State

Housing Advocacy in Action! Week of March 20

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

We are now over two-thirds of the way through this 105-day legislative session. Over 2000 bills are already dead for the session. If a bill is dead, since it is the beginning of the two-year budget/bill cycle, it will be able to start the process over in 2018 without being reintroduced. But there is also a saying in Olympia that a bill is never really dead until “sine die”. Sine die, basically meaning “adjournment”, is called to close a legislative session. Even if lawmakers are called back for a special session, they will call Sine Die by (or before) April 23, which is the last day allowed for this session.

Interesting facts

1473 bills have been introduced in the House (an average of 15 per Representative). 566 of those House bills have been passed out of House committees. 376 of them have been passed out of the House, and are now in the Senate. Two House bills have already passed the Senate.

1297 bills have been introduced in the Senate (an average 26 per Senator). 484 Senate bills have been passed out of Senate committees. 283 of them have been passed out of the Senate, and are now in the House. Four Senate bills have already passed the House.

The Legislature is set to release budgets this week: action needed!

The state Senate will be the first to release their budgets this year. The Senate Republicans are holding a press conference on Tuesday, March 21 to discuss their Operating Budget proposal. They are expected to release the Capital Budget a little later in the week. Once the first legislative budget is out, hearings will begin. The Housing Alliance will be weighing in with either concern over cuts to safety net programs or with thanks if our budget priorities are protected. The House is currently expected to release their budgets next week (during the week of March 27). Watch this blog and Housing Alliance social media for updates on the budget proposals and for urgent action requests. In the meantime, now is a critical time to weigh in with lawmakers with a request to fund the Housing Trust Fund at $200 million. This week is the last week to influence the Capital Budget proposals before they are finalized and released. We need a groundswell of voices asking for the Housing Trust Fund to be prioritized. Please take action today and ask your board, your colleagues, and other networks to join you.

Do you want more background on the state budget? Here are some useful resources:


Federal budget proposal is draconian and irresponsible


via Washington Post

Last week, President Trump released a budget blueprint for the 2018 fiscal year (October 1, 2017 – September 30, 2018.)

His priorities are clear. In order to significantly increase military spending, make a down payment on his wall, and fund school vouchers, the President has proposed deep cuts that would devastate communities across the country and take life saving services away from people who rely on them.

His proposal cuts HUD by 13%, or $6.2 billion compared with 2016 levels. Compared to funding levels needed for 2017, the budget is a $7.5 billion, or 15% reduction.

The President’s budget eliminates Community Development Block Grants that provided $51 million for housing and infrastructure in Washington in 2016 and the HOME Investment Partnership program that provided $19 million to our state and local communities to build and preserve affordable homes. It also eliminates Choice Neighborhood grants, the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program, and the Section 4 Capacity Building Program.

It also eliminates:

  • Legal Aid – which helps low-income tenants avoid unwarranted evictions and remove barriers to rental housing.
  • US Interagency Council on Homelessness – which coordinates the federal response to homelessness across 19 agencies and reduced homelessness among veterans by half since 2010.
  • LIHEAP – which heats the homes of low-income seniors and families during the winter.

While this budget is just a starting point, and has critics among both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, fighting it is one of the most important things we can do right now. Because the budget is so extreme, there is a risk that restoring some high profile programs and adopting smaller cuts could be seen as a reasonable compromise. Given the enormity of the housing affordability crisis in Washington and across the country, any significant cuts will increase homelessness and cause greater suffering.

One thing we know is clear: advocacy can defeat this budget proposal! Over the coming weeks and months, the Housing Alliance will send out more information and resources on the federal budget, but for now, here are some important resources that will provide more background:

National Low Income Housing Coalition resources:

  • Archive of all NLIHC webinars, including one from Monday, March 20, which provides an overview of the budget proposal and advocacy needed to defeat it.

Center for Budget and Policy Priorities resources:

Additionally, if you are part of an organization, you can sign onto a letter telling Congress to protect affordable housing and transportation funding.

We will continue to update you on progress and opportunities to make your voice heard. 


Ask a Lobbyist: What is a “Special Session”?

We’ve been hearing that the use of the terms “regular session” and “special session” are a bit confusing. Here is some background on what they mean:

The short answer is that a “special session” is an extended session. It is necessary if the legislature is unable to finish the budget during the “regular session”. Here is the longer story:

According to the book Sine Die by Edward D. Seeberger, Washington voters adopted a constitutional amendment in 1979 that provided for the current legislative calendar which sets a 105-day “regular” session during each odd-numbered year and a regular 60-day session in each even-numbered year. Prior to that, sessions were held every odd-numbered year and were limited to just 60 days.

We are currently about two-thirds of the way through the regular 2017 105-day session, which must adjourn no later than April 23. And an Operating Budget for the next biennium must be finalized (voted on by both chambers and signed by the Governor) before July 1 – the date that current budget expires. If the legislature is not done with the budget process by April 23, they will need to be called back for an additional session. If they are unable to finalize it within that first special session, they will be called back for another. Each special session can last no more than 30 days and can be called by the Governor (which is most common) or by a two-thirds vote of all members of the legislature. Even though they are called for 30 days at a time, they can adjourn before the 30 days are up. Usually during a special session, only budgets and items that are necessary to implement the budget can be considered. Special sessions have become very common in recent years, with the 2015 session requiring several in order to reach agreement between the House and Senate on the final budget. That year, it took until June 30 to reach final agreement, with the Governor signing it just hours before the deadline. It is assumed that budget deliberations this year will be hard and will require at least one special session. The Housing Alliance will keep advocates updated on all budget deliberations, so if a special session is called, you will know.

