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!



A Final Capital Budget!

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

More great housing & homelessness news from the capitol!

The capital budget was just released, and it includes $75 million for the Housing Trust Fund! This is an amazing victory in a year with so much pressure on the capital budget! The House just passed the budget on a 96-2 vote, and the Senate still has to pass the budget. But the bill released includes amounts both sides had previously agreed to, which means that amendments are very unlikely.

Additionally, Weatherization Assistance for low-income homeowners was allocated $15 million. Weatherization improvements of owner-occupied homes save homeowners money and keep homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Weatherization assistance is especially important in rural communities and has environmental benefits of less energy consumption.

The capital budget also directs the Department of Commerce to use $2.5 million in existing funds to create a pilot for ultra-energy efficient affordable housing.

Overall, this is very great news! Almost 2,000 households in need across the state will have safe, healthy, affordable homes because of this allocation, and farmworkers will have safe, affordable seasonal housing. There are plenty of thanks to be made. Stay tuned for the mighty list of lawmakers who championed these allocations.

You can check out the full budget language here. Section 1032 contains the HTF allocation.

If you have a moment, please send a quick thank-you note to these legislative champions:

Rep. Hans Dunshee (44th LD, Snohomish):
Rep Derek Stanford (1st LD, Bothell):
Rep Richard DeBolt (20th, Chehalis):
Speaker Frank Chopp (43rd LD, Seattle):
Rep June Robinson (38th LD, Everett):


A Final Operating Budget!

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

The House and Senate have agreed on an operating budget. As of the time of this post, it is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature. The budget bill, which goes into effect tomorrow July 1, funds affordable housing and homelessness services. The final capital budget is still not released and funds capital construction programs including the Housing Trust Fund. We expect it to be released later today.

The operating budget reflects significant wins that are only achievable from strategic and relentless advocacy from you and strong lawmaker champions. Most significantly, the final budget fully funds the Housing & Essential Needs program (rent assistance for very low-income temporarily disabled adults), fully funds the Aged, Blind & Disabled program (cash assistance for very low-income permanently disabled adults), and includes a nine percent cash grant increase for TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). This is a partial restoration of a larger TANF cut made several years ago.

Below are preliminary budget details. More to come as new operating budget developments and details unfold.


Housing & Essential Needs and Aged, Blind & Disabled Programs

  • Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) program is fully funded.
  • Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) program is fully funded.
  • HEN/ABD incapacity exams were cut by $2.2 million due to current underspend projections.
  • SSI Facilitation Services is fully funded.
  • Medical Care Services is fully funded.


Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

  • A nine percent ($31 million) TANF cash grant increase.
  • The budget earmarks $5,000,000 of the home security account solely for the Department of Commerce to provide emergency assistance to homeless families in the TANF program.
  • TANF Participation Incentive was a program that was ultimately never implemented. The budget eliminates funding for an additional $55 incentive payment to TANF parents who participate in mandatory WorkFirst activities at least 20 hours per week and meet the requirements of their Individual Responsibility Plans (IRP). Payments were scheduled to begin in the last quarter of fiscal year 2015. However technology changes have not occurred to enable the payment during fiscal year 2015. The incentive payment was to be provided in addition to the regular monthly cash assistance.
  • The budget reduces funding for Workfirst job activities to reflect projected under-expenditures.


Other Housing/Homelessness Budget Items

  • The budget creates a “Deed of Trust Act Workgroup”, funded at $20,000 by the Foreclosure Fairness Account. One-time funding is provided to the Department of Commerce to convene a workgroup of interested stakeholders to review the state's Deed of Trust Act contained in Title 61 RCW. The workgroup is tasked to review and make recommendations to ensure that the Act remains a workable system for financial institutions, loan servicing companies, trustee, and borrowers. A report on the review and recommendations is due the Governor and Legislature by December 1, 2015.
  • Washington Youth and Families Fund is funded at $3 million. One million of that is funded from an Affordable Housing for All Account and the rest is funded from a Washington Housing Trust Account.
  • A “Regional Day and Hygiene Center” is funded at $100,000. The budget provides funding to plan and develop a regional approach in southwest King County to provide day and hygiene shelter services to homeless populations. Services would include laundry, showers, restrooms, and resource referrals, but would not include overnight operations. The plan will identify appropriate partners and a service model to meet regional needs; evaluate the establishment of a facility or facilities to provide day and hygiene services; and work with existing providers to expand services to provide day and hygiene shelter services.
  • Washington Telephone Assistance Program (WATAP) and Community Voicemail funding is eliminated. More about WATAP here. More about Community Voicemail here.


Funding for Housing/Homelessness Legislation

Extended Foster Care - SSB 5740 (Fain)

  • The budget provides funding for youth who qualify for Extended Foster Care due to being employed for 80 hours or more per month, as authorized under Chapter 122, Laws of 2014 (EHB 2335).

Office of Youth Homelessness  - 2SSB 5404 (O’Ban)

  • The budget funds the Office of Youth Homelessness at $14.431 million.
  • Additionally, crisis residential centers, hope beds, and street youth services provided to runaway and at-risk youth are transferred from the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to the newly created Office of Homeless Prevention and Protection Programs within the Department of Commerce.

Homeless Student Stability Act -  SB 5065 (Frockt)/HB 1682 (Fey) is not funded.

Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) - the HMIS proviso was not included in the budget. More about HMIS here.


Stay tuned. We'll have more information about the capital budget as we hear about news from Olympia.



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

Joaquin Uy, Communications Specialist

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HB 2263 Press Release

HB 2263 FAQ Sheet

HB 2263 Overview


Community leaders calling for passage of HB 2263 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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


List of official HB 2263 endorsers here:

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



First Update from the Special Session

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Second Special Session Starts Today

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

You can still advocate during the special session!

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

Please Take Action Now!

Good Revenue News

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

Senate Operating Budget Redux

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

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

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

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

Capital Budget Update

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


Next Steps

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

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




Reflections on EAP@COEH

Paige McAdams, Communications Intern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Joaquin Uy, Communications Specialist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can view/download the entire report here.

Compare data from cities and counties to state data here.



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.




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