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Join this gathering of great minds...right in my back yard!

Ellie Lambert, Yakima County VISTA Supervisor

When I think about the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance’s upcoming Conference on Ending Homelessness, I think of the quote, “Great minds think alike.” From my personal experience, the conference is a great place to meet new people and talk about the latest ideas in ending homelessness. I also catch up with folks I work with from afar and take the opportunity to (finally) talk in-person about our challenges and successes.

This will be my third conference, and I can always count on being educated, energized and encouraged to go out into the world and make real change! For instance, I have been working to get more board members involved in advocacy. Past conference workshops about advocacy presented real world examples and really clarified for me the role of advocates versus lobbyists. I felt more confident encouraging advocates’ participation in Olympia when I gave them helpful information about the rules of what they could do and say to their legislators. And it came in very handy when I prepared our busload of advocates for their legislator meetings during this year’s Advocacy Day back in January.

I also enjoy the Conference on Ending Homelessness because I always see new faces and hear new ideas. I LOVE my local community of service providers and nonprofit people, but knowing that we are not alone in really helps. I know people everywhere are working towards the same goal of ending homelessness as I, but I don’t always get to hear about it. I also like the opportunity to have spontaneous conversation instead of relying on emails and phone calls (if I can catch anyone at their phone these days). Face-to-face interaction means creating possible support outside of my community. It means hearing fresh ideas and a new perspective. (It is also a new audience for that joke that everyone is sick of me telling at every meeting.) I always make time to catch up with old friends on the other side of the mountains and meet new ones. I get to expand my horizons all in one place.

The conference is in Yakima this year, and I couldn’t be happier. The Homeless Network of Yakima County will be celebrating their tenth anniversary with everyone at the conference. Folks will have an opportunity to check out the housing and homelessness world in Yakima and meet the hardworking people who address these issues every day.

My final reason for going is to have some face time with the Housing Alliance folks. While they are always super-friendly on the phone, it is always a pleasure to carve out a little time to talk about board advocacy with Ben and Beth, or advocacy with Alouise, or social media with Joaquin (who taught me how to “tweet” at this year’s Advocacy Day). This face time has helped me develop our advocacy efforts here in Yakima. Dialogue with them has been essential in improving my work.

Also, I just found out that 22 workshops have been approved by the National Association of Social Workers-Washington Chapter for continuing education units! You can go to the conference program page to see which ones have been approved. Basically attending this conference will have a triple benefit for some of you. You'll meet some amazing people from around the state who are just as committed as you towards ending homelessness and increasing more affordable homes. You'll get to experience the sites and sounds of (hopefully) sunny Yakima. And you'll be able to earn CEUs!

I will most definitely be going to this year’s conference, and luckily it is in my backyard. But I would go anywhere in Washington to attend this conference! I hope to see you there!

P.S. If you haven't yet registered, you should do it now! The early bird discount rate ends April 15. Also, you may receive additional discounts if your organization is a Housing Alliance member. Go here to register.

 


 

Stand for Compassion by Sitting with Discomfort

Alouise Urness, Community and Member Organizer

At Thursday’s Stand for Compassion demonstration in response to the assault on homeless people in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, one of the first speakers called out a value that at first seems at odds with compassion: discomfort, yes, discomfort as a good thing. Andrew Himes of the Compassionate Action Network (pictured right) advised the 100 or so gathered in the park where the assault happened nearly two weeks ago that we should “aspire to live in a city that is profoundly uncomfortable."

When we live surrounded by injustice, I agree that being comfortable means accepting the injustice. In an age of distraction, just staying awake to the injustice around us can be a huge challenge. Discomfort keeps us awake, so discomfort is actually appropriate. It would have been one thing to walk away from a pleasant and mildly inspiring lineup of speeches with this interesting idea to ponder. It was another thing altogether that the discomfort began moments later.

Fire Chief Gregory Dean was up next to speak, and as he approached the dais, an older man in ragged layers leaning on an aluminum cane made his own way across the cobblestones, stopping right in front of the firefighters making up in the front row of the crowd. His voice was a wheezing rasp, so I didn’t catch the words, but when he shook that cane, his disgust and anger were crystal clear.