Have a question? Ask a Lobbyist here.

 

-Michele

 

 

 

Housing Advocacy in Action! Week of Feb 27

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Two major cutoffs have come and gone, and Thursday (March 2) marks the halfway point of this 105-day legislative session. In order to still be viable, bills must have cleared the policy and/or fiscal committees in their chamber of origin, either the House or the Senate, unless they are given the special status of “NTIB”.  NTIB means necessary to implement the budget – see last week’s “Ask a Lobbyist” column for more on NTIB. The good news is that many affordable housing and homelessness bills are still alive, including top priority bills SHB 1570/Macri and HB 1633/Riccelli. Download this comprehensive bill tracker for the status of the many affordable housing and homelessness bills introduced this session. We’ve also included bills that we are opposing, and important bills we are supporting that will improve the safety-net, will prohibit discrimination, and will improve the lives of low-income households, people of color, and immigrants. 

Substitute House Bill (SHB) 1570/Macri, the Washington Housing Opportunities Act

This top priority bill cleared two major hurdles last week when it was given a hearing and then a vote in the House Appropriations Committee. The hearing on Thursday, February 23 featured three stellar testifiers; Realtors Tonya Hennen and Sol Villarreal, and Debbie Trosvig from the Snohomish County Human Services Department. All three passionately shared why it is imperative that Washington lawmakers take action to prevent over 60% of the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge from expiring, and that local communities have the opportunity to increase the surcharge. The two realtors shared that there is a clear nexus between real estate activity and homelessness. They also shared that the surcharge does not discourage home ownership and that many new homeowners are in fact happy that they can help ensure that people in their community have a roof over their heads. This testimony was particularly striking in the face of the Washington Realtors testifying “with concerns”.

After the hearing, the bill was quickly added to the list for “executive session” (when a bill can be voted out of committee) and on Friday evening it was voted out on a party-line vote. If one of your lawmakers sits on the House Appropriations Committee and voted yes (see the list below), please send them a quick email to thank them for their leadership and to encourage them to vote yes again on the House Floor! And if your lawmaker voted no, please email them to let them know that you are disappointed and that you hope that they will reconsider their position and vote yes when it comes up on the House Floor. 

The following lawmakers voted yes on SHB 1570 on Friday, February 24 in the House Appropriations Committee. Please thank them, especially if they are your lawmaker! You can call their office directly or email them.  

Lawmaker

District

City/County

Phone Number

Email

Timm Ormsby (D), Chair

3rd LD

Spokane

(360) 786-7946

timm.ormsby@leg.wa.gov

June Robinson (D), Vice Chair

38th LD

Everett, Marysville

(360) 786-7864

june.robinson@leg.wa.gov

Steve Bergquist (D)

11th LD

Tukwila

(360) 786-7862

steve.bergquist@leg.wa.gov

Eileen Cody (D)

34th LD

Vashon Island, West Seattle

(360) 786-7978

eileen.cody@leg.wa.gov

Joe Fitzgibbon (D)

34th LD

Vashon Island, West Seattle

(360) 786-7952

joe.fitzgibbon@leg.wa.gov

Zack Hudgins (D)

11th LD

Tukwila

(360) 786-7956

zack.hudgins@leg.wa.gov

Laurie Jinkins (D)

27th LD

Tacoma

(360) 786-7930

laurie.jinkins@leg.wa.gov

Ruth Kagi (D)

32nd LD

Shoreline

(360) 786-7810

ruth.kagi@leg.wa.gov

Kristine Lytton (D)

40th LD

Mount Vernon, Burlington

(360) 786-7800

kristine.lytton@leg.wa.gov

Eric Pettigrew (D)

37th LD

South Seattle

(360) 786-7838

eric.pettigrew@leg.wa.gov

Gerry Pollet (D)

46th LD

Lake Forest Park, Kenmore

(360) 786-7886

gerry.pollet@leg.wa.gov

David Sawyer (D)

29th LD

South Tacoma, Spanaway

(360) 786-7906

david.sawyer@leg.wa.gov

Tana Senn (D)

41st LD

Bellevue, Newcastle

(360) 786-7894

tana.senn@leg.wa.gov

Larry Springer (D)

45th LD

Woodinville

(360) 786-7822

larry.springer@leg.wa.gov

Derek Stanford (D)

1st LD

Bothell

(360) 786-7928

derek.stanford@leg.wa.gov

Pat Sullivan (D)

47th LD

Auburn, Covington

(360) 786-7858

pat.sullivan@leg.wa.gov

Steve Tharinger (D)

24th LD

Port Townsend, La Push, Most of Olympics

(360) 786-7904

steve.tharinger@leg.wa.gov

These lawmakers voted no on SHB 1570 on Friday, February 24 in the House Appropriations Committee. If you see your lawmaker on this list, please contact them to ask that they reconsider their position and vote yes when the bill comes up on the House Floor.

