Tenants rights

The Week In Housing Advocacy - Weeks 3 and 4

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Half way through the session, housing issues alive and well!

We are now at the halfway point of the legislative session and we are happy to report that all of our priority issues are still alive and well. Affordable housing and homelessness remains a top issue for many lawmakers, and the near 700 people who came to Olympia on February 2nd for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day certainly helped!

The last two weeks in Olympia were a flurry of hearings and votes by lawmakers to move bills out of their policy committee before they hit the first deadline or “cutoff” of the session. Tuesday, February 9th brings the second deadline: bills have to clear fiscal committees in order to keep moving. Here is the status of our lead bills and some key support bills as well:

Addresses housing options for participants in government assistance programs. (Outlawing Discrimination based on a Renter’s Source of Income.)

HB 1565 by Representative Ormsby

Passed out of House Judiciary Committee on 2/4. Currently in House Rules Committee.

SB 5378 by Senator Miloscia

This bill is dead since it didn’t get a vote in Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee. But the House companion (1565) can still pass!

Addresses tenant screening, evictions, and deposit or security refunds under the residential landlord-tenant act.

SB 6413 by Senator Mullet

Passed out of the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee unanimously on 2/3. Currently in Senate Rules.

HB 2811 by Representative Walkinshaw

Passed out the House Judiciary Committee unanimously on 2/4. Currently in House Rules.

Establishes the homeless student stability and opportunity gap act.

SB 6298 by Senator Frockt

Passed the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education unanimously on 1/28. Currently in Senate Ways and Means.

HB 1682 by Representative Fey

Passed out House Appropriations on 1/25. Currently in House Rules.

Authorizes city governing authorities to adopt a property tax exemption program, and county governing authorities to adopt a property tax exemption program for unincorporated jurisdictions, to preserve affordable housing that meets health and quality standards for very low-income households at risk of displacement or that cannot afford market-rate housing.

HB 2544 by Representative Frame

Passed the House Committee on Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs on 2/2 and was heard in House Finance on 2/5.

SB 6239 by Senator Fain

Passed the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee on 2/1 and was heard in Senate Ways and Means on 2/4.

Addresses the sale of manufactured/mobile home communities. (Gives nonprofits the opportunity to purchase).

HB 2799 by Representative McBride

Passed House Judiciary on 2/4 and is scheduled for a hearing in House Finance on 2/8 at 8:00 AM.

Revises the definition of "work activity," for purposes of the WorkFirst program, to increase the threshold from twelve months to twenty-four months for vocational educational training, with respect to any individual.

HB 1875 by Representative Walsh

Passed the House last year and is now in House Rules.


Time to Speak Up for the Housing Trust Fund!

Budget writers are right now negotiating what to include in their budget proposals. The House will come out first with their budgets, sometime around Presidents Day. Since the budgets are not ready, there is still time to make sure that the Housing Trust Fund is funded at $10 million. Take action today and challenge your colleagues, friends and family to join you

Senator Sharon Nelson and Senate Democrats introduce the “Bring Washington Home Act”

On Thursday, February 4th, SB 6647/Nelson “The Bring Washington Home Act” was introduced. This bill will allocate $186 million to affordable housing & homelessness from the “rainy day fund”. With leverage from tax credits and local sources overall, it will invest a total of $300 million in affordable housing and homelessness programs! This is a bold proposal to address the crisis of homelessness that every community in our state is facing. The most basic duty of government is to protect its residents from danger, and our state is failing if even one person is forced to sleep outdoors. But we are failing miserably when thousands suffer this fate every night. All levels of government need to step up, including the federal government, but the Washington State Legislature must do more.

Senator Nelson’s bold proposal should be endorsed by all lawmakers, but it is possible that it won’t be given a hearing in the Senate. Some lawmakers have asserted that homelessness is only a problem in Seattle. If you’d like to join our letter to editor campaign to shine a spotlight on homelessness in every community in our state, please contact Teresa Clark today.
Check out the press conference on the bill’s release here.
And read our press statement here.

