Blogs

As temps drop, City of Yakima says no to homeless shelter

Ellie Lambert, Homeless Network of Yakima County Supervisor

In our ongoing work to reduce homelessness in Yakima, the Homeless Network of Yakima County has been planning to create a permanent homeless shelter.

This truly started as a group effort that included City of Yakima leadership since the day the planning started. Local nonprofit Yakima Neighborhood Health Services took lead on the studies, surveys, funding research, and reporting to increase community support. Admittedly, overall support from city officials was lacking. However, throughout the process, the mayor and council voiced wanting a solution to shelter the city’s homeless population and voiced wanted to be included in the process. This is why the network was shocked when during the final minutes of the October 21st city council meeting, City Manager Tony O’Rourke requested an emergency vote for a moratorium on zoning for any new homeless shelters in the city limits.

At issue, according to Mr. O’Rourke (pictured right) was the proposed shelter location. The site is situated just outside of a designated business corridor in an area he considers a possible site for “gentrification.” Based on research compiled by different agencies, we believe the site is ideal for a permanent shelter because it’s located within walking distance of other service provider locations as well as the main transit center. The proposed site is also in an area where people who are homeless have historically congregated. When surveyed about the potential shelter, residents in the neighborhood were overwhelmingly supportive. The majority of comments spoke to the benefit of offering an alternative to sleeping in parks, doorways, or in empty houses. Because people have nowhere else to go, we believe the city will have a difficult time finding investment in this neighborhood. Our studies indicate the shelter is a positive step in the community’s urban renewal.

In addition, the lack of shelter has resulted in the city’s ongoing criminalization of homeless people. Increasingly police have been arresting individuals for loitering in parks or trespassing in the areas where they camp. Members of the city council have expressed their frustration with the issues of homelessness. But their solutions are to make ordinances, such as the recent panhandling law, with the philosophy that the homeless will simply “go away” if they fear law enforcement.

Fortunately, city council members questioned why the city manager presented the moratorium without community or council input. They further protested that the item was never on the agenda. Council members Kathy Coffey and Rick Ensey voted against the moratorium. The moratorium passed. However, this lack of consensus means the moratorium won’t go into effect for another 30 days. This means Yakima Neighborhood Health Services can still submit their request for the shelter zoning considerations. Also, there will be a public hearing at the November 18th city council meeting.

Homeless Network of Yakima County members, the ALPHA Team (a group of currently and formerly homeless advocates), and other community supporters are rallying to organize advocacy efforts to show the city that Yakima residents truly support a permanent shelter. Please help us tell the Yakima City Manager and Yakima City Council Members why a permanent shelter benefits the entire community:

Please join us to overcome this barrier to making a permanent shelter a reality in the City of Yakima!

Photos: Top Right: Yakima City Manager Tony O'Rourke (Photo Credit: City of Yakima). Middle Left: Emerging Advocates Program attendees in support of the homeless shelter. Bottom Right: Homeless Network of Yakima County Annual Picnic (Photo Credit: Homeless Network of Yakima County).

 


 

When even a full-time job isn’t enough for rent…

Joaquin Uy, Communications Specialist

The National Housing Conference recently released an update to their online tool that compares wages with the cost of housing in cities across the nation. Their interactive Paycheck to Paycheck database reveals what many across Washington already know: an affordable home continues to be an impossibility for many with full-time jobs.

All Washington residents should be able to afford a home and still have enough left over their basic necessities, like healthcare, food, and transportation costs. By the numbers, this means that one should only pay no more than 30% of their income for housing costs. However, as Paycheck to Paycheck shows, this is clearly not possible for many workers across the state. Take for instance the occupation of a home health aide. As our nation’s population ages and baby boomers live longer, home health care is one of America’s fastest growing professional fields.