Lawmaker

District

City/County

Phone Number

Email

Bruce Chandler (R)

15th LD

Sunnyside, Grandview, E Yakima County

(360) 786-7960

bruce.chandler@leg.wa.gov

Drew MacEwen (R)

35th LD

Mason County

(360) 786-7902

drew.macewen@leg.wa.gov

Drew Stokesbary (R)

31st LD

Bonney Lake, Upper half Pierce County

(360) 786-7846

drew.stokesbary@leg.wa.gov

Vincent Buys (R)

42nd LD

Bellingham

(360) 786-7854

vincent.buys@leg.wa.gov

Michelle Caldier (R)

26th LD

Bremerton, Port Orchard

(360) 786-7802

michelle.caldier@leg.wa.gov

Carry Condotta (R)

12th LD

Chelan and Douglas counties

(360) 786-7954

cary.condotta@leg.wa.gov

Larry Haler (R)

8th LD

Richland

(360) 786-7986

larry.haler@leg.wa.gov

Paul Harris (R)

17th LD

Vancouver

(360) 786-7976

paul.harris@leg.wa.gov

Matt Manweller (R)

13th LD

Ephrata, Grant county

(360) 786-7808

matt.manweller@leg.wa.gov

Terry Nealey (R)

16th LD

Dayton, Walla Walla

(360) 786-7828

terry.nealey@leg.wa.gov

Joe Schmick (R)

9th LD

Pullman, and Adams, Asotin, Franklin, Garfield, and Whitman counties

(360) 786-7844

joe.schmick@leg.wa.gov

David Taylor (R)

2nd LD

South Pierce county

(360) 786-7874

david.taylor@leg.wa.gov

Brandon Vick (R)

18th LD

Battle Ground, Camas

(360) 786-7850

brandon.vick@leg.wa.gov

Mike Volz (R)

6th LD

Cheney

(360) 786-7922

mike.volz@leg.wa.gov

J.T. Wilcox (R)

2nd LD

South Pierce county

(360) 786-7912

jt.wilcox@leg.wa.gov


House bill (HB) 1633/Riccelli, Outlawing Discrimination based on Renter’s Source of Income.

This top priority bill cleared another hurdle last week when it was “pulled” from the House Rules Committee to the House Floor Calendar for a “second reading”. Bills have to clear three “readings” in each chamber to pass the legislature. The first reading happens to all bills introduced when they are read on the floor and referred to a committee. If the Rules Committee moves a bill out, they technically open it up for a second reading. During second reading a bill can be amended. It is during the third reading that a bill is brought up for a vote on the floor. HB 1633 is now in second reading status and therefore could be placed on the “order of consideration” at any time. The order of consideration is a list of the bills up for a vote on the floor. From now till 5:00 pm on March 8th, both chambers will spend a lot of time on the floor passing bills out. HB 1633 must move out of the House by that date in order to be considered by the Senate. Since its companion bill (SB 5407/Frockt) died in the Senate policy committee, don’t be surprised to see amendments passed on the floor to better position it for support by Republicans who control the Senate chamber. 

Ask A Lobbyist: How often can I contact my lawmaker? 

In our second “Ask a lobbyist” column, we tackle the question of how often an advocate can contact their lawmaker and still be an effective advocate. 

We get this question often, especially during busy legislative sessions like this where there are many affordable housing and homelessness issues on the table. It comes up even more often when an advocate wants to contact a lawmaker more than once on a the same bill or same budget issue. Because this comes up often, the Housing Alliance has asked many different lawmakers for their perspective. And each time we ask, lawmakers, regardless of their political party, answer the same way - they want to hear from their constituents! You can contact them on the same issue, or on different issues, as often as you want. The key is how you communicate, not how often. Respectful communication with your lawmakers, even when you are expressing your dismay with their position, is totally acceptable. Repeated communication with your lawmaker on the same issue is also totally acceptable, especially if the issue is still pending (e.g. a bill hasn’t yet been brought up for a vote). In fact, being persistent is a very good thing. It communicates to your lawmaker that the issue is of upmost importance to their constituents, and that you will be closely watching for how they vote. So don’t be shy or hesitant to contact your lawmakers often. Being persistent can often be the key to developing a relationship with your lawmaker – once you develop such a relationship, they may even reach out to you to ask where you stand on a issue. 

Have a question? Submit it here!

Thank you for being an advocate for affordable housing and homelessness. Our movement is strong and thanks to our persistence and strategic advocacy, we have consistently been able to move mountains and achieve the impossible. Please help  continue this tradition by taking action this week! And please consider attending your local lawmaker town hall meetings. Many lawmakers are hosting in-person or telephonic town halls and your voice is needed! Check out this page for a list of town halls and for a guide to asking your lawmakers to stand up for affordable housing and homelessness issues this session! 

Thank you for all you do!

Michele

 

Housing Advocacy in Action! Week of Feb 20th

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Olympia is in the midst of cutoff craziness, with everyone scrambling to get their bills officially “heard” and voted on before Friday’s looming deadline to clear fiscal committees (see all session deadlines here). Once bills have passed the policy and fiscal committee hurdles, they next have to be pulled from the Rules Committee to the Floor. Then they have to get called up for a vote before the next “house of origin” deadline set for March 8th.  If a bill makes it over to the opposite chamber, it goes through the whole process again over there. A bills journey is arduous, from its origin as an idea, to the final step of being signed into law by the Governor. It needs cheerleaders and advocates pushing it along, encouraging it to not give up and reviving it with first aid when needed. And right now, a key affordable housing and homelessness priority needs some of that love

The Washington Housing Opportunities Act (SHB 1570/Macri) will prevent the loss of over 62% of state homelessness dollars by eliminating the looming sunset on the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge (commonly known as the document recording fee). It will also increase resources to prevent and end homelessness by providing counties with a new local option to increase the surcharge by as much as $50. If each county council takes up the opportunity, and if the state invests deeply in the Housing Trust Fund, Washington could end family homelessness in 3 years. We could also prevent any youth from being released from state care into homelessness and we could reduce chronic homelessness by at least 50%. This is a real, tangible solution to the suffering that so many will otherwise face. Our lawmakers can do it. SHB 1570 can pass this session. It is largely contingent on how much of a fuss we make. We need to raise our voices and push the bill through the next hurdle.

