funding the Housing Trust Fund and the continuing need for safety net programs.

Advocacy Alert: Time to Move the Senate to Action

ESHB 2368 (document recording fees) and SHB 2537 (fair & portable tenant screening reports) are headed to the Senate. As you may have heard, these bills are going to have a challenging time in that chamber. But it doesn't have to be this way, especially with your consistent advocacy!  Start by clicking here.

And please send this link around so others like you can take action: http://bit.ly/1kKHsjb


Thanks to Firesteel for this photo.

ESHB 2368 - Regarding Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharges

Last Thursday was a roller coaster ride for this bill. The day started out with several confirmed Republican yes votes on an unamended version. However, it ended with a somewhat different set of seven Republican supporters and a significant and sudden floor amendment on the bill. In the end, the bill passed the House around 5:00pm with 62 in favor and 36 against. See below for the roll call to learn how your lawmaker voted.

What you need to know about the ESHB 2368 floor amendment

The amendment requires that 45% of the state's portion of the homeless housing and assistance surcharge be permanently set-aside for the private rental market. Also, if the Department of Commerce fails to meet reporting requirements outlined in the bill, the Office of Financial Management may hold all of the department's funds collected from this fee. This is different than the amendment in the Senate. Most strikingly is that the Senate version still allowed a sunset of the fees, while this House amendment eliminates the sunsets. (The Senate version of the bill is dead because it didn't pass out of Senate Ways and Means by Tuesday's deadline.)

The Housing Alliance would have preferred that the unamended version be passed out of the House. But we hope the Senate will accept the amendments and that they ask for no other concessions.

Bad news statewide if ESHB 2368 doesn’t pass…

If this bill fails to pass this year, many communities will begin to feel cuts in early 2015. This is because document recording fee revenues are awarded on a competitive basis. The next funding rounds take place fall of 2014 in most communities. With a July 2015 sunset looming, counties cannot contract for services that may not have a funding source. Their funding projections must be based on current law. This means that this fall, many local communities will begin to prepare for the cuts, which will be implemented in early 2015. The cuts will severely impact vulnerable populations like veterans, folks living with mental illness, domestic violence survivors, homeless families, and more.

Seven Republican lawmakers crossed the aisle to support this bill. Led by Representative Maureen Walsh (16th LD) who is a co-sponsor of the bill, they bravely did the right thing and voted yes to support the services needed to prevent and end homelessness. Please help us thank them. Click each of the names below to send a message of thanks, especially to Representative Walsh for her leadership.

Maureen Walsh Jesse Young
Hans Zeiger Liz Pike
Linda Koshmar Mike Hope
Drew MacEwen  

 

That’s Why You Need to Take Action!

Take action today to urge the Senate to support this bill! The bill must be passed out of the Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee by Friday, February 28 in order to keep moving. And please send the action alert to your colleagues, friends, and families.

Use this link: http://bit.ly/1kKHsjb

Consider using your Facebook page to spread the word. The Housing Alliance have been getting messages lately from new advocates saying they've learned about the important opportunities for action via their Facebook friends. Keep spreading the word!

How your lawmaker voted on ESHB 2368

Yeas: 62 Nays: 36 Absent: 0 Excused: 0

Voting Yea: Representative Appleton, Bergquist, Blake, Carlyle, Clibborn, Cody, Dunshee, Farrell, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Freeman, Goodman, Green, Gregerson, Habib, Haigh, Hansen, Hope, Hudgins, S. Hunt, Hunter, Hurst, Jinkins, Kagi, Kirby, Kochmar, Lytton, MacEwen, Moeller, Morrell, Morris, Moscoso, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Pettigrew, Pike, Pollet, Reykdal, Riccelli, Roberts, Robinson, Ryu, Santos, Sawyer, Seaquist, Sells, Senn, Springer, Stanford, Stonier, Sullivan, Takko, Tarleton, Tharinger, Van De Wege, Walkinshaw, Walsh, Wylie, Young, Zeiger & Mr. Speaker.

Voting Nay: Representative Buys, Chandler, Christian, Condotta, Dahlquist, DeBolt, Fagan, Haler, Hargrove, Harris, Hawkins, Hayes, Holy, G. Hunt, Johnson, Klippert, Kretz, Kristiansen, Magendanz, Manweller, Muri, Nealey, Orcutt, Overstreet, Parker, Rodne, Ross, Schmick, Scott, Shea, Short, Smith, Taylor, Vick, Warnick & Wilcox.

