State Legislative Advocacy

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We advocate for public policy that supports our vision that all Washington residents have the opportunity to live in safe, healthy, affordable homes in thriving communities.

 

The causes of housing instability and homlessness include:

  • An indadequate supply of homes affordable to low-income households
  • Income that is insufficient to afford a home in the private rental market
  • Inadequate services for those who need suport
  • Unfair barriers to accessing and keeping affordable homes


We support efforts to increase wages so that all working people can afford a safe and healthy home.
We support cleaning up our tax code so we can free up resources to solve homelessness and prevent families from having to make impossible choices between paying for a home, and paying for food, medicine, and other necessities.
We also take positions on other issues that impact affordable housing and homelessness as they arise throughout the session.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and use the hashtag #WAhomes to share news, updates, and stories about affordable homes and cleaning up Washington's tax code. 

Watch this page for regular updates. For more information, contact Director of Policy and Advocacy Michele Thomas at michele@wliha.org.

For past legislative victories click here.


2017 Affordable Housing and Homelessnes Priorities at-a-glance

Download a PDF version of our lead priorities here. (2 pages)

Download a PDF version of our lead priorities and support issues here. (6 pages)

 

Create 5,700 affordable homes. Invest $200 million in the Housing Trust Fund. 
 

Streamline and increase the funding for homelessness services and housing. 

• Eliminate the sunset on the document recording fees that fund this crucial resource; 

• Increase the fees to give local communities additional resources to respond to growing homelessness; 

• Provide local communities greater flexibility to utilize these funds by eliminating the 45% mandated use of funds for one purpose

• Improve accountability by measuring what matters and streamlining auditing and reporting requirements. 


Prohibit discrimination based on a renter’s source of income. No one should be denied a home just because they use a housing voucher, social security, or other form of subsidy or income support. 


Expand housing for people with disabilities experiencing long term homelessness. Ensure full Operating Budget authority for our state’s Medicaid Transformation to fund services in permanent supportive housing. 


Protect and fully fund services that prevent homelessness including: 

• Housing and Essential Needs Program; 

• Aged, Blind and Disabled Program; 

• Medical Care Services; 

• SSI Facilitation Services.

 


Housing Trust Fund
Build and preserve 5,700 safe, healthy, and affordable homes. Invest $200 million in the Housing Trust Fund
Download the PDF one-pager here.
 

How the State Can Respond to the Need for Affordable Homes
Investments in the Housing Trust Fund happen through the Capital Budget process and the funds are allocated on a competitive basis to build and preserve affordable homes. Homes built by the Housing Trust Fund remain affordable for at least 40 years, and provide homes for families, seniors, veterans, immigrants, people with disabilities, farmworkers, and more. $200 million in the Housing Trust Fund will help create more than 5,700 newly affordable homes.

Private market housing is increasingly out of reach for low-income families and individuals. An average one bedroom requires a full-time wage of $18.39 per hour to be affordable. Homes created by the Housing Trust Fund help ease this disparity by increasing the number of homes available to lower wage workers, and creating these homes in communities near employment centers and good schools, where people want to live.

Creating affordable homes helps the state achieve important priorities. A home is the foundation for health, education, and well-being. The Housing Trust Fund is Washington's most important investment in affordable homes. 

This Policy Goal Advances Equity
Federal, state, and local policies over time have led to devastating racial disparities, preventing opportunities to safe, healthy, affordable homes. African Americans make up a little more than 7% of Seattle’s population. But that demographic is tripled for the homeless population. The statistics are worse nationwide, as African Americans make up roughly 13% of the population, but 38% of the homeless population. The capital budget is an opportunity to bridge the racial housing gap.

Resources:
Housing Trust Fund Talking Points Guide
Statement on the Housing Trust Fund and Affordable Home Ownership


Protect Services That Prevent and End Homelessness
Eliminate the sunset on document recording fees, increase the fee, and eliminate the 45% mandate.
HB 1570

Download the PDF one-pager here.