Please take action today to help end family homelessness! If you’ve taken this action already in the last couple of days, can you get three other people to do it too? Send them the link to the action page and tell them that their voice can truly make a significant difference. 

Educating Lawmakers

Many lawmakers, both locally and at the state level, are asking why homelessness has increased in our state. They wonder if the resources they’ve already authorized are being wisely used and they want to know if they can reduce homelessness by investing more deeply in the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge and in the Housing Trust Fund. These are all legitimate questions, so the Housing Alliance was happy when we were asked to address them before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, February 16th. 

Below are some of the key points we shared with the committee members. If you want more details you can watch the hearing here. You can also download our PowerPoint presentation and our briefing paper on the increase in homelessness. 

  • There is a great need for permanent, affordable housing in every community in our state. Homelessness is a crisis impacting many people. Homeless has serious consequences on a person’s health & safety, on their ability to obtain or maintain a job, and on a child’s ability to learn. 
  • Each January, every county conducts an annual “Point in Time” count. While counts were just conducted for 2017, we don’t yet have the results. We do know that in 2016 that 20,844 people were identified as experiencing homelessness and 8,474 of them were unsheltered. 
  • The annual “Out of Reach” report, conducted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, finds that rents in most counties in Washington far exceed what a worker earning the state minimum wage of $11 can afford.
  • And a 2015 study on Washington’s Affordable Housing Needs found that the majority of households who are earning less than 50% of the area-median Income are “cost-burdened” in our state. This means that they are paying more than they can afford housing, causing households to wrestle with impossible choices between paying the rent or paying for childcare, medicine or a doctor’s visit. This also leaves households at great risk of homelessness, with no safety net or savings for a rainy day.
  • The State Office of the Superintendent (OSPI) recently reported that during the 2015-16 school year, 39,671 students experienced homelessness. Over 10,000 of those students were living in a temporary shelter, motel or in setting not fit for human habitation. 39,671 equals one in every 27 students in our state experiencing homeless during that school year. About half of them were grade 5 or younger. OSPI’s report also noted that the four-year graduation rate for homeless students in the class of 2016 was 53.2 percent; while for all students it was 79.1 percent. And that students of color experience much higher rates of homelessness than their white counterparts. 9.5% of African American students experiences homelessness. 
  • Housing costs have risen dramatically across the state, while incomes are not keeping up. And rent increases are directly correlated with homelessness. A recent study in the Journal of Urban Affairs found that for each every $100 increase in rent, that there was a 15% increase in homelessness in metro areas and a 39% increase in homelessness in suburban & rural areas. 
  • While the drivers of homelessness continue to include mental illness and chemical dependency, the main cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable homes.
  • The underlying reason Washington has seen an increase in homelessness is that housing has become increasingly unaffordable, while wages are stagnant and too many are living in poverty.
  • Our state has already been investing in solutions that work. While homelessness has been rising in recent years, it has still decreased by 18% since 2006, after the Homeless Housing and Assistance act was passed.
  • Currently, 98,000 people each year are not homeless because of services funded by the Homeless Housing and Assistance surcharge.
  • But our state can and should do more. Specifically we need to invest $200 million this biennium in the State Housing Trust Fund and pass SHB 1570.

 

Ask a Lobbyist!

This is a new column we are adding the Advocacy in Action blog with a goal of making space to answer questions about the legislative process. If you have a question, submit it here!

Many people are wondering why some bills have to go through both a policy and a fiscal committee, and what “NTIB” means. Since these questions directly pertain to SHB 1570/Macri, the Washington Housing Opportunities Act, these are good ones to start this new column off with. 

Bills that have both a policy and fiscal impact will often have to go through two committees before being able to reach the Rules Committee (the final step before the floor). If the fiscal impact of the bill is considered insignificant, usually meaning under $50,000, then it usually will be allowed to skip the fiscal committee and head straight to Rules after passing the policy committee. If a bill’s primary purpose relates to the budget, it will often skip policy committees and go straight to the fiscal committee. The session cutoff calendar sets deadlines for bills to clear all these steps. You can see all the cutoff dates here.

The Senate Ways & Means Committee deals with all fiscal related bills, expect those directly related to the Transportation budget (those go to Senate Transportation). The House has several different fiscal committees. House Finance deals with tax related bills, House Capital Budget considers all Capital Budget related matters, House Appropriations deals with all matters related the state’s Operating Budget and House Transportation deals with the Transportation Budget. 

Bills that are considered “necessary to implement the budget” or NTIB for short, still have to go through the process, but they are exempt from the cutoffs. The state budget bills are the most obvious example of an NTIB bill. But other bills can also be considered NTIB if they are needed in order to finalize the budget. Whether or not the bill is needed is a matter of opinion and there is a fair amount of discretion that leadership can wield with this designation. Declaring something NTIB inherently signals that the bill is important to leadership. Many bills that could impact the budget are not given this designation and it is a status not given lightly. If the other chamber doesn’t also consider a bill NTIB, it may still have to get over there in time to adhere to their deadlines. 

SHB 1570/Macri is considered by House leadership to be NTIB because it impacts the Department of Commerce’s budget. Therefore, if the bill doesn’t move along by the cutoff deadlines, it doesn’t mean that it is dead. It is scheduled for a hearing this week, Thursday February 23rd in the House Appropriations Committee but likely won’t be brought up for a vote until the next week or so. 