State Releases New Homeless Public School Student Numbers and Finds 9.1% Increase

On February 2nd, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) reported that 35,511 students were homeless in the 2014-15 school year. This is a 9.1 % increase from the previous school year and represents 3.3% of all public school students. OSPI reports that the four-year graduation rate for homeless students in the class of 2015 was 51.9% while the rate for all students was 78.1%.

According to our partners at Columbia Legal Services, the new data reveals that homelessness continues to disproportionately impact students of color. African American, American Indian, and Latino students are 2 to 3 times more likely to be homeless. CLS estimates that between 2,600 and 4,400 of these students may be unaccompanied homeless youth who are not in the custody of a parent or guardian.

You can see how many students were reported as homeless in your local school district here

Lots of Media Interest in bill that bans Source of Income Discrimination

Media interest in a bill can be hard to come by, but there has been a lot of interest in our efforts to outlaw source of income discrimination. These articles are a valuable tool for educating lawmakers and the general public alike. Please spread the word by sharing them via your social media networks. And special thanks to John, Carissa, Mindy, and the many other tenants who have been sharing their personal stories with lawmakers and reporters.

Vouchers little help if landlords reject them
Olympian Editorial Board

Tenants on public aid find some doors closed
By Jordan Schrader, Tacoma News Tribune

Lawmakers try to prevent discrimination of tenants with housing vouchers
By Natasha Chen, KIRO 7

Bring your Board of Directors to Olympia!

With half of the session left to go, there is still time to bring your board of directors to Olympia to meet with lawmakers. And the Housing Alliance can help. If you are interested in learning more about the logistics and benefits of getting your board involved, please contact Teresa Clark at TeresaC@wliha.org. If getting everyone to Olympia seems daunting, you could also consider “virtual meetings” with your lawmakers. Contact us soon to talk more about getting your board involved during this legislative session.

Thank you for your advocacy and don’t forget to take action today for the Housing Trust Fund.


Historic gains for affordable housing this legislative session!

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

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

Big Wins for HEN/ABD and TANF

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

$75 Million for Affordable Homes!

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

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

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

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

Funding for Affordable Homes Near Transit

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

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

A Big Win for Permanent Supportive Housing!

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

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

All Because of You...

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

Thank you for your advocacy.

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

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



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.



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.



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.



2015 Budget 3.0 - Our Analysis.

Housing Alliance Policy & Advocacy Team

You can see our previous housing and homelessness analyses of:

Governor's budget here: 2015 Budget 1.0 - Our Analysis.
House's budget here: 2015 Budget 2.0 - Our Analysis.

Senate's operating budget here: 2015 Budget 2.5 - Our Analysis.

Check out our bill tracker here to compare each of the budgets.

You Did It! Your Advocacy Worked!

At around 9am on Wednesday, April 8, the Washington State Senate released their capital budget for the 2015-2017 biennium. You can read the budget in its entirety at this page. Then the Senate held their public hearing on the budget only three hours later. Despite the hastily scheduled release and hearing, we had a number of advocates in Olympia ready to testify. You can watch their testimonies below.


Senate Capital Budget

Overall the capital budget contains $87.8 million for affordable housing compared to the House's total $110.2 million. Of that, the Senate's allocation for the Housing Trust Fund is $65 million compared to the House's $80 million. Here is the specific breakdown:

$65 million for the Housing Trust Fund

Like the House's budget, the Senate's budget outlines a minimum number of homes and beds to be created for seniors, families with children, people with disabilities, veterans, homeless youth, and farmworkers. It also adds the category of homeownership to this list.

$20 million for Energy Matchmakers

This funding would help enable low-income households to make weatherization improvements to save homeowners money and decrease home energy consumption. This funding level matches the House's allocation.