The discomfort came when the usual window of tolerance for such an outburst came and went. It was there while the fire chief still stood, waiting his turn. And it was there while the firefighters listened, appearing to accept his shaming on behalf of their off-duty peers responsible for the assault. And it remained while more minutes went by, filled only with quiet wheezing anger.

When the man shook the cane once more at the firefighters as he headed back across the cobblestones, the fire chief began his prepared remarks. I actually don’t recall what he said. More memorable was what he didn’t say and the discomfort while he didn’t say it.

Susan Russell, a Real Change vendor and Housing Alliance Emerging Advocates Program graduate (pictured left) kept with the thread of discomfort by first challenging the perpetrators of the assault to join the fight to end homelessness. “I’ve always believed if you all walked a week in our shoes, this [homelessness] would not exist!” Susan said, before then challenging everyone present to get involved as well.

Finally Ray Kingfisher, from the Chief Seattle Club, closed out the event with a directive to "raise the mood." He told us all to hold hands (I am not kidding), and dance in a circle while he played his drum and sang. If that’s not discomfort in Seattle, I don’t know what is.

So I ask myself and all of us, now that we’ve stood for compassion, what will we do to stay awake and “profoundly uncomfortable” until everyone can rest, indoors and safe from harm? 

You can also watch an interview with Susan Russell from our friends at Firesteel here.

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 9

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Late on Thursday, March 13, the legislature adjourned (also known as "Sine Die"). After rumors of another special session began circulating earlier that week, the budget writers spent long nights seeking compromise and finalizing details. The agreed-upon budget was revealed at a Thursday press conference and then voted out of the House and Senate with large bipartisan support. See below for operating budget details.
 

Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge: "A Legislative Miracle"

We never gave up. And in the last hours of the session, the legislature took action on the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharges/Document Recording Fees. Grassroots advocacy and public pressure pushed this bill to the finish line. Senator Jan Angel (26th LD-Port Orchard) went from adamant opposition, to personally introducing the floor amendment. This was quite a remarkable turnaround in a matter of just two short weeks!! As one seasoned lobbyist noted, "ESSB 5875 passing is a legislative miracle."

Advocates across the state really made a huge difference. If you emailed or called your legislator, you should be proud that together we've preserved funds supporting programs and services that allow people to get back on their feet and leave the brutality of homelessness behind them.

Many lawmakers made notable remarks on the floor before voting on the bill Thursday night. We especially liked how Senator Marko Liias (21st LD-Mukilteo) described how remarkable it was he had the opportunity to vote on the bill that night.

When we pass out charts for school children explaining how a bill becomes a law, it does not cover bills like this one, that move through the process in different ways...It's also a testament to the power of everyday people in our democracy to speak up when they see a decision that they don't agree with. Everyday citizens like the local Catholic action folks that came and talked to me and I'm sure to many of my colleagues. Efforts by our news media through editorial boards and letters to the editor from around the state to talk about this issue. So I think this bill while it didn't come through the normal course, it is a testament to fact that our democracy works, that as legislators we listen and sometimes when we don't get it quite right, we fix our mistakes.
Senator Marko Liias (21st LD-Mukilteo)

You can watch his speech below.

And you can watch all the Senate floor speeches here.

Many lawmakers went above and beyond to get this bill passed. Senator Jeannie Darneille (27th LD-Tacoma) and Representative David Sawyer (29th LD-Tacoma) deserve special thanks for being the prime sponsors. Please send them a quick email to tell them how much you appreciate their leadership. But we'd be remiss if we didn't also point out the amazing, sometimes behind-the-scenes, work of the following lawmakers.

(Click on their names to send an email.)

Senate
Sen. Jeannie Darneille (27th LD-Tacoma)
Sen. Sharon Nelson (34th LD-Maury Island)
Sen. David Frockt (46th LD-Seattle)
Sen. Steve Hobbs (44th LD-Lake Stevens)
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th LD-Seattle)
Sen. Andy Billig (3rd LD-Spokane)
Sen. Don Benton (17th LD-Vancouver).
House
Rep. David Sawyer (29th LD-Tacoma)
Rep. Maureen Walsh (16th LD-Walla Walla)
Rep. Pat Sullivan (47th LD-Covington)

 


Legislators in support of ESHB 2368, the original Document Recording Fee Bill at our Thursday,
March 6th press conference.