 

SHB 2537 - The Fair Tenant Screening Act

The House version of the Fair Tenant Screening Act passed out of the House on Thursday the 13th on an almost party-line vote of 53 to 45. The floor debate included a powerful introduction by the prime sponsor Representative June Robinson (38th LD) and a passionate rebuttal to bill opponents by Representative Drew Hansen (23rd LD). Representative Hansen responded to misleading and inaccurate remarks by Representative Jay Rodne (5th LD). Representative Hansen's floor speech specifically talked about the tenant testimony he heard earlier in the month. He noted the stories they shared and said, "This bill is about fairness." Representative Hansen's speech is at 00:56:15.

Please take a second to send Representatives Robinson and Hansen notes of thanks!

June Robinson Drew Hansen

The bill faces significant hurdles in the Senate. Advocacy is going to be more important than ever. Take action now to ask your Senator to pass the Fair Tenant Screening Act this year!

How your lawmaker voted on SHB 2537

Yeas: 53 Nays: 45 Absent: 0 Excused: 0

Voting Yea: Representative Appleton, Bergquist, Blake, Carlyle, Clibborn, Cody, Dunshee, Farrell, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Freeman, Goodman, Green, Gregerson, Habib, Hansen, Hope, Hudgins, S. Hunt, Hunter, Jinkins, Kagi, Kirby, Lytton, Moeller, Morrell, Morris, Moscoso, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Pettigrew, Pollet, Reykdal, Riccelli, Roberts, Robinson, Ryu, Santos, Sawyer, Seaquist, Sells, Senn, Springer, Stanford, Stonier, Sullivan, Takko, Tarleton, Tharinger, Van De Wege, Walkinshaw, Mr. Speaker

Voting Nay: Representative Buys, Chandler, Christian, Condotta, Dahlquist, DeBolt, Fagan, Haigh, Haler, Hargrove, Harris, Hawkins, Hayes, Holy, G. Hunt, Hurst, Johnson, Klippert, Kochmar, Kretz, Kristiansen, MacEwen, Magendanz, Manweller, Muri, Nealey, Orcutt, Overstreet, Parker, Pike, Rodne, Ross, Schmick, Scott, Shea, Short, Smith, Taylor, Vick, Walsh, Warnick, Wilcox, Wylie, Young, Zeiger

 

Updates on Housing Alliance Support and Oppose bills

SB 6143 - All housing should be habitable

The Housing Alliance opposes SB 6143, which seeks to eliminate the common law principle that all rental units have to be habitable. The principle, referred to as the Warranty of Habitability, has been in effect before the residential landlord tenant act was created and requires that rental units meet the most basic health and safety standards. Unfortunately, the bill was voted out of the Senate on Friday the 14 on a party-line vote of 26 yeas, 21 nays, and 2 excused. You can listen to the passionate floor debate below.

Senators Jamie Pedersen (43rd LD) and Sharon Nelson (34th LD) especially deserve thanks for their strong support for safe, healthy housing. Please send them a quick note!

Jamie Pederson Sharon Nelson

SSB 6074 and SHB 2373 - The Homeless Student Education Act

The Homeless Student Education Act Bills SSB 6074 and SHB 2373, are moving swiftly along! The House version passed on Friday with a very strong vote of 92 - 4, and the Senate version passed earlier in the week unanimously. The housing pilot bills HB 2763 and SB 6365 died though. You can learn more about the bills here.

HB 2335 and SB 6101 - Extended Foster Care

Thanks to Laurie Lippold and Partners for Our Children for their hard work and for this update:
HB 2335 and SB 6101 would have extended foster care for youth from the age of 18 to 21 if they were employed at least 80 hours per month or had a documented medical condition.  Although they were heard, the extended foster care bills did not make it out of either fiscal committee. According to a recent report put out by the Department of Social and Health Services Research and Data Analysis, 35 percent of youth in Washington State who age out of care at age 18 experience homelessness within one year. These bills would have ensured that more youth aging out of care have the opportunity to maintain safe housing until age 21. There's no giving up, however, and if there truly is no way to move forward with Extended Foster Care in 2014, 2015 isn't far away!

HB 2723 - Foreclosure Fairness Act

HB 2723 passed the House unanimously on Thursday the 13. This was newly appointed Representative Mia Gregerson's (33rd LD) first bill to be passed and it makes important updates and fixes to the Foreclosure Fairness Act. You can learn more about the specifics of the bill here.