Washington Housing Opportunities Act
During last year’s annual point in time count 20,844 people were found experiencing homelessness. While that number has increased over the last two years, fewer people are actually experiencing homelessness than otherwise would, thanks to a critical state resource - the Document Recording Fees.

A modest fee paid to file real estate related documents provides Washington’s most important source of funds to combat homelessness. The fees fund critical resources like domestic violence shelters, youth shelters, outreach services, short- and long-term rental assistance, move-in assistance, permanent supportive housing services, and more. 

The fees are paid on real estate transactions such as home purchases. The amount has been adjusted over time, but hasn’t kept pace with rising rents and inflation. Because of the sunset in current law, in 2019 more than 60% of Washington's homelessness funding will vanish.

The dramatic cliff in funding for community resources will increase homelessness for people with mental and physical disabilities, veterans, families, youth, and others. State and local communities’ efforts to prevent and end homelessness will be devastated. 

Additionally, 45% of fees collected are mandated to be used for vouchers in the for-profit market. But discrimination by landlords who refuse to accept vouchers greatly limits the opportunity for people to use their vouchers, and money meant to help curb homelessness is not as effective as it could be.

This Policy Goal Advances Equity
A 2014 report by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty states that lack of affordable housing results in an estimated 3.5 million people experiencing homelessness in the United States annually. Racial and ethnic minorities are overrepresented among the homeless population.

  • 42% are African Americans (compared to 12% of the general population)
  • 20% are Hispanic (compared to 12% of the general population)
  • 4% are Native American (compared to 1% of the general population)
  • 2% are Asian (compared to 1% of the general population)

When leveraged with Housing Trust Fund dollars, the Washington Housing Opportunities Act would give communities the resources to end family homelessness, and reduce chronic homelessness by 50%, increasing upward mobility for marginalized communities, and strengthening neigborhood health.   


Ban Discrimination Based on a Renter's Source of Income
Eliminate barriers to housing for renters relying on housing subsidies or income assistance to help pay the rent.
SB 5407/HB 1633

Download the PDF one-pager here.

About Source of Income Discrimination
In the search for a home, many individuals and families face outright discrimination. This occurs when landlords refuse to rent to Housing Choice (Section 8) voucher holders, seniors relying on social security income, veterans using housing subsidies, and people with disabilities who receive other legal sources of income. This has a significant impact on communities who disproportionately rely on housing subsidies to make ends meet: households of color, seniors, people with disabilities, and single parent households with young children.

Several municipalities in Washington have adopted laws prohibiting housing discrimination based on source of income. These protections ensure families who pay rent with a housing subsidy or other legal sources of supplemental income can secure a safe and healthy home.

This Policy Goal Advances Equity
This legal discrimination based on one's source of income is a loophole in the state’s fair housing laws that prohibit housing discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, etc. Source of income discrimination disproportionately affects people of color, the elderly, and people with disabilities, as they comprise a disproportionately high population of voucher recipients. In many cities, discrimination against Section 8 vouchers is often a cover up for discrimination on basis of race, age, disability, etc. Eliminating barriers to moving is essential to ensuring that all families have the opportunity to live in the community of their choice.


Protect Washington's Lifeline for Disabled and Elderly Adults.
Fully fund life-saving services that prevent homelessness
Download the PDF one-pager here.

The Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program ensures that people diagnosed with significant but temporary mental illnessess or physical disabilities can meet their basic needs while unable to work. The program provides rental, utility, and transportation assistance, as well as access to health and hygiene items.

The Aged, Blind, and Disabled (ABD) program helps extremely low-income adults with permanent mental health illnessess or physical disabilities by providing modest cash assistance of up to $197 per month while they apply to the federal Supplemental Security Income program. When people transition to SSI, the federal government reimburses the state for the full cost of the ABD cash grant. ABD also provides support to low-income elderly and disabled documented immigrants who are not yet eligible for federal medican and income support benefits. 

