Advocacy opportunities

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

Why I Advocate

Elimika James, Housing Advocate

 

My name is Elimika James, and this year was my very first time at Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day! As a working single-mother, it can be difficult to find the time to be an advocate while balancing a job, being a parent, and taking care of my own needs, and I appreciated the opportunity to participate.

I recognize that I have a lot of friends and family members who are struggling to keep their homes and some people need to be given a voice. It energizes me to be able to speak up on behalf of people who don’t have the opportunity.

I heard about Advocacy Day through the Tenant’s Union. This fall I was introduced to the world of housing advocacy when I had helped the organizing effort to prevent many households in my community from being evicted because they used a Section 8 voucher to pay their rent. Our organizing pushed the City of Renton to pass a temporary injunction protection for tenants who use Section 8; but it is set to expire this summer, and I don’t want to see anyone else go through this.

At Advocacy Day, I saw that this is just one of many important issues in a larger problem of access to affordable housing. For instance, my rent has increased over $400 this year without warning. More needs to be done to keep rents affordable—landlords should be able to reasonably raise the rent, but I think that there needs to be more limitations on that power, and more resources to keep people from becoming homeless.

The opportunity to meet with my lawmakers really struck me. I remember going to Olympia as a kid, but that was just to learn and spectate. At Advocacy Day we actually sat down with public officials to have a genuine conversation with them.

I spoke with Representatives Hudgins and Bergquist from my district—there were about 5 or 6 of us, so it was really personal. When we talked about banning source of income discrimination, they said they verbally supported it, but there were many challenges to get it through the legislature that made their role tricky. This was a little discouraging because they have the final decision.

But I guess that is why this kind of advocacy is so important. We, as advocates, were able to talk to them about how Section 8 is stigmatized and affects our lives. Seeing people that care enough to come all the way out to Olympia to talk about what it is important to them might motivate lawmakers to change their minds.

Overall, I think the day made me feel like I could make a difference. Standing with people from across the state during the Rally for Homes reminded me of the scene in the movie "Lean on Me" - together we were powerful. I plan to be back next year to learn more and get more information on important issues and how to advocate.

Housing Advocacy in Action! Week of Jan 23

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Bills, Bills, Bills!

The 2017 state legislative session is 2+ weeks in and many bills are still being introduced. The pace and feel of the campus is hectic, with many people working to get their issues in front of lawmakers.

To keep track of all the bills this session, the Housing Alliance has created a bill tracker on our website where we will list our position on bills that impact affordable housing and homelessness, and other important issues including racial equity, voting rights, safety net services and more. Be sure to check back often, as we are updating this all the time!

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!

 

WHOA: HB 1570

Last week was exciting with the development of HB 1570 by Representative Nicole Macri from the 43rd legislative district. This bill will prevent a massive cut in state homelessness funding while also increasing resources to meet Washington’s growing homelessness crisis.

If coupled with new Housing Trust Fund investments, the bill would ensure housing for 6,515 more people each biennium (each 2 year budget cycle). And it would enable Washington to:

  • End family homelessness,
  • Reduce chronic homelessness by 50% and,
  • Ensure that no youth exits a public institution into homelessness.

You can TAKE ACTION today to make sure your lawmakers know how important this bill is!

Here is an overview of what HB 1570 does:

Eliminate the sunset on the homeless housing and assistance surcharge. This sunset would result in a loss of 62.5% of state funds to prevent and end homelessness. Every homeless and housing safety service in the state would be deeply impacted by this cut, including services for victims of domestic violence, youth & young adults, families and people with mental illness, seniors, veterans and more. HB 1570 eliminates the sunset and makes this fund-source permanent.

Increase resources to prevent and end homelessness by adding $40 to homeless housing and assistance surcharge. This would bring this total surcharge to $90. These are charged when real estate documents are recorded with the local auditor’s office. Real estate documents are recorded in a variety of instances, including when a house is sold.

Amends the mandate that currently requires 45% of all state funds be set-aside solely for for-profit landlords. The for-profit market is difficult, and sometimes impossible, for low-income tenants exiting homeless because of the outright refusal of for-profit landlords to rent to people using rental assistance to help pay the rent. This discrimination limits the effectiveness of rental vouchers, while the lack of rent controls in Washington also make private rental vouchers an increasingly expensive intervention. HB 1570 will provide the state and counties with flexibility to use vouchers in nonprofit owned housing where tenants exiting homelessness are welcome.