When you examine the Paycheck to Paycheck numbers for home health aides, you find that out of the seven major Washington cities included in the database, home health aides can only afford a rental home in one of those cities (Kennewick, see left). Additionally, a home health aide could not afford to buy a home in any of these cities. In fact, if a household consisted of two home care aides (double the average salary), even then this family couldn’t afford to buy home in all seven of the areas studied (see left).

Both renting a home and owning a home has become an impossibility for more than home health aides. When you poke around the Paycheck to Paycheck tool, you’ll find that a surprisingly diverse array of occupations are also priced out of the market across the state.

This is why the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance works to ensure the state legislature passes sound policy and legislation to increase affordable homes. The state has a widening affordable housing gap. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, for every 100 extremely low-income families in King County, earning less than $23,400 a year for a family of three, only 30 affordable apartments are available. Clearly, not only do wages need to keep with rents, but we also need more homes affordable to the entire spectrum of wages in Washington.

Stay tuned, as we’ll be soon releasing our legislative priorities focused on protecting renters, ensuring a disability doesn’t result in homelessness, and utilizing the capital budget to help increase opportunities for safe, healthy, affordable homes.

Housing Alliance endorses Initiative 594

The Housing Alliance Endorsement Committee

The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance believes that everyone in Washington should have the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home in a thriving community. Gun violence hurts communities and undermines that vision. For that reason, the Housing Alliance endorses Initiative 594.

Reducing gun violence in our state will help build healthier, safer, more thriving communities. Please vote yes on I-594 when you vote your General Election ballot.

What does I-594 do?

The initiative makes sure anyone buying a gun in Washington State passes the same background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter whom they buy it from. It requires the same background check for private purchases, including those at gun shows, as are currently required at licensed gun dealerships.

For more information, visit: wagunresponsibility.org.

Center for American Progress Gun Background Check infographic.

I-594 Frequently Asked Questions form.

 


 

Class Matters

Irene Basloe Saraf, Guest Blogger

On September 20, a group of Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund staff and board members joined with many other social justice activists and advocates for an all-day workshop titled, “Class & Social Change: Harnessing the Strengths of Diverse Class Cultures.” Real Change, Housing Alliance, Social Justice Fund NW, and Class Action came together to sponsor the workshop.

From the very start, the facilitators – Anita Garcia Morales, Alan Preston, and Betsy Leondar-Wright – created a safe space so that we could all open up about our own class identities. And that was a good thing because I had expected a somewhat abstract discussion of the effects of class on social justice work. But Anita, Alan and Betsy created a workshop encouraging us to think about class in a very personal way. And they approach class this way because, as they note, “[a]cknowledging class privilege is an important step towards becoming an anti-classist ally.”

We spent the morning in class caucuses, established by our class status at around age 12. The facilitators believe that our class experience at that formative time in our life strongly influences how we operate today. We divided into class groups based on a variety of measures: our parents’ educational attainment, our parents’ economic and career status, the type of home we lived in, our parents’ influence in the community, among others. We were then asked to discuss, list, and then present to the whole group what our particular class background brings to our social justice work.

All of the groups were insightful in noting how a particular class background could both help and hinder social justice work. There were lots of differences across the classes. But I was really intrigued by the similarities. For instance, most of the classes were willing to take risks – those who had been poor or working class because they were accustomed to having nothing to lose, and those who had been middle, upper-middle, and owning class because they had a cushion if the risk didn’t work out.

Later in the day, we worked on creating messages on various social justice issues that would resonate and persuade across classes. The issues included housing, the environment, and school-to-prison pipeline to name a few. We learned that poor and working-class activists tend to use colorful sayings, metaphors, and analogies and first or second person stories, while college-educated activists tend to use abstract terms to explain and analyze a situation. Both of these descriptive traits are strengths; the most persuasive messages utilize elements of both, picking the most accessible of all the abstract terms associated with an issue and then creating a short and vivid message around that term.