We hope this is helpful. If you have questions you’d like us to tackle in our next blog post, please send them in! And don’t forget to take action and to encourage others to join you. 

Thank you for all you do, 
Michele 

 

Housing Advocacy in Action! Week of Feb 13th

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

For the last several weeks in Olympia, affordable housing and homelessness has been top of mind. Many bills impacting these issues have had hearings, and of course, over 650 advocates came to the capitol on February 2nd for Homelessness and Housing Advocacy Day.

The week of February 13 marks the beginning of the 6th week of this legislation session. Scheduled to end in April, we are about 1/3 of the way through and Friday February 17 brings the first cutoff. Successive policy hurdles called “cutoffs” segment the state legislative session. The first one requires that bills clear policy committees by getting a hearing and then a vote by the cutoff date. The next cutoff pertains to fiscal committees. Bills with a fiscal impact have to be heard and voted on by February 24. You can see the whole legislative calendar and all the cutoffs here.

The Olympian recorded Representative Macri addressing Affordable Housing and Homelessness advocates during the rally and you can watch it here.

Especially near policy cutoffs, when so many bills are competing for the limited time and bandwidth of the legislature, your lawmakers need to hear from you. During the rally on the Capitol Steps on Homelessness and Housing Advocacy Day, Representative Marcri (D – 43) and Senator Saldaña (D – 37) both urged advocates to do more to make our voices heard. They both spoke about how many emails and calls they get each day on a wide range of issues. They shared that while affordable housing and homelessness are top-of-mind for them, it isn’t because their constituents are reaching out. They both came to Olympia caring deeply about our issues, but they are not hearing enough from their constituents. This suggests that lawmakers who need to be swayed are unlikely to be hearing from their constituents either. As Representative Macri shared, “We’ve got to amp up the volume. We need more calls, more emails, more demands!” So please TAKE ACTION NOW and ask your lawmakers to support a ban on source of income discrimination. These actions really do work! And don’t stop there. Share this with your boards, with your colleagues, with your friends, your networks, and your families. Tell them why you took action and encourage them to join you.

Update on SB 5407/Frockt and HB 1633/Riccelli – to outlaw discrimination based on a renter’s source of income

On February 7, testifiers braved the snow and ice to come to Olympia to urge lawmakers to vote yes on HB 1633/Riccelli.

Pictured from left to right:
Patricia Abbate, Solid Ground/ Claude DaCorsi, Auburn City Council and the Affordable Housing Advisory Board/ Megan Hyla, King County Housing Authority/ Toya Thomas, Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher tenant/ John Hannaman, Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher tenant/ Michael Mirra, Tacoma Housing Authority/ Dimitri Groce, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and Tamaso Johnson, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. 

The last two weeks have been action-packed. Lawmakers in the House and the Senate in three different committees have heard testimony on the need to pass SB 5407/HB 1633 banning source of income discrimination. Over 25 individuals have come to the Capitol to testify on the harm that this kind of discrimination causes to households and communities. People directly impacted by this discrimination have shared their stories, including Toya Thomas who was told to move from her Renton home this fall when a new property management firm took over her apartment building. All the section 8 families were told to go because they were using vouchers to help pay the rent. Most were single parent headed households with young children and most were African American. You can learn more about Toya’s experience through a recent KCTS 9 feature on the ordeal.

The Housing Alliance and our allies also weighed in last week against a bill that would repeal local fair housing protections. SB 5569/Angel would undo all of the local laws that have outlawed discrimination based on a renter’s source of income and would prevent any city or county from passing any local protections (it would also repeal Seattle’s protections against discrimination based on political ideology). If the bill were to pass, it would leave the state as the sole fair housing protector. Proponents of this bill represent the same organizations working to block passage of state level source of income discrimination protections. And even though the bill begins with the premise that fair housing is so important that it should solely be a state duty, the intent is clearly to prevent such protections by any means possible.

Budgets Coming Soon

As the session moves forward, it will remain critical that advocates from across the state weigh in to push our lawmakers to do more to end and prevent homelessness. As policy bills move through the process, lawmakers are also starting to make decisions about the budgets. Although the first legislative budget proposals won’t be released until mid-March, lawmakers are fine-tuning their priorities and the budget writers are sorting through the many requests. Stay tuned for opportunities soon to take action on the Housing Trust Fund and on other budget priorities like the Housing and Essential Needs program. And stand by for updates on HB 1570/Macri to eliminate the looming sunset on 62.5% of the state’s homelessness dollars. That bill is exempt from the cutoffs because it is considered “necessary to implement the budget”, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t see it moving as quickly as other bills that are subject to the cutoffs. For more updates, please join our upcoming advocate’s call. The next one is scheduled for Friday the 17th at 11:00. All affordable housing and homelessness advocates are welcome to join – so feel free to invite your colleagues and boards. Use this call in number and code: (866) 339-4555 / Access code: 2064674522

Thank you for all you do. Please help us to “ramp it up” so that lawmakers know that their constituents want them to prioritize our issues.

Michele

Housing Advocacy in Action!

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Welcome to the first “Housing Advocates in Action” update of the 2017 legislative session! Watch for an email in your inbox, and a full blog post here every week or so. This update will serve as a “what’s happening” in Olympia with housing and homelessness policy, and will include the best ways for you to TAKE ACTION and be a housing advocate. In the past these have been weekly emails, but with so much happening in Olympia, we didn’t want to constrain ourselves to a strict timeline. These are great emails to send to your colleagues, board members, and family who share your passion for ending homelessness and expanding affordable housing opportunities. So, bookmark our blog, and watch for our emails so you’re always in the know!