Improves state and county reporting requirements. HB 1570 will also improve reporting requirements to ensure more transparency in how state homelessness dollars are being spent, including by requiring homeless housing plans to be updated every five years.

You can find the bill on this page and sign up for updates as the bill progresses.

 

What Trump could mean for affordable housing and homelessness

Last week we all witnessed the historic shift of power to a new administration. A Trump White House could have very significant impacts on affordable housing and homelessness. Ben Carson, the Trump administration’s pick for HUD (Housing and Urban Development) does not have a history of supporting affordable housing programs. While his lack of experience in this area generally makes the impacts of his appointment unknown, there will likely be significant alignment between his conservative worldview with the policy priorities of congressional leadership. This could have significant budget implications, but it could also impact HUD’s fair housing enforcement, regulations that protect public housing tenants and more.

The Housing Alliance encourages you to sign up for alerts from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. This organization has a long history of informing housing and homelessness advocates on federal developments. You can sign up on their website here.

I also encourage you to check out this blog post from after the November election in which they outline the potential impacts of Trump.

In these uncertain times, it more important than ever that we stand up against hate, discrimination and attempts to weaken fundamental protections. To that end, the Housing Alliance has crafted a support agenda that reaches a little further to include issues that impact poverty, racial justice, immigrant rights, voting rights and other important issues that effect justice and equality in our state. You’ll see us taking action on more issues this year, while still leading on affordable housing and homelessness priorities. Check out our lead agenda and support issues here.

 

Resources for Advocates

Check out the Housing Alliance website for advocacy resources including policy overviews for each of our priority issues. Additionally, you can find key resources including this Housing Trust Fund talking points document. Note: our one-pager on the Medicaid Transformation Demonstration is coming soon. 

 

We need you!

Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day is around the corner, and many of you have not yet registered! We know you are coming, but we need you to register so we can order the food and plan all the logistics of the day including ensuring enough room for lawmaker meetings. Please register today. If you have questions or need help, you can contact Alouise at the Housing Alliance.

We are also still looking for volunteers, including people who will lead the lawmaker meetings. If you are interested in volunteering, the first step is to fill out this form.

 

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 whose 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 stories from the following legislative districts:

1 (Mountlake Terrace, Bothell)
2 (Parts of Pierce and Thurston County including Graham, Yelm and Eatonville)
4 (Parts of Spokane County including Liberty Lake and Spokane County)
7 (Includes Oroville, Tonasket, Republic, Colville and Chewelah)
11 (Includes South Seattle, Tukwila and parts of Renton)
12 (Chelan and Douglas Counties, including Winthrop, Twisp, Chelan, Leavenworth, Wenatchee and Grand Coulee)
15 (Parts of Yakima County including Wapato, Toppenish, Zillah, Granger, Sunnyside and Grandview)
16 (Parks of Columbia and Walla Walla County including Walla Walla city, Prosser and Pasco)
17 (Parts of Clark County including Battle Ground and part of Vancouver)
18 (Parts of Clark County including Ridgefield, Camas, Washougal and parts of Vancouver city and part of Battle Ground)
25 (Parts of Pierce County including Puyallup and Fife)
26 (Parts of Pierce and Kitsap Counties including parts of Bremerton and Port Orchard)
28 (Part of Pierce County including University Place, Lakewood, Dupont and Spanaway)
30 (Federal Way, Des Moines and parts of Auburn)
31 (Parts of South King County and NE Pierce County including Auburn, Bonney Lake, Enumclaw and Sumner)
34 (West Seattle, Vashon and parts of Burien)
39 (Sedro Woolly, Arlington, Monroe, Gold Bar, parts of Marysville)
44 (Parts of Marysville, Lake Stevens, Snohomish and Mill Creek)
46 (Lake Forest Park, Kenmore and Lake City)

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!

 

Advocate Calls

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. The next call is on Friday, February 3rd, followed by calls on 2/17, 3/3, 3/17, 3/31, and 4/14. Anyone can join, just email reinyc@wliha.org for your call in code. Feel free to invite your colleagues, friends, and family to join.

Don’t forget to take action and hope to see you in Olympia on February 2nd,

- Michele and the Housing Alliance team.

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.

 


 

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.

 

 


 

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