Our Analysis of the Document Recording Bill that Finally Passed

In the end, it was ESSB 5875 that passed. You might remember that our preferred version of the bill ESHB 2368 died when Senator Jan Angel (26th LD-Port Orchard) refused to give it a vote in committee. The Majority Coalition Caucus introduced SB 5875 after intense public pressure. While the final bill isn't exactly what we wanted, it is a significant improvement because it pushes out the sunset dates until 2019. Here are more details on what the bill does:

  • Extends the $40 homeless housing and assistance document recording surcharges through June 30, 2019. (The bill combined the sunset dates so both will now sunset at the same time).
  • Requires 45 percent of the state's non-administrative allotment of the surcharge fee revenue to be set aside for "private rental housing payments," which is defined to specifically exclude nonprofits.
  • Changes which documents that the fee applies to by striking the term "real property" and by excluding documents recording a state, county, or city lien or satisfaction of a lien. More analysis is needed to determine the impacts on revenue collected.
  • Requires an annual independent audit of the expenditure of the document recording fee revenue. And if the audit determines that the Department of Commerce has failed to set-aside at least 45% of the funds for private rental housing payments, the Office of Financial Management (OFM) must receive a corrective action plan from the department and must monitor that plan for compliance for the remainder of the fiscal year. If the department is out of compliance in any month during that period, OFM must withhold a portion of the department's expenditures equal to that made during the month that the department was not in compliance.
  • Requires that the Office of Financial Management secure a yearly independent performance audit of the department's data and expenditures and must include a random sampling of local governments, contractors, and housing providers. Requires that OFM meet with the department and "a landlord representative" to review the findings and that OFM provide the landlord representative with an opportunity to include written comments with the independent audit's findings. If the audit finds that the department has failed to set-aside 45% of the funds for for-profit landlords, then the audit must include a recommendation to the legislature on alternative means of distributing the funds. Additionally, OFM must secure another independent audit of the department's use of the funds which will include recommendations for policy and "operational improvements" on the use of the funds by counties and by the department. The report is due by December 1, 2016.
  • Requires local governments receiving the funds to maintain and distribute an interested landlord list and to take reasonable efforts to require local providers to conduct quarterly outreach to private for-profit landlords about opportunities to rent to the homeless.
  • Requires the department to convene a stakeholder group that includes real estate and private for-profit landlord representatives to find a new funding source that does not include a surcharge on document recording fees. The stakeholder group must be convened by 2017 and must submit a report to the legislature by December 1, 2017.

The Housing Alliance will be closely monitoring how all the new requirements play out.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th LD-Seattle) pointing out the highly problematic bill language containing the 45% quota for for-profit landlords (specifically excluding nonprofits with housing).
 

Majority Coalition Caucus Refuses to Pass Capital Budget

The Senate leadership refused to pass a Supplemental Capital Budget, thus disappointing stakeholders of all political persuasions. It was the first time since 1996 that such an opportunity was lost. The lack of a supplemental capital budget means that the we lose $5 million for energy efficient affordable housing, $2 million for weatherization, $6 million for capital projects serving people with chronic mental illness, and the earmarks for a handful of affordable housing projects.

The Housing Alliance will be working throughout the interim to deepen support for affordable housing among a variety of lawmakers. Stay tuned.
 

Final Supplemental Operating Budget

Here is a quick overview of how the final budget impacted key programs:

Housing and Essential Needs Program (HEN)

- No changes in program or funding.

Aged, Blind & Disabled Program (ABD)

 $850,000 in savings from SB 6573 swept to general fund.

HEN Incapacity Exams

 $600,000 in assumed Affordable Care Act savings swept to general fund.