For this first post, on the week of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I'd like to start with a quote:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
London, December 7th, 1964
For the full speech, listen to Democracy Now 1-16-17

“The other myth that gets around a great deal in our nation and I’m sure in other nations of the world, is the idea that you can’t solve the problems in the realm of human relations with legislation, that you can’t solve the housing problem, the job problem, and all of these other problems with legislation, that you’ve got to change the heart. We had a presidential candidate just recently who spoke about this a great deal. Mr. Goldwater sincerely believed that you couldn’t do anything though legislation because he voted against everything in the Senate, including the civil rights bill. And he said all over the nation throughout the election that you don’t need legislation, that legislation can’t deal with this problem, that you’ve got to change the heart. I want to go half way with brother Goldwater because I think he is right. You’ve got to change the heart. You must change your heart where there are prejudices. If we are going to solve the problem of mankind, every white person must look in their heart and look deep down within to challenge prejudice that may be there and believe that every negro and every colored person must be treated right… but after saying all of that I must go on to the other side and this is where I must leave Mr. Goldwater and others who believe you can’t solve this with legislation… it may be true that you can’t legislate integration, but you can legislate desegregation, it may be true that morality can’t be legislated, but behavior can be regulated, it may be true that the law can’t change the heart, but it can restrain the hardness. It may not be able to make people love me, but it can prevent people from lynching me and I think that is pretty important also.”
 

Housing Alliance advocates traveled to Olympia to educate lawmakers on the House Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee about the importance of the Document Recording Fees in their local efforts to prevent and end homelessness. Special thanks to Kay, Rhonda, Tess and Mary Jane for their extremely informative presentations.

Pictured here: Kay Murano, Executive Director, Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium, Rhonda Hauff, Chief Operating Officer/Deputy CEO, Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, Tess Colby, Manager, Pierce County Community Connections, Mary Jane Brell-Vujovic, Director, Snohomish County Human Services Department

The Housing Alliance team hit the ground running when the legislative session started on Monday, January 9th. With two work sessions on affordable housing and homelessness, four budget hearings, and many lawmaker meetings, it was a very busy first week. But every week during the session is likely to be equally as busy, especially since our movement has done an excellent job of raising affordable housing and homelessness to the forefront of legislative priorities for many lawmakers.

With expectations low, we strive even higher.

The legislature, as in years past, is divided with the House controlled by the Democrats and the Senate controlled by the Republicans. Many are already predicting that this session, which is scheduled to end on Sunday April 23rd, will be prolonged until the day before a state budget must be signed – June 30th. Technically, the legislature’s sole job is to pass a budget for the next two fiscal years, which begins on July 1, 2017. If a budget isn’t passed by then, the state government will shut down. That is an unlikely scenario and expectations are that, although it may take a while, agreement on a new budget will be reached. The question is, what will be in the final budget and will it invest in affordable housing and homelessness?

The Governor invested deeply in affordable housing and homelessness – but even his budget left room for improvement. Important highlights include:

  • Doubling of the ABD (Aged, Blind, and Disabled) cash grant from $197 to $400. This cash grant helps extremely low-income, disabled adults meet their basic needs while they are applying for SSI. $400 puts the program on par with the average HEN (Housing and Essential Needs) rental assistance, thereby helping to prevent people from becoming homeless when they are transferred to the ABD program. This transfer, per state law, happens once someone is determined to have a permanent disability and the very low $197 per month is not enough to cover the loss of the HEN rental assistance.
  • $20 Million dollars for the Home Security Fund to increase resources to prevent and end homelessness. The Governor’s budget would put new money from the state general fund into the Home Security Fund, allowing the state to send out more money to local communities for homelessness services. This is the same account (The Home Security Fund) that document recording fee revenue is deposited in and would fund the same kinds of critical services including domestic violence shelters, homeless youth programs, permanent supportive housing services, rental assistance, and more.
  • $116.5 Million for affordable housing development, plus $28 Million for weatherization of low-income single-family homes. The Governor’s Capital Budget proposes a total of $116.5 million for affordable housing, including $88.8 million for the Housing Trust Fund and $10 million for the preservation of currently affordable housing that is aging. These investments are good starting point, but we are urging that the legislature to get much closer to our ask of $200 million dollars between the next two budget years (the biennium). $200 million for the Housing Trust Fund would create over 5,700 new, affordable homes while also creating 9,000 local jobs and over $655 million in local income.

In contentious times, we need to stay on course with a clear focus on the top affordable housing and homelessness priorities. As in years past, persistent, loud, and righteous advocacy can move mountains in our state. In the face of a Donald Trump becoming our nation’s president and his cabinet of Wall Street, far-right extremists, it is more important than ever that our state stands up for and invests in the needs of our lowest-income neighbors. While the Housing Alliance will be leading on the top affordable housing and homelessness priorities, we will also be supporting efforts to protect immigrants, protect voting rights, protect the rights of LGBTQ communities, especially our transgender neighbors whose non-discrimination protections are under attack, and of people of color. All of these communities, and more, are being targeted, and the Housing Alliance will stand with our allies against hate and discrimination. 