We also explored how class can impact internal conflicts in groups. Each class leans toward a particular pitfall in conflicts. And we talked about how to navigate around those pitfalls and instead raise disagreements in ways that are both humane and assertive and resolve conflicts with collaboration rather than antagonism.

I found it enlightening – if sometimes a little uncomfortable – to spend a day poking at my own class privilege. And it was valuable to learn about the impact of class and classism on social justice work. Given that one overt class indicator is housing type, advocacy around housing and homelessness will invariably intersect with issues of class. The workshop showed me the value of addressing those issues head on, rather than avoiding or deflecting them.

By the end of the day, I appreciated the truth in the words of the late founding co-director of Class Action, Felice Yeskel: “Gaining greater awareness about how class affects what we do and how we do it is an ongoing process. The more contact we have with folks from across the class spectrum, the greater the opportunities for gaining awareness.”

To learn more about Class Action’s unique analysis, check out classism.org.

Photos. (Right): The pink sign indicates your class background when you were 12-years of age. The yellow sign indicates your class status today that is connected to your class background. (Bottom): This pink sign indicates another category of class background.

 


 

An amazing summer of emerging advocacy!

Alouise Urness, Community & Member Organizer

 

 

 

 

 

Since I last wrote about the Emerging Advocates Program, a lot has happened.

  • Alicia met with her state senator over coffee.
  • Dawnell recorded her experience of homelessness with StoryCorps.
  • Mindy arranged a meeting with her representative on her way down to Olympia.
  • Julia pulled her legislator off the House floor to try to change her mind about a bill.
  • Nick M. and Susan were named Real Change Vendors of the Year.
  • Robin volunteered at a fundraiser for housing champions.
  • Lisa ran into a legislator at a community event and knew what she wanted to say.
  • Kirk was interviewed by a reporter.
  • August is in Washington, D.C. advocating for the homeless.
  • Rebecca is speaking out on tenants’ rights.
  • Andrea now uses social media to advocate for homelessness issues.
  • Shelby was featured in a press conference and is working to help get a bill introduced.
  • Nick R. is active with the Real Change Speakers’ Bureau and Path with Art.
  • Jamal now knows the staffer for his state senator.
  • Glenda is finding new ways to support her peers.
  • Kim has arranged to lead local legislators on a tour of the only homeless shelter in her town.

These are some of what advocates have been up to since completing the program. It’s exciting to get calls, emails, and visits from the 38 individuals who have completed the program so far. I get to hear about and support their endeavors and, I’m excited to see the Housing Alliance’s connections growing through the grassroots work of our enthusiastic program participants!

The advocates aren’t the only ones who’ve been busy! This summer, Housing Alliance staff ran the Emerging Advocates workshop series not once, but three times due to increased demand. We worked with one group of Emerging Advocates who met on Monday evenings, and another group on Tuesday afternoons. They heard from Housing Alliance and Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund staff on a broad range of issues including the importance of political work and using social media for advocacy. We brought in community experts as well. Nancy Amidei of the Civic Engagement Project taught advocacy skills. Western Regional Advocacy Project’s Paul Boden shared a history-based framework for understanding homelessness. And several former EAP participants returned to share what they had learned. A state representative even stopped by one of the sessions to meet participants.

In early September, these two groups joined together for a day trip to Olympia, where our own Ben Miksch (formerly a legislative staffer) led them through the journey of a bill becoming law as they moved through the spaces where the process occurs. Next came a mock hearing in a senate hearing room where several advocates practiced testifying, others tried out the lawmakers’ roles, and all got a deeper look into the legislative process. To wrap up the day, we pulled chairs into a circle in that same hearing room for a wide-ranging conversation with the Housing Alliance’s lobbyist and two legislators’ aides. Tara Jo Heineke, of Senator Karen Keiser’s office (33rd District-Kent), shared an incredibly moving story about a letter she wrote long ago as a young advocate and labor organizer, which was instrumental to passing a bill. Senator Adam Kline’s (37th District-Seattle) aide Bryn Houghton tirelessly answered questions. Lobbyist Nick Federici helped us see that laughter goes well with advocacy.