0 for HTF Portfolio Preservation

Money in this category is marked for renovation and upkeep needs (aka “capital needs”) for homes that have received previous HTF funding. The House funded $5 million for HTF Portfolio Preservation.

0 for ultra energy-efficient affordable housing demonstration

These funds would be used to pilot innovative energy-efficient designs for single- and multi-family affordable housing. The House funded $5 million for this demo.

$200,000 for Spokane Fairchild purchase of land for affordable housing development

This small allocation is to help purchase land for affordable housing related to the relocation of low-income households from the Fairchild Air Force Base flight path. This also matches the House's alllocation.

$2 million for Vantage Point Senior Apartments

This allocation is specificed for King County Housing Authority's Vantage Point apartment complex in Renton’s North Benson neighborhood. The 77-unit project will house low-income seniors and people with disabilities when it opens in late 2015.

$600,000 for proposed homeless veterans shelter at Western State Hospital

This allocation is to help create an emergency shelter for homeless veterans at unused buildings at Western State Hospital.


We hope the final budget passed by the entire legislature includes the House's suggested appropriation of $80 million for the Housing Trust Fund, and with the $5 million for the Housing Trust Fund Portfolio Preservation, and $5 million for the ultra energy efficient affordable housing demonstration.



The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 12

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Budgets and Revenue

Last week was full of significant developments with three budget hearings, another policy cutoff, and a hearing on the House revenue proposal.

The week kicked off with budget hearings and then ended with the House passing both their operating and capital budgets and with the Senate stymied by many hours of debate on their own operating budget. The Senate plans on more floor action this week and a floor vote on the operating budget. We’ve heard no official word yet of when the Senate will release their capital budget, but stay tuned to our blog and social media for updates.

Take the Budget Advocacy Call-in Day Pledge!

So far the legislature has released two operating budget proposals and one capital budget. You can read our current budget comparison here. We still have an opportunity to make sure the final budget invests in affordable homes and protects safety net services that help keep people off the street. Sign the pledge to call your elected official on Budget Advocacy Call-in Day on Tuesday, April 7. Then we'll email you on that day with a messaging template, phone number, and other details.

Take the Budget Advocacy Call-in Day Pledge Here!

After you sign the pledge, please send this link to two other friends, and make sure they take the budget advocacy pledge too:


The House Capital Budget

As we reported last week, the House capital budget allocates a tremendous $110.2 million to affordable housing, and we hope that the Senate will follow suit. For a more detailed breakdown, see our blog here.


The Senate Operating Budget

The biggest surprise of the week was the Senate operating budget. It appears to fully preserve the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN)/Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) programs and SSI facilitation services! This was Senator Mark Miloscia’s (30th-Federal Way) number one operating budget priority this year, and he deserves a big thank you for his work to help produce the first Senate budget in many years that fully funds these critical safety net programs. Please click here to send him a quick thank you.

Overall the Senate operating budget doesn’t include revenue and actually extends current tax loopholes and creates new ones. Their budget includes many fund transfers and agency cuts including massive staff cuts to the DSHS department that oversees safety net programs like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), ABD, and SSI Facilitation. It assumes a lot of savings from unspecified “lean management practices,” and it transfers money from the capital budget. It also proposes a very significant cut to TANF and doesn’t restore cuts to basic food assistance.

While we greatly appreciate that HEN, ABD, and SSI Facilitation were not cut, we also worry the budget contains hidden reductions that will result in cuts to safety net programs. For instance, we are concerned the Senate includes unrealistic budget assumptions around program savings that could result in future cuts. We’ve alerted lawmakers about this problem and will continue to address it so the final budget doesn’t contain any hidden or unintended cuts. Their budget also does not include funding for a Medicaid Benefit for Permanent Supportive Housing. Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th-Seattle) offered an amendment in committee to add it, but it went down on a party-line vote. Please email her a thank you for trying to add this to the budget.