Affordable housing and homelessness top priorities

Expect to see new bills filed this week that will,

  • Secure and preserve funding for homelessness services: Eliminate the sunset on the document recording fees, increase the fee and fix the 45% mandated use on just on purpose – private, for-profit rental vouchers.
  • Outlaw discrimination based on a renter’s source of income: Everyone should have an equal opportunity to compete for housing, yet many landlords categorically deny applications by people relying on lawful sources of income to help pay their rent. Discrimination based on the use of a Section 8 voucher or SSI income has a profound impact on low-income households, many who have waited years for their housing assistance. It has disparate impacts on people already at high risk of discrimination based on race, disability, family status, age, or status as a veteran because all these households experience disproportionately high incidences of poverty. Local jurisdictions in our state have passed or enhanced source of income protections for renters, including most recently Vancouver, Seattle, and Renton, but this discrimination should be outlawed to ensure all of Washington’s tenants are protected.

Exciting developments last week for the Medicaid Demonstration Transformation (aka the “1115 waiver for Permanent Supportive Housing):

The Health Care Authority (HCA) announced on January 9 that the federal Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Washington's Medicaid Transformation Demonstration, also known as Washington's 1115 waiver. This includes the new supportive housing services Medicaid benefit that the Housing Alliance has been advocating for over the past several years. CMS has approved high-level “special terms and conditions”, and now the HCA will work to finalize the benefit design and implementation timeline. DSHS is hosting a webinar to provide updates to stakeholders on January 26 at 8:30 AM; you can register for the webinar here.

A couple of messaging notes for advocates--the state will now be referring to the 1115 waiver as the "Medicaid Demonstration Transformation." The benefits within initiative three, which includes the supportive housing benefit, will be referred to as "Community Transition Support Services."

Lastly, here's a link to the state's official announcement.

Affordable Housing and Homelessness are top legislative priorities

Despite the grim state budget fights that lie ahead and the many scary impacts of a Trump administration, our movement has pushed affordable housing and homelessness to the forefront of Olympia’s agenda. In these otherwise uncertain times, this means we have a very strong foundation to build off of and that means that we can still secure significant wins this session. But wins will require advocacy and determination, so let’s start of this week with a bang. Please take action today and tell your lawmakers to support at $200 Million investment in the Housing Trust Fund, and to eliminate the sunset on Document Recording Fees and raise the fee.

Housing and Homelessness Advocacy day is a fun, uplifting and impactful day of action. And we need you!

On February 2 in Olympia, over 600 advocates from nearly every district in the state will put on their red scarves and converge on the capitol for meetings with legislators, a rally on the capitol steps (one of the biggest of the year!), as well as attend workshops on important issues and advocacy skills, inspiring words from some of our legislator champions, and more. This day helps to show the depth, breadth and passion of the affordable housing and homelessness movement. And it helps move lawmakers on our key legislative priorities. Register today!

Another way to help make Advocacy Day a success is as a volunteer. Volunteers for a variety of roles are still needed, from registering attendees in the morning, to leading meetings with your district's lawmakers (this role is especially crucial - if you've been to Advocacy Day before, please consider taking it on). Sign up to volunteer here.

If you have questions about Advocacy Day, contact Alouise at the Housing AlIiance. I hope to see you on February 2!

Help us educate lawmakers with stories from people impacted by homelessness, discrimination or housing insecurity.

The Housing Alliance is in the process of creating a one-page document for each legislative district in the state that will include data about housing and homelessness, and a personal story of someone who’s life is better because they have a safe, affordable home. The stories are approximately 250 words with a picture. Because session has already started, we need these stories as soon as possible for our lawmaker meetings!

We need storytellers for the following legislative districts: 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 25, 26, 28, 30, 31, 34, 39, 43, 44, 46.

If you have a story to share, or if you know someone who does, please email dimitrig@wliha.org and he can coordinate with you!

Do you want to testify this session? We can help!

Testifying on a bill can be an empowering experience that helps to educate lawmakers on the need to pass a bill or to invest in a program. Especially if you have a personal experience with an issue, your story can profoundly impact where a lawmaker stands. Let us know if you are interested in learning more or if you are already planning on coming down to testify. Fill out this simple survey and we will be in touch! 

Again, with expectations low for this session, we strive even higher. Together, we will continue our track-record of making significant gains for affordable housing and homelessness. But your advocacy is needed more than ever – please join us in being bold, loud and persistent.

Advocacy Calls

Starting January 20th, join us every-other-Friday at 11am for a conference call detailing the very latest on housing and homelessness priorities in Olympia. These calls will cover progress of important bills and advocacy opportunities, and you don't have to be a policy expert to follow what's happening. Calls will be held on 1/20, 2/3, 2/17, 3/3, 3/17, 3/31, and 4/14. Anyone can join, just email reinyc@wliha.org for your call in code.  

- Michele and the Housing Alliance team.

P.S. Join the Housing Alliance on Saturday, January 21st for the Seattle Womxn’s March.

When: Sat. Jan 21
Meeting time: 10:00am
Meeting location: West entrance of Judkins Park near 20th & S. Charles St.

10:00am Arrive & find group - look for Housing Alliance banner and red scarves
10:30am Rally/speakers begin
11:00am March begins

End Location: Seattle Center, 400 Broad St, Seattle 98109
Route Length: 3.6 miles

 

2016 Supplemental Budget 2.0 - Our Analysis

-UPDATED 3/11 TO INCLUDE SPECIAL SESSION SENATE BUDGET PROPOSAL. SEE TABLE BELOW

The Housing Alliance Policy Team

The State House of Representatives released its 2016 Supplemental Operating Budget proposal on Monday, Feb 22, 2016, and we are pleased to report that it is a stellar budget for housing and homelessness services. The House has proposed nearly $60 million in new investments in housing assistance and homelessness services for youth and young adults, families, seniors, and people with disabilities. This proposal comes at a time when homelessness is at emergency levels in communities in every corner of Washington. See below for how the House's budget proposal compares to the Governors budget proposal. 