Medical Care Services provide health care coverage for elderly or disabled immigrants who have legally verified immigration status.

SSI Facilitation Services, provided by the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) assist disabled individuals through the lengthy process of applying for SSI benefits. This process can take many years but results in $733 per month for recipients, allowing them to meet their most basic needs. These services are a win-win: those with disabilities gain access to greater stability, and the state recieves federal reimbursement for the interim ABD support. 

These programs are a last resort safety net for people who are unable to work and who are otherwise at extreme risk of suffereing poor health and even death. 

This Policy Goal Advances Equity
Approximately 25% of people receiving HEN and 39% of people receiving ABD are people of color. In 2012, over 800,000 Washington residents (11.8% of the population) reported having a disability. While HEN, ABD, MCS, and SSI Facilitation Services serve a particularly vulnerable subset of the overall disabled population, people with disabilities often experience wide poverty disparities. According to Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute, the poverty rate of working-age people with disabilities in Washington was 25.7%, which is more than double the poverty rate of people without disabilities. 

Resources

HEN and ABD Flow Chart


 Medicaid Transformation Demonstration
Expand housing for people with disabilities experiencing long term homelessness. Ensure full Operating Budget authority for our state's Medicaid Transformation Demonstration to fund services in permanent supportive housing

Washington state’s medicaid transformation demonstration was recently approved by the federal government. This program allows us to pay for critical tenancy support services that are delivered in permanent supportive housing, and will allow our state to significantly increase access to housing for people with disabilities and mental health issues who are experiencing chronic homelessness. 

Supportive housing is an affordable home combined with comprehensive primary and behavioral health services. Supportive housing is a research-proven model that reduces utilization of costly emergency, inpatient, and crisis services and while improving health outcomes. Affordable housing with resident services is not supportive housing. Rather, supportive housing provides a more specialized level of care.

Supportive housing serves people who need services in order to succeed in housing and who need housing in order to succeed in services. People living in supportive housing usually have a long history of homelessness and often face persistent obstacles to keeping their home, such as a serious mental health illness, chemical dependency, physical disability, or chronic medical condition.

This Policy Goal Advances Equity
 A 2014 report by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty states that lack of affordable housing results in an estimated 3.5 million people experiencing homelessness in the United States annually. Racial and ethnic minorities are overrepresented among the homeless population.

  • 42% are African Americans (compared to 12% of the general population)
  • 20% are Hispanic (compared to 12% of the general population)
  • 4% are Native American (compared to 1% of the general population)
  • 2% are Asian (compared to 1% of the general population)

Additionally, the National Alliance to End Homelessness states that chronically homless* individuals make up 15% of the overall homeless population. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), at least a quarter to a third of those on the streets have a mental illness or substance abuse disorder. A Medicaid Supportive Housing Services Benefit could play a significant role in providing more permanent supportive housing for vulnerable populations across the state.

"Chronic homelessness" refers to people who have a disability and have been homeless for a year or longer or have experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years.

 


Clean Up Washington's Tax Code

Washington has the most upside down tax code in the nation. Low wage workers pay a tax rate of up to 7 times higher than the wealthiest households. By cleaning up our state’s tax code and getting rid of unnecessary tax breaks, we can free up resources to solve homelessness and prevent families from having to make impossible choices between paying for a home, and paying for food, medicine, and other necessities.

The Governor has already proposed a budget that gets the ball rolling - including a tax on capital gains and carbon emissions, and eliminating some tax breaks. This bold budget would enable us to invest in the foundations of a thriving community - safe, healthy, affordable homes, excellent schools, good roads and parks, and healthcare.

Washington is known for innovation and our state’s residents are smart and compassionate. In three Washington cities, residents have voted to tax themselves to solve the housing affordability crisis and we expect more communities to do the same in the next few years. We know we can’t get something for nothing. Investing in affordable homes, services to end homelessness, and helping everyone meet their needs will create the thriving communities we all deserve to live in

 

Resources

Washington State Budget and Policy Center
All in For Washington

 

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