Homeless Certification Pilot

 $26,000 from Home Security Fund used to fund two-year pilot based on the concept in HB 2415.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

Approximately $5.8 million was reinvested into TANF programs. Highlights include funding for:

  1. A 15% incentive payment for TANF households that participate in their individual responsibility plan for 20 hours or more a week.
  2. Modifying the AREN program from a $750 lifetime maximum to a $750 yearly maximum (AREN = Additional Requirements for Emergent Needs and is a program that provides emergency rent or utility assistance to TANF clients.
  3. Creating a Rapid Re-housing home visit/education pilot for homeless WorkFirst recipients.

An important TANF bill also passed in the last hours of the session. Here’s the summary from Laurie Lippold of Partners for Our Children.

HB 2585, the Kinship Child-Only TANF Bill, passed shortly before Sine Die (official adjournment of session). This bill remedies an eligibility inequity for relatives receiving child-only TANF and was essentially dead. With the "it's-not-over-'til-it's-over" mentality, advocacy continued. And in the end, the bill passed the Senate 48-0 with one excused. Now more caregivers will be eligible for child-only TANF funding to help support their families in times of need.

The Housing Alliance will be posting a blog update in the next week with more details on how TANF fared this session. Stay tuned!

   
We posted the left image on Facebook, once Sen. Angel killed ESHB 2368.
We then posted the right image after we learned about the four-year surcharge extension!

 

Extended Foster Care Bill

The Extended Foster Care Bill was one of the Housing Alliance’s support items, led by the The Mockingbird Society. Here’s another update from Laurie Lippold about how this bill, like the Document Recording Fee Bill came back from the dead to eventually get passed!

Again, the phrase "it's not over 'til it's over" could not have been truer than it was this session. By all accounts, HB 2335, the Extended Foster Care Bill, died in Senate Ways and Means. But through hard work and the commitment of a number of legislative champions, the bill passed shortly before Sine Die. Providing this extra support until age 21 has the potential to significantly improve outcomes for these young adults.

The final bill does the following:

  • Expands eligibility criteria to allow a youth to request extended foster care services if the youth engages in employment for 80 hours or more per month.
  • Limits expenditures on the new category of extended foster care to the funding provided specifically for this purpose.
  • Adds an effective date of March 1, 2015.

Special thanks to Laurie and to Jim Theofelis from The Mockingbird Society for their amazing advocacy for children in foster care.
 

The Interim: A Great Opportunity to Advancing Affordable Housing and Homelessness Issues

The interim is a strategic time to educate your lawmakers to deepen their support of our issues. The Housing Alliance is putting together an interim workbook (stay tuned for more details). But in the meantime, we encourage you to start thinking about doing some or all of the following:

  • If you work at an affordable housing organization, invite all your local lawmakers to tour your homes or of the site that you wish to build a future project. We can help you prepare fact sheets about local need and provide any other support you may want.
  • Invite your legislators to meet at your local shelter or where you meet clients. Share with them the realities that people in their district are facing and consider inviting someone directly impacted by your services to join you. The Housing Alliance can provide support, especially in prepping people to share their stories.
  • When you meet with lawmakers, be sure to involve your board. This can both help to educate your board on how decisions made in Olympia and in D.C. impact your organization's efforts, while also educating lawmakers from a variety of perspectives.
  • If you are an individual advocate, unaffiliated with an organization, please also consider meeting with your lawmaker to tell them why you care about ending homelessness and expanding access to affordable housing. The Housing Alliance can support you and provide talking points.

Again, thank you for being an advocate and for taking action this session. As the passage of ESSB 5875 attests, advocacy can achieve the impossible. Let's keep it up and and make more progress to expand access to affordable housing and to end homelessness. Housing Advocates have a lot to do during the interim to build more legislative champions. Our sister organization, the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund will also be very active this summer and fall.

To learn more, sign up for updates and news by clicking here.

 


 

Phone Action for the 25th & 47th Districts

The Action Team

Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) bill negotiators have been assigned to work with the House on a compromise bill.

Senator Joe Fain (47th LD, R-Auburn) and Senator Bruce Dammeier (25th LD, R- Puyallup) currently hold central negotiating roles and will be key decision makers on the Senate’s final position on the Homeless Housing and Assistance surcharge (ESHB 2368).