Please consider reaching out to the Chair and Vice Chair of the House Appropriation Committee to thank them for introducing a strong operating budget that invests new resources in housing and homelessness services. Here is the budget writers' contact information:

The House's budget is the second of three 2016 Supplemental Operating Budget proposals that will be introduced this legislative session. It follows the Governor's budget, which was released on December 17, 2015, and it precedes the Senate's budget, which will be released this week. Once all three budgets have been introduced, leaders from the House and Senate will meet with the Governor to negotiate a final budget that all three bodies agree to pass in to law. A final budget is expected to be passed by Sine Die, the last day of the regular legislative session, on March 10, 2016. 

Stay tuned for additional budget updates over the next several weeks and please take action to tell your lawmakers that this is a great budget for affordable housing and homelessness. In addition to the Senate's Operating Budget proposal, we are also waiting for the House and Senate's Capital budget proposals. Additional budget analayses will be posted on our blog, and budget advocay alerts and updates will be emailed to our email list. You can sign-up to receive housing and homelessness action alerts here if you are not already subscribed.  

Thank you for your advocacy!

 

2016 Supplemental Operating Budget Proposals

 

Budget Item

Governor Budget – 12.17.15

House Budget – 2.22.16

Senate Budget - 2.24.16 

Senate
Budget -
3.11.16

Housing & Essential Needs

 

No Change

No Change

No Change

No Change

Aged, Blind, & Disabled Program

 

No Change

No Change

No Change

No Change

Medical Care Services

 

No Change

No Change

Analysis in Progress

No Change

SSI Facilitation Services

 

No Change

No Change

No Change

No Change

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

 

No Change

No Change

No Change

No Change

Behavioral Health Housing Support & Step Down Services

+$2.8 Million

+$2.762 Million

 

+$2.762 Million

+$2.762 Million

Consolidated Homelessness Grant Restoration

 

Not Included

+$6.62 Million

+$7.466 Million

+$6.62 Million

Consolidated Homelessness Grant Youth Investment

 

Not Included

+$787,000

Not Included

+$787,000

Emergency Homelessness Investments Funded Via Budget Stabilization Account With Authorization From HB 2988                            

Rapid Rehousing, Behavioral Health

 

Not Included

+$5 Million

Not Included

Not Included

Rapid Rehousing, Families

 

 

Not Included

+$2.5 Million

Not Included

Not Included

Rental Assistance

 

Not Included

+$10 Million

Not Included

Not Included

Permanent Supportive Housing Services & Shelter

 

Not Included

+$19.729 Million

Not Included

Not Included

 

Youth & Young Adult Homelessness Investments

 

HOPE Beds

 

Not Included

$1.028 Million for 23 HOPE Beds

+1.506 Million for 10 CRC & 18 HOPE Beds

+$1.028 Million for HOPE Beds and +$714,000 for ten crisis residential centers beds.

Young Adult Shelter Beds

 

Not Included

$420,000

Not Included

+$420,000

Street Youth Services

 

Not Included

$800,000

+555,000
($120,000 set aside for South King County)

+$800,000 ($120,000 set aside for South King County)

Homeless Student Stability Act Funding (HB 1682)

 

Not Included

+$4 Million

Not Included

Not Included

Other housing trust account transfers 
 
Housing Trust Account transfer to General Fund 0 0 -$1 Million -$1 Million
Housing Trust Account transfer to Home Security Fund 0 0 -$4 Million -$4 Million

 

Capital Budget Item

Governor Budget – 12.17.15

House Capital Budget – 2.24.16

Senate Capital Budget –
2.24.16

Weatherization Matchmaker Program

+$5 Million

0

0

Housing Trust Fund Portfolio Preservation Program

+$2.5 Million

0

0

Rapid Housing Improvements to bring private market rental homes into compliance with established housing standards

+$1.5 Million

0

0

Rapid Housing Acquisition Demonstration to develop congregate small unit dwellings or convert single-family homes into multi-family homes

+$1.275 Million

0

0

Housing Trust Fund

+$1 Million
For Affordable Senior Housing

-$4.3 Million

0

Landlord Mitigation Fund (only accessible in jurisdictions that prohibit rental source of income discrimination)

+$125,000

+$125,000 (from Commerce's Housing Trust Account)

0

Study of housing opportunities for veterans experiencing homelessness & the conversion of units to provide PSH for geriatric veterans with psychiatric disorders

+$100,000

+$100,000 (from Commerce’s Housing Trust Account)

0

Homeless Youth Competitive Grant Program (includes set asides for $1.03/Cocoon house and $1.545/PSKS youth facility in Seattle)

0

+$5 Million

0

Riverton Park home-ownership project

0

+$600,000 (From Ultra energy efficient affordable housing appropriation)

0

Mental Health Housing Health Homes

0

0

+$7.5 million ($4.5 million in new dollars, $3 million from Commerce's Housing Trust Account).

Mental Health Housing, First and Denny

0

0

$500,000

 

 


 

2016 Supplemental Budget 1.0 – Our Analysis

The Housing Alliance Policy and Advocacy Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governor’s Supplemental Budget Summary

Operating Budget Homelessness Safety Net Appropriations 

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

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

Capital Budget Affordable Housing Appropriations

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

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

 


 

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

 

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.

 


 

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