HB 1024 - Service Animals and Fair Housing

HB 1024, which brings the state's definition of service animals in line with the federal definition, is on the House floor and needs a vote by Tuesday's deadline! Stay tuned and watch the Housing Alliance's bill tracker for updates.

Thank you for being an advocate! It is your persistence and dedication that ensure our lawmakers pass the bills and funding needed to prevent and end homelessness. We've already come a long way in this fast, short session. Please keep weighing in and spreading the word. As Representative Hansen's floor speech on the Fair Tenant Screening Act made clear, you are being heard!

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 4

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

We've almost reached the halfway point of session and the first major cutoffs happened last week. Bills had to move out of policy committees in order to survive to this week. But this week brings the next hurdle, which is the fiscal committee cutoff on Tuesday, February 11. Bills that have a fiscal impact must clear their respective House or Senate fiscal committees in order to continue in the legislative process.

All these cutoffs can mean a frantic race to confirm votes or to write last minute amendments to appease concerns. This was certainly the case with the Housing Alliance's top policy issues.

Take Action: It's too cold out there to let the sun set on document recording fees!

Some legislators want to change SB 6313 so that instead of eliminating the sunsets, they would be extended only for five years. In addition, they want to mandate that 45% only be used for the "private rental market." Please ask your legislators to eliminate the sunsets and to not restrict the use of these funds in any way. Go here to start the email-sending process.


Photo credit: Wonderlane

Prevent the Sunsetting of the State's Document Recording Fees! (HB 2368 & SB 6313)

A lot happened with these important bills last week and a lot more could happen this week. The Senate version was voted out of committee on Tuesday the 4th. The Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee co-chaired by Senators Steve Hobbs (44th LD) and Jan Angel (26th LD) voted unanimously to move an amended version on to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Unfortunately, the amendment merely extends (rather than eliminates) the sunset of the fees to 2020 and also requires the state set-aside at least 45% of the funds for "private rental vouchers". While we agree part of ending homelessness includes utilizing the private market, the Housing Alliance opposes this set-aside, as we oppose any set-aside for homelessness program funding. Local control and flexibility of the document recording fee revenue allow for innovative and responsive programs that can be tailored to address local needs and local realities. Mandating that the fees be used in any specific way is bad policy and threatens to erode the success these fees have had in ending homelessness. Please weigh in on this issue and ask your legislators to eliminate the sunsets and to not restrict the use of the funds. Take action today by clicking here.

Meanwhile, the House version, HB 2368 had moved out the Committee on Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs with a unanimous and bipartisan vote! If you haven't already thanked each committee member for their “yes” vote, please do today, especially if you are in their district. Below is a list of the committee members. Click on each one to send a quick email of thanks.

Sherry Appleton Mike Hope
David Sawyer June Robinson
Norm Johnson Sharon Tomiko Santos
Jeff Holy Jesse Young
Mia Gregerson  

HB 2368 has a hearing today Monday at 10am in the House Appropriations Committee. You can watch the hearing with us on TVW here.

We'll let you know the latest updates on these bills. We update our Twitter and Facebook feeds regularly with news about our priorities. Again, Tuesday the 11th marks the fiscal committee cutoffs in the House and Senate and we hope that both chambers will give the bills a hearing and schedule them for a vote. If not, we hope that the House will determine them to be "necessary to implement the budget" or "NTIB". If a bill is considered NTIB, it is not subject to any cutoff other than “sine die” a.k.a. the last day of session. However, there is a chance that both chambers will choose to adhere to Tuesday's fiscal committee deadline and schedule the bills for a public hearing. So stay tuned and take action to help move these bills today!

Also, The Olympian wrote an editorial on February 6 strongly condemning a bill that attempts to transfer $10 of the document recording fees to state parks. Check it out here.

Enact Part 3 of the Fair Tenant Screening Act! (HB 2537 & SB 6291)

The House version of the Fair Tenant Screening Act, sponsored by Representative June Robinson (38th LD) was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, the 4th. It was amended to address the concerns raised in public hearings and the Housing Alliance supports the amended version. Representative Robinson recorded this video for her constituents to explain the importance of this bill:

The Senate version of the Fair Tenant Screening Act did not make it past last Friday's cutoff. However, we hope that the House version will continue its progress and make it over to the Senate to get a second chance in that chamber. We know that the bill has strong support in the Senate, and if the House version makes it over, it has a good chance, especially since it has been amended to address the concerns shared in testimony.