Just one week later, Housing Alliance trainers headed for Yakima. Ellie Lambert of the Homeless Network of Yakima County, herself a former EAP participant, had arranged for us to offer a third installment of the Emerging Advocates series. This was to be a weekend-intensive version of the workshops. Nine emerging advocates convened in a church basement for the same 12 hours of workshops that other participants experienced, but all in the course of 3 days! We had the added treat of learning from local advocacy leader Mateo Arteaga and enjoying lunch with a candidate for state senate.

These emerging advocates put their skills into practice on the final morning, some choosing to hone their public speaking by presenting to the congregation upstairs, others leading Housing Alliance staff on a tour of places and services important in surviving homelessness in Yakima. The sessions finished with a round table conversation among the emerging advocates and local housing development leaders. The advocates talked about their barriers to accessing affordable housing, and the nonprofit leaders shared some of their challenges in building it. There appeared to be a lot of common ground.

Much has happened, and there is so much more to do. I’m looking forward to working with these advocates, as we approach the next legislative session and beyond.

Photos: (Top): The combined Monday & Tuesday Emerging Advocates groups in Olympia. (Right): Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (43rd District-Seattle) meets the Monday group. (Left): Monday group participants talk advocacy. (Below): Yakima emerging advocates on their lunch break with Housing Alliance staff, Mateo Arteaga, and Gabriel Munoz.

 


 

Organizations All Over Washington Oppose Funding Cuts & Elimination of Services Affecting Thousands of the State’s Disabled Individuals

Joaquin Uy, Communications Specialist

In recent budget proposals released by state agencies to the Governor’s Office, three programs that help thousands of disabled individuals across the state are slated to receive substantial cuts.

The state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) released a budget document proposing to eliminate the Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) program. ABD, an outgrowth of the former “Disability Lifeline” program, helps extremely low-income adults with permanent mental or physical disabilities with $197 per month while they are applying to the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. This application process can take many years. This is why DSHS also provides SSI Facilitation services to assist disabled individuals through the lengthy process of applying for federal SSI benefits. DSHS has proposed that both ABD and SSI Facilitation services be eliminated, effective July 1, 2015.

DSHS also recommends that once ABD is eliminated, people at-risk of or experiencing homelessness who would have otherwise qualified for ABD, be allowed to apply for the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) program. Administered by the Department of Commerce, HEN ensures that people with temporary mental or physical disabilities can access stable housing when facing extreme economic hardship. Recipients are also able to access essential basic needs, including transportation assistanceand health/hygiene items.

This will expand the HEN-eligible population from 7,303 to 30,702 per month.

However, Commerce has submitted a department proposal to cut the HEN program by $7.4 million (out of the $59 million allocation), which is a 13.1% cut. According to Commerce’s calculations, they could only serve a fraction of the ABD recipients who would be newly eligible for HEN. This would leave thousands of disabled adults, who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness, without housing assistance. Commerce itself bleakly noted the impact of HEN cuts on existing HEN recipients (not including the added ABD caseload) on page 298 of the Department of Commerce 2015-17 Operating Budget: “If this proposal is adopted approximately 580 additional people will be living unsheltered. Some of these 580 unserved people may become hospitalized and some may die of exposure.”

According to Washington Low Income Housing Alliance Executive Director Rachael Myers, these cuts come at a terrible time, “These services literally mean the difference between living in a home or on the street. We’ve been making progress on reducing the number of people living without shelter, but this year that number increased. Instead of reducing programs that keep people off the streets, we should be expanding those services. If our current tax structure is inadequate to meet basic needs of the people in our state, we should fix that by closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing revenue, not by making more people homeless.”