The House Operating Budget

The House’s Operating Budget is good for affordable housing and homelessness and we urge the Senate to adopt it. The budget also funds DSHS staff to write a waiver to allow the state to use Medicaid dollars to pay for the tenancy support services delivered in permanent supportive housing. This is an exciting first development regarding our Medicaid Permanent Supportive Housing Services Benefit budget priority. With your consistent advocacy, we all can ensure it is in the final budget. Because of a legislative staff error, the original budget didn’t include this funding, and Representative Cody worked to amend the budget to include it. Please send her a quick thank you for her hard work.

The House budget also fully funds HEN, ABD, and SSI Facilitation. It allocates $3 million to the Washington Youth and Families Fund and funds all of our support bills including the Homeless Student Stability Act and other important programs that protect low-income households throughout the state.



The House’s budget is also more sustainable because it includes new and fair revenue. The House Finance Committee had a hearing on the revenue package last week with strong testimony from housing advocates Sonya Campion and Peter Shapiro. If the proposed capital gains tax passes, both said they would be subjected to it, and they welcomed it! (See below for more details on this tax.) The whole package is outlined in the bill report on HB 2224.

Here is a summary of the House’s revenue package:

  • Imposes a five percent tax on capital gains, which is a tax on wealthy individuals when they receive a windfall profit. Forty-two other states already have this tax, and it could bring in significant revenue each year. You can learn more about this at the Washington Budget and Policy Center’s blog.
  • Reinstates the 0.3 percent business and occupation (B&O) surtax on service businesses.
  • Increases a small business credit for service businesses.
  • Eliminates a preferential B&O tax rate of 0.275 percent for travel agents and tour operators.
  • Eliminates a preferential B&O tax rate of 0.138 percent for resellers of prescription drugs.
  • Repeals the sales and use tax exemption for bottled water.
  • Changes the nonresident sales and use tax exemption for tangible personal property into a remittance program.
  • Narrows the use tax exemption for extracted fuel.
  • Eliminates the preferential B&O tax rate of 0.484 percent for royalty income.
  • Authorizes additional methods of establishing nexus for purposes of business and occupation and sales taxes.
  • Limits the availability of a real estate foreclosure exemption.


A Final Update on Our Lead Legislative Priorities

Unfortunately, last Wednesday’s cutoff closed the door for progress on most tenant protections this session. We thank everyone who took action this year to help advance tenant protection legislation. While we are disappointed that the bills are dead for this year, we know that the process educated a lot of lawmakers. This will help all of the bills next session. We witnessed incredible public testimony, deep education of lawmakers, and tremendous advocacy. Thank you!

The interim will give us an opportunity to meet with lawmakers to hear more about their decisions to not advance the bills and to learn what could be done differently. We, of course, will also work throughout the interim to educate more lawmakers and deepen the support and urgency behind the bills.

The good news is that also none of the many “bad” bills survived. Columbia Legal Services worked hard on one bill in particular and successfully transformed it from a problematic bill to a helpful one. SB 5538 (Angel) addresses a landlord’s obligations to store or dispose of the property of a deceased tenant. A father pushed it after his son was killed, and his landlord kept the deceased son’s property “for ransom” and charged the family $1,000 to get it. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee last week and is now in House Rules Committee.


Take the Pledge Now, Then Make the Call on April 7!

We'll need a lot of advocacy and communication to legislators to bridge the gap between the House and Senate budgets. We are calling on all advocates to pledge to join the Housing Alliance in Budget Advocacy Call-in Day on Tuesday, April 7. Lawmakers need to hear from you at least once for each of the remaining three weeks of the regular session. Please click here to pledge to call your lawmaker on Tuesday and to organize two of your friends, coworkers, family members, or fellow board members to join you. We’ll send you the action page on Tuesday. It will have the state’s toll-free hotline where you can leave one message for all of your lawmakers, and we’ll also have suggested talking points.




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