And today is supposed to be "sine die" or the end of session. But unfortunately we still don't have an acceptable resolution that protects the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharges from sunsetting. Our concerns with the MCC's bill include:

  • "For-profit Landlord Provision" that would restrict a significant portion of the homelessness funds solely to the for-profit, private market, shutting out homeless housing nonprofits. We believe private/public/nonprofit partnerships are important for ending homelessness. But language that seeks to line the pockets of for-profit landlords, instead of allowing state homeless dollars to be spent in the most effective and efficient manner is egregious and sets a very dangerous precedent.
  • Merely extends the Homeless Housing & Assistance Surcharge by one year, rather than eliminate the sunsets.
  • Inserts bureaucratic red tape for program administrators that will impede the ability to use the funds in an effective and efficient manner.

So...if you live in either of these districts, please call:


Senator Fain’s office:
(360) 786-7692

Senator Dammeier’s office:
(360) 786-7648

Use this script (feel free to personalize it):

"As your constituent, I want you to make sure your colleagues stop weakening the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge bill and that you pass a bill that eliminates the sunsets and that does not have a special quota for for-profit landlords. Please pass a bill more closely resembling E-S-H-B 2368. Thank you."

Edit: March 13, 2014 9:43am

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 8

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Last week will go down in history as the week that the legislature shook in their boots over homelessness funding. The issue of ESHB 2368, the Document Recording Fee/Homeless Housing & Assistance Surcharge Bill appeared in over 30 print articles in papers across the state and also online in both traditional and blog outlets. The media blitz culminated in Friday night’s King 5 interview with Senator Jan Angel (26th LD) in which she retracted her position on ESHB 2368. The spotlight was truly on the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus’s (MCC) opposition to protecting state homelessness funds. Highlights include Senator Steve Hobbs’s (44th LD) Seattle Times op-ed, which was followed the next day by the bold position by the Seattle Times Editorial Board, in which they declared that, “The homeless are victims of legislative malpractice.”

FINAL WEEK OF SESSION
ACTION ALERT!

Thanks to your calls and your emails, ESHB 2368, once dead is now back in play! But we still have far to go in a short amount of time. These next four days a lot of bad things could happen to the Document Recording Fee Bill. But with you and your networks taking repeated action these last few days of this session, we can make sure ESHB 2368 makes it onto the Governor's desk intact.

Click here to start the email process.

And you also must send this link around so others like you can take action: http://bit.ly/1fNstmI

 

Like We Said: It Ain't Over!

We posted this image last Monday. And now, thanks to you, our "12th Advocate," we have traveled several yards downfield! No touchdown yet. But we're close. That's why we need you to keep making noise! Email and Call and get others to Take Action too! Use this script when you call the legislative hotline at 1.800.562.6000 to leave a message with your legislators and the Governor:

"Please make sure the homeless housing and assistance surcharge fees don’t sunset by supporting E-S-H-B 2368. Ensure this bill gets to the governor's desk with a permanent sunset and without an amendment that would force administrators to use the funds on for-profit landlords."

THANK YOU!!!

The Seattle Times Opinion: State about to drain money to help homeless

"We should be combatting homelessness, not causing it."
Senator Steve Hobbs (44th LD)

The News Tribune: Don't gut vital funding for homelessness prevention

"We can do better, and we must do better for the thousands of anxious families that wonder where they will spend their nights."
Senator Jeannie Darneille (27th LD)

 

Gong Action for Legislative Action

On Thursday, the Housing Alliance was joined by people personally impacted by homelessness, lawmakers, and fellow advocates to recognize each of the 5,043 people found trying to survive outside during the January 2013 annual point-in-time count. Each person struck a gong solemnly, with advocates and lawmakers taking turns. Some were reflective during their turn, while others used the opportunity to ring it as loudly as possible with one person saying, “I hope the Senate hears this.” TVW did a good job of covering the Gong Action here.

During the Gong Action event, we also convened legislators and other for a press conference nearby. Formerly homeless veteran Mindy Woods shared her story of success after being helped by a YCWA program funded by the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge. Our friends over at Firesteel captured her story here:

 

We're Not in the Clear Just Yet...