Reducing these services comes just after the U.S. Census released the American Community Survey showing that Washington was one of only three states that saw an increase of people living in poverty from 2012 to 2013. That’s a jump to 970,000 vulnerable residents who could be impacted by eliminating these programs. January 2014’s Point in Time count of people experiencing homelessness found 18,839 people without a stable, permanent home. 

This is why 81 organizations in Washington State have quickly joined the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance in signing onto a letter urging Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington State Legislature to protect these three crucial lifeline programs. According to the letter, DSHS and Commerce "have proposed cuts that would, by their own figures, eliminate housing assistance each month for 580 extremely low‐income, incapacitated people with disabilities, and eliminate the only source of income for 23,449 others on July 1, 2015." The undersigned believe more needs to be done to address this problem, but the proposed cuts promise to set our state backwards.

You can read the full contents of the letter to the Governor opposing the cuts here.

Photo (right): Shelby Powell credits the ABD program for helping her stay in her home during the year-long process of applying for SSI. Shelby is now receiving SSI benefits and continues to be stably housed.

Edited 10:14pm on September 22.
Edited 2:42pm on September 23.

 


 

Why hello there...

Honah Thompson, Social Justice Intern

I’m Honah (pronounced “HAH-nah,” both A-sounds are soft) the fresh meat of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. I was born and raised in Santa Rosa, California (in Sonoma County’s wine country). I recently graduated from Chapman University in Southern California with a B.A. in sociology and religious studies and an emphasis in social work. I come from a busy summer of internships and volunteer work relating to HIV/AIDs, child abuse, and hospice care at various agencies in Orange County. The time I spent with each agency affirmed my desire to continue with social justice work before entering graduate school for a master’s degree in social work.

While I would like to say it was a natural urge to embrace the rain and public transportation that brings me to Seattle and the Housing Alliance, it is actually the United Church of Christ’s Young Adult Service Communities program. For a year, I will live in community with some pretty stellar folks and engage in social justice issues such as homelessness, living wages, and so many more as the year goes on. As someone interested in equity and fair access to basic human needs, I feel everything I learn this year will be extremely fulfilling.

My first experience with the Housing Alliance was in Yakima at the Emerging Advocates Program. I had an amazing time learning oodles of great information about how advocacy works in the world of housing and homelessness. Hearing the stories of the participants as well as the presentations of our guest speakers was greatly inspirational and put me in the right mindset to begin this internship. Some of what I learned was eye-opening and some shocking. But what I have taken away from the many new statistics and stories shared at Emerging Advocates is that homelessness is a grossly misunderstood social problem. Another takeaway is that there is a huge need for advocacy if we are bridge the state's affordable housing crisis and end homelessness. If you wish to learn more about what I am talking about, I would suggest looking into the document Without Housing: Decades of Federal Housing Cutbacks, Massive Homelessness and Policy Failures produced by Housing Alliance partner agency Western Regional Advocacy Project.

As the Housing Alliance’s dedicated intern I will be involved in supporting the many projects, plans, and proceedings that we are whipping up and working on in the office and around the state. I will help in the planning for the Conference on Ending Homelessness as well as Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day. So look for me in Tacoma and Olympia next year. (I can’t wait to go to Olympia.) Word on the street is that I will also be helping with state and federal advocacy, which I am very excited about after spending so much time on direct services wondering how the nitty-gritty of advocacy and legislation go down.

I am all kinds of excited to be here and can’t wait to see what this year has in store for me. Let the advocacy and action begin!

Images
Top: Honah posing with the Yakima Emerging Advocates Program participants.
Bottom: Honah participating in the social media and advocacy component of the Emerging Advocates Program in Yakima.

 


 

Save the date & now accepting proposals!

Kate Baber, Homelessness Policy and Advocacy Specialist

Over the past several weeks, we’ve had a number of major updates to share with our members. Last week, we shared our ideas for new strategies to end chronic homelessness and improve health. This week, we are excited to announce the date of next year’s Conference on Ending Homelessness.