Stay tuned for an advocacy action midweek on the Fair Tenant Screening Act and please take a moment to thank the members of the House Judiciary Committee who voted yes on HB 2537 by clicking any one of the links for your legislator below. Representative Brady Walkinshaw (43rd LD) deserves special thanks for his central role in crafting and sponsoring the amendment. 

Laurie Jinkins Tina Orwall
Roger Goodman Mary Helen Roberts
Steve Kirby Brady Walkinshaw

Updates on Housing Alliance Support Priorities

A number of the Housing Alliance's support issues recently made important progress. Here are the highlights. Remember to watch our bill tracker for updates.

Extended Foster Care (HB 2335/Roberts & SB 6101/Fain)
These bills are moving, and HB 2335 has a hearing on Monday, February 10 in the House Appropriations Committee at 10:00am. If you are in Olympia, sign in with support! 

The Homeless Children's Education Act (HB 2373/Parker & 6974/Frockt)
These bills are in the extremely capable advocate hands of UW law students and Columbia Legal Services, and have been swiftly moving along. Each bill has cleared the recent cutoffs and is in position to keep moving. 

Thank you for being an affordable housing and homelessness advocate! Your voice, your action, and your stories move these important issues. Please keep in mind that each time you contact your legislator, you are part of a statewide movement to end homelessness and to expand access to safe, healthy and affordable housing. Your advocacy can move mountains. Please keep it going!


 

Edit 02/10/2014: Added information about today's HB 2368 hearing in the House Appropriations Committee & formatting edits.


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 3

Rachael Myers, Executive Director

This week was a whirlwind of housing and homelessness advocacy in Olympia. The week started off with an advocacy bang as more than 600 advocates flooded into the capitol for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day. Then it ended with, of course, an awesome win by the Seattle Seahawks and some movement on our priorities. But we'll need you to help get these bills through the finish line and onto the governor's desk. So please, first take action:

Take Action

By February 7, all bills need to be voted out of their respective policy committee. That's where you come in! We need you to turn the pressure up on your senator and your representatives by telling them to support passage of the Document Recording Fee (HB 2368/SB 6313) and Fair Tenant Screening Act, Part 3 (HB 2537/SB 6291) bills out of their respective committees. Go here to start the email-sending process.

Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day

This was, of course, the biggest housing and homelessness related news from Olympia last week. On Tuesday, January 28, 605 people representing 41 legislative districts went to Olympia and attended 108 meetings with lawmakers and/or their staff to advocate for an affordable home for everyone in Washington.

Maybe most impressive was what a diverse group of participants it was! The day was translated into three languages. Real Change NewsLow Income Housing InstituteCatholic Charities Housing ServicesSeattle Housing Authority’s Resident Action Council, and many others brought groups of tenants and residents. The Campion Foundation helped out with transportation so we had groups from all over the state, including Bellingham, Yakima, Spokane, the Olympic Peninsula, and Vancouver.

Almost one out of every five Advocacy Day attendees identified themselves as a member of nonprofit board. (Learn about getting your board involved in advocacy here.) Homestead Community Land Trust board member Tim Morley spoke about why the Homestead board has committed to advocating:


Homestead Community Land Trust board member Tim Morley addressing advocates. 

“As treasurer, I have some insight into the resources necessary to achieve our mission. I can tell you frankly that we rely heavily on public funding. There’s no other way to say it. We work hard to augment that funding with private and corporate donations and fees from operations, but just as my house is my foundation, public funding is the foundation of Homestead.”

Later, Advocacy Day participants gathered on the steps of the Legislative Building, got pumped up for the rest of the day with a series of rally chants, and heard from housing champion legislators Senator David Frockt (46th Legislative District) and Representative June Robinson (38th Legislative District and former president of the Housing Alliance board). Both talked about the challenges ahead in this session encouraged the participants to continue contacting their elected officials both in-person and via email and phone on supporting policy that increases affordable homes and ends homelessness.

Overall, feedback from advocates was overwhelmingly positive, with many talking about how inspired they felt meeting with their legislators one-on-one and hearing their responses to housing and homelessness priorities. Another popular highlight was a photobooth set-up by our partners at FiresteelYou can see over a hundred advocate photos at the Firesteel Facebook page here. Firesteel also produced this video connecting education outcomes with having a home. This summed up nicely the overall theme of the day, which was"...it all starts at home..." Whether the goal is to improve education or to increase healthcare access, having a home is often the first step!