On Saturday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee updated Monday’s 10:00am hearing schedule with a new bill by Senator Andy Hill (45th LD), who is also chair of the Ways and Means Committee. As of writing, this mysterious bill SB 5875 has no content, but said it was regarding the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge. We were able to obtain the draft bill language and spent the weekend mobilizing advocates to attend Monday’s hearing. The bill is similar to versions written by the Rental Housing Association and other landlord lobby groups.

More About SB 5875 

It does not eliminate the sunsets on the surcharges. Rather, the bill merely extends the $10 sunset out by one more year. The measure also contains the "For-profit Landlord Amendment" requiring that the 45% set-aside of the state portion of funds (already in the House version) be for the exclusive use of for-profit landlords. This means that housing authorities and nonprofits like the YWCA wouldn't be allowed to use this funding for their homeless housing. It also requires local government to literally email other landlords before allowing the funds to be used in another landlord’s unit.

This is a bizarre and counter-productive requirement that would add unnecessary administrative red tape and delay – and potentially jeopardize – the securing of private market rental units. The draft bill language has other serious problems and we hope that the MCC continues to feel the heat and the need to compromise.

Also, on Sunday The Olympian Editorial Board called on lawmakers to pass our bill. “Angel was playing insider politics at its worst, with no concern about punishing homeless children and families. Smarter and more compassionate legislators should pass this bill.” You can read the entire article here.

I can't believe we have just four days left. Please help us keep up the pressure before it's too late! Take action today and ask your friends to join you.


5,043 unsheltered homeless people counted across the state in January 2013.

 


 

Sound the Gong Against Homelessness at the Capitol

Help Make Ending Homelessness a Priority in Olympia

Sound the gong on Thursday, March 6 to urge lawmakers to take action!


The ticker for counting to 5,043.

If you would like to ring the gong, please RSVP as soon as possible with your availability to:

Ben Miksch - benm(at)wliha(.)org or
Kate Baber - kateb(at)wliha(.)org

Anything you can do to help spread the word is appreciated!

Because 5,043 people sleeping outside is unacceptable!

The state legislative session ends next week, and time is running out to fight for deeper investments in affordable housing and pass ESHB 2368 to prevent $68 million in funding for homelessness services from expiring. We need your help! Join us for an action to recognize each of the 5,043 individuals who were counted living outside at night across Washington during the 2013 annual point in time count. We will spend five hours at the state capitol ringing a gong once for each person who was counted to raise awareness about the number of people living without shelter in our state. We need volunteers to ring the gong, so please RSVP if you can sign-up for a shift.

Let’s remind legislators that we can’t wait until next year to address homelessness.

We must act now!

Details
Gong Action for Homelessness Awareness
Thursday, March 6, 2014
10:00am - 3:00pm
Action will take place in front of the Legislative Building North Steps.

During Washington’s 2013 Point in Time Count, volunteers counted 5,043 persons living outside.

Special thanks to Real Change for inspiring this legislative action.

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 7

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy
Ben Miksch, Affordable Housing Policy & Advocacy Specialist
Kate Baber, Homeless Policy & Advocacy Specialist

Last week was so full of ups and downs, so full of developments, twists, and turns, that it is really hard to believe all the action was packed into just five days.

Monday
The week started with the release of the Senate Operating and Capital Budgets with a mysterious placeholder for a bill with no content about the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) and Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) programs (see below for an explanation).

Tuesday
ESHB 2368, the Homeless Housing & Assistance Surcharge Bill (aka the Document Recording Fee Bill), was heard in the Senate.

Wednesday
The House released their budgets with a very disappointing Housing Trust Fund allocation.

Thursday
The Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee heard SHB 2537, the Fair Tenant Screening Act. Then that same committee failed to vote on ESHB 2368 when Senator Jan Angel (R-27th LD) refused to allow a vote.

Friday
Senator Sharon Nelson (D-34th LD) attempted a dramatic floor procedure called a “Ninth Order” to force a vote on ESHB 2368. It failed, but it raised the stakes and the profile of the bill dramatically.

And all week, impressive numbers of advocates across the state were taking action to tell lawmakers to do the right thing. The week of action culminated on Friday with a Capitol Call-in Day of Affordable Housing