Please save the date: May 13 and 14, 2015 for the 25th Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness to be held at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center in Tacoma, Washington.

The conference will bring over 600 homelessness advocates and direct service providers together from across Washington for our state’s largest conversation on ending homelessness. Next year’s conference program will continue to build momentum towards ending homelessness by providing skill-building opportunities, research and policy updates, advocacy and communication trainings, networking opportunities to exchange ideas and best practices, and continuing education credits.

Do you have a creative and innovative workshop idea? The conference planning committee is now accepting workshop proposals, and we invite you to submit a proposal form by October 31, 2014. Please note the earlier than usual due date for proposals. Proposal forms and instructions can be downloaded from our conference website: wliha.org/COEH.

Conference registration and scholarship applications will open in February 2015. You can visit our conference website for updates over the coming months. In the meantime, please save the date!

 


 

End chronic homelessness and improve health? Yes, it can be done!

Kate Baber, Homelessness Policy and Advocacy Specialist

The expansion of Medicaid in Washington under the federal Affordable Care Act has extended health care coverage access to over 250,000 people living on low incomes. Despite this success, people experiencing chronic homelessness frequently face significant barriers to using Medicaid. Thus, they are often unable to regularly access health care or reach improved health outcomes.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines an individual as chronically homeless if:
1)   He or she has a disabling condition and
2a) has been homeless for longer than one year or
2b) more than four times in the last three years.

Washington’s 2014 annual point in time count identified 2,673 chronically homeless persons living outside. Unfortunately, people who face chronic homelessness experience high mortality rates, high rates of chronic physical health conditions, and high rates of behavioral health disabilities. The lack of housing, social supports, and untreated physical and behavioral health disabilities prevents this population from accessing regular care, leads to high utilization of public emergency services, and hinders people’s recovery.

Chronic homelessness is a serious problem in our state. However, we know we can solve it by bringing a housing intervention known as permanent supportive housing to scale. Permanent supportive housing is a specific affordable housing and service delivery model. HUD, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness recognize it as an evidence-based best practice. Under this model, affordable housing is paired with intensive tenancy support services, housing case management, and care coordination. Permanent supportive housing is designed to serve people who are experiencing or are at risk of chronic homelessness and who have a severe and persistent mental health disorder, a chemical dependency disability, or chronic and complex physical health conditions. Academic institutions and other organizations have rigorously evaluated this model at both the national and local levels. They've repeatedly shown that permanent supportive housing improves health and housing outcomes, creates efficiencies in care coordination, reduces emergency and crisis service utilization, and helps people with complex needs recover from illness and live with stability, autonomy, and dignity.

Although permanent supportive housing exists across Washington, there is not enough funding currently available to bring this model fully to scale. One of the primary gaps impeding this intervention's expansion is the lack of resources for the services portion provided in permanent supportive housing, services critical to the model’s success. Thus, the Housing Alliance has been exploring strategies to secure additional funds for these services, including the creation of a new Medicaid benefit. This benefit could cover the medically necessary services within permanent supportive housing. Medicaid is well positioned to cover a subset of these services. We believe this is the case because the population needing permanent supportive housing is unlikely to be able to access physical and behavioral health care consistently. This lack of access can change once they are receiving intensive supportive services that help them, 1) avoid chronic homelessness, 2) obtain and retain housing and reach long-term stability, and 3) navigate systems of care.

In recent months, we have collaborated with CSH and the Washington State Chronic Homeless Policy Academy to write a research paper exploring the concept of creating a new Medicaid benefit. We are very excited to publish the final paper and further explore this exciting idea with Housing Alliance members and stakeholders across the state. The paper provides background information regarding permanent supportive housing, chronic homelessness, and Medicaid. It identifies the barriers within Medicaid that prevent permanent supportive housing services from being currently covered, and it outlines a framework for developing a new Medicaid benefit in Washington. A new benefit would create a stable source of funding for a subset of the services provided in permanent supportive housing and could be paired with other resources to increase the availability of homes across Washington.