Closer to Ensuring Sun Never Sets for Document Recording Fees

This week, we also saw some movement with our legislative priorities. We moved a small step closer to ensuring document recording fees continue so that effective homeless services can continue in counties across the state. The House version HB 2368 had an executive hearing in the Committee on Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs last Tuesday, January 28, where it was passed as a substitute bill. The committee had to adjust the language of the bill. It moves on to the Appropriations Committee, which oversees bills that have to deal with money. Meanwhile, the Senate version SB 6313 just had a public hearing in the Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee last Thursday, January 30. It's absolutely crucial you take action and tell your senator to support passage of SB 6313 out of this committee. Go here to take action!

The Next Step to Fairer Tenant Screening Reports

Portable and common sense tenant screening report legislation is moving through committees at a slower pace than document recording fees. We had some amazing testifiers speak at a House hearing last Friday, including Jason Bragg, a veteran parent of the child welfare system and a graduate of drug court in Snohomish County. Check out his testimony recounting his struggle trying to find a stable place to live with his fiancé. At one point, he had to pay more than $500 in tenant screening report fees! You can see his testimony here. Even with such passionate, personal testimony, this legislation is moving through the committees at a slower pace than document recording fee legislation. SB 6291 needs to be passed from the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee by the February 7 cut-off and HB 2537 needs to be voted from the House Judiciary Committee by the same date.

 

But one of the highlights from last Friday's House Judiciary Committee hearing was our own Rep. June Robinson, sponsor of the bill. After she addressed the committee about the bill, she was corrected by committee member Rep. Steve Kirby (29th District) on introducing her bill. You'll have to just see this for yourself:

This Week in Housing Advocacy

By this Friday, February 7, all bills need to be voted out of their policy committee in order to advance. Anything that hasn’t moved by then is considered dead for this year. That's why your advocacy this week is absolutely crucial! We need our legislators to support passage of the Document Recording Fee (HB 2368/SB 6313) and Fair Tenant Screening Act, Part 3 (HB 2537/SB 6291)Start by clicking here.

Congratulations!

And I can't end this blog post without also congratulating 2014 Super Bowl Champs, the Seattle Seahawks! Don't forget. Rep. June Robinson was right. As she foretold above, our legislation is good for the Seahawks! 

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 2

Kate Baber, Homelessness Policy and Advocacy Specialist

Kate B. here penning this issue of The Week in Housing Advocacy. I have so many highlights from this week that it was difficult to pick just a couple for the blog. Personally, I like starting with advocate testimonies.

Fair Tenant Screening Act, Part 3 (SB 6291)

Fair Tenant Screening Act, Part 3 addresses the high cost to tenants when they have to pay for multiple screening reports that contain the same information. The Senate version of the bill (SB 6291) was heard in the Financial Institutions Housing, and Insurance Committee last Thursday. Two different parents told their stories of how costly duplicate tenant screening reports were obstacles for safe, healthy, affordable homes for their families. One of the parents (Jason) paid over $500 in tenant screening reports in one home search. You can hear their stories in the video below.

Another powerful testimony came from a familiar face to those of you long-term followers of the Housing Alliance. Housing Advocate of the Year 2012 and homeless veteran turned social worker Thomas Green was also at the committee hearing giving his testimony about how repetitive and costly tenant screening reports was not only an obstacle to attaining a home, but also actually ended up hurting the City of Tacoma! You'll have to watch it here:

You can also read about his story on our Fair Tenant Screening Act one-pager here. 

Take Action

If you were moved by Lila, Jason, or Thomas' stories of struggle in finding a home because of repeat tenant screening report fees, please take action! If your senator is on the FIHI committee, demand they pass SB 6291 out of this committee!

Meanwhile, the House version (HB 2537) will have its day soon in the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, January 31 at 1:30pm. If you are interesting in testifying, please let my co-worker Ben know. His email is benm(at)wliha(.)org or call him up at 206.442.9455 x204.

Document Recording Fees

These real estate document fees account for over 60% of funding for homeless programs across the state, especially in rural counties. The Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee heard the House version (HB 2368), and we had an overwhelming show of testimonial force in support of this bill. Nine advocates, including a county administrator, a direct service staff member, and even someone speaking on behalf of several Washington State cities all spoke in favor of how document recording fees have been crucial in decreasing homelessness around the state. You can listen to their testimonies of support here (TVW was having technical difficulties at the time, so there's no video). Below, I wanted to highlight the testimony of Linda Olsen with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence who talked about how these fees help survivors of domestic violence. She points out that domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness in the state.