This fall, we plan on continuing to partner with stakeholders and lawmakers in developing this concept into a proposal that can be introduced during the 2015 legislative session. Stay tuned for updates on this exciting work, and in the meantime, be sure to check out our paper!

Creating a Medicaid Supportive Housing Services Benefit White Paper

Images (from top to bottom)
First image: Pictured left to right: Governor's Office Senior Policy Advisor Robert Crittenden, Rep. June Robinson (38th LD), Rep. Eileen Cody (34th LD) and Cottage Grove Commons resident John Harper. Cottage Grove Commons is a supportive housing development in the West Seattle neighborhood.
Second image: Cottage Grove Commons, supportive housing for 66 formerly homeless men and women living with serious mental/addictive illnesses or other disabling conditions.
Third image: 1811 Eastlake, supportive housing for 75 formally homeless men and women with chronic alcohol addiction.

 


 

Evergreen State tied 8th worst in the nation for affordable housing gap

Joaquin Uy, Communications Specialist

When it comes to finding an affordable home, challenges continue for Washington’s lowest income renters. This is according to a recently released joint report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (Housing Alliance).

The report is titled, Housing Spotlight: The Affordable Rental Housing Gap Persists. It reveals an acute and persistent shortage of rental homes across the nation that are both affordable and available to the lowest income Americans. The numbers specific to Washington State are particularly glaring:

Two full-time workers with a child earning Washington State’s minimum wage make about $39,000 per year. This number is just under 50% of the median income for a Seattle-Bellevue area family of three. In this income range, only 55 affordable and available units exist for every 100 households.

Unsurprisingly, according to the report, the less you earn, the less affordable homes available to you.

For instance in Spokane, where the area median income (AMI) is approximately $63,000, wait staff make about $23,000 a year or less (roughly 30% of AMI). For every 100 of these workers, the state only has 28 affordable and available homes.

The average fast food worker in Washington State earns roughly $12,000 a year. This is about 15% of the state’s median income (approximately $74,000). According to our findings, Washington residents earning this much will likely spend a great deal of time looking for a home because only 16 affordable housing units are available for every 100 similar households. Renters with incomes at or below 15% also tend to be elderly or disabled individuals living on fixed incomes, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In this income group, 90% of these renters spent more than half of their income on housing costs.

These harsh numbers not only contribute to Washington’s overall homelessness rate, but also makes the Evergreen State tied for 8th worst in terms of how many affordable and available homes we have for every 100 extremely low-income households. Statewide, there’s a need for 161,243 more rental homes to close the affordable housing gap for extremely low-income renters.

It’s always been difficult for lower income households to find affordable homes, and today it’s harder than ever. Renting has become an increasingly common choice among higher income households since the housing crisis. Nationally, the number of renters with incomes greater than 120% of area median income increased by 1.2 million between 2009 and 2012, transforming the rental market by putting upward pressure on rents.

"It’s a troubling paradox," says Housing Alliance Executive Director Rachael Myers. "Washington State is home to many Fortune 500 companies and successful corporations. Yet, despite this, the gap between the housing need and the availability of rental homes affordable to Washington’s most vulnerable continues. With the release of these numbers, the State Housing Trust Fund and local housing levies become extremely important components to the solution of this persistent crisis."

Despite the dreary numbers, the Housing Alliance believes this is a problem that can be solved. To this end, we’re currently in the process of finalizing our 2015 State Legislative Priorities. We’ll be releasing our agenda as 2014 draws to a close.

At the federal level, NLIHC calls for funding of the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF). The NHTF is a program signed into law in 2008 to distribute dedicated sources of revenue to states to preserve and expand the supply of rental housing targeted to extremely low-income households.

The report is available here:
1. Report Text
2. Report Appendices

More information about the NHTF is available at their website, nlihc.org/issues/nhtf

 


 

 

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