The Senate version (SB 6313) will have a hearing in the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee this Thursday, January 30 at 1:30pm. Again, if you are interested in testifying, again, please let Ben know. Maybe your testimony will end up in this newsletter!

Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day

These past few days, counties all over Washington held their Point in Time counts of homeless individuals in shelters and on the streets. King County's One Night Count was last Thursday night. Most of our staff members were volunteering for the evening. The count found 3,117 individuals without shelter, a 14% increase from last year. If you were part of a count in your community, and are now motivated to make some positive lasting change for fighting homelessness, then you should also sign-up for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day next Tuesday. It's an opportunity to tell your elected official that any number of homeless folks is TOO MUCH and now is the time for them to do something about it.

Take Action Redux

Last week, we set a goal of doubling the amount of action-takers who sent a message to their legislators in support of the Housing Trust Fund. We came a little short of our goal, reaching 133 instead of the projected 160+. You can still take action! If you haven't already, please click here and take action now.

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 1

Ben Miksch, Affordable Housing Policy and Advocacy Specialist

Last week saw the start of the legislative session, and things are already moving at full-speed. We have a lot to accomplish and not a lot of time to do it! Today (Wednesday) is already day 10 of 60!!!

Likewise, the Housing Alliance team is in full-session mode. Fact sheets and information about all of our issues are up on our website here, the Bill Tracker is up and running, and this email marks the official start of our The Week in Housing Advocacy updates, which will run for the rest of the session.

That means it’s time for all of you to be in full-session mode as well! Keep an eye out for action alerts we’ll be sending and be sure to take action yourself and forward them along to your staff, co-workers, board, and others in the community who want to ensure that everyone in Washington has an opportunity for a safe, healthy, affordable place to call home some day.

Take Action!

Full-session mode means taking action now! Last week saw our first Advocacy Alert of this session, and 88 advocates took action to send a strong message to your legislator supporting a Housing Trust Fund appropriation for this session. Help us send 88 more and take action here!

We had a busy and productive first week. We have bill numbers for Part 3 of our Fair Tenant Screening Act and document recording fee priorities (see our Bill Tracker for more details). We’ve also added two new issues to our Legislative Support Priorities Agenda: the Homeless Children Education Act and a bill improving the definition of service animal. Information about both is also available on our state advocacy webpage.

The bills to eliminate the sunsets on the document recording fees that fund homelessness services are: SB (Senate Bill) 6313 and HB (House Bill) 2368. HB 2368 had an amazing hearing yesterday, and may be up for a vote in the committee later this week. We’ll send a video and highlights from the hearing in next week’s The Week in Housing Advocacy dispatch.

This year we’re addressing the high cost to tenants when they have to pay for multiple screening reports that contain virtually the same information. The Fair Tenant Screening Act bills are SB 6291 and HB 2537. The Senate bill is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow. We have some great testifiers lined up, and will let you know how that one goes.


Passionate testifiers wanted! Inquire within.

Speaking of great testifiers, if you can help with testimony, or would like our help mobilizing your board, your staff, your program participants, or others in your community, please let us know! There are simple ways to get involved that make a huge difference, and we can find a way that works for you.

The big highlight last week was a briefing we had with lawmakers on the Housing Trust Fund last Thursday. We had a packed house with 23 legislators and at least that many staff who joined us for lunch and a presentation on the need for affordable housing, how the Housing Trust Fund helps meet that need, and how the Housing Trust Fund works. Senator John McCoy (38th LD), Representative Marcus Riccelli (3rd LD), and Representative June Robinson (38th LD) hosted the event, and all spoke eloquently about the Housing Trust Fund. This was the largest group of legislators to gather to talk about the Housing Trust Fund in many years (possibly ever) and it ended with a commitment to get folks back together to keep the momentum for affordable housing going.


See you at Advocacy Day?

Legislators are busy folks, but the fact that so many showed up is probably because they heard the message about how important affordable housing is loud and clear last year at Housing and Homelessness Advocacy DayGreat job! But that means we’ll need to keep letting them know this year as well.

Remember, Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day is next week! If you haven’t registered yet, here’s the link: tinyurl.com/hhadreg. After all, you can't have full-session mode without participating in Advocacy Day in some way!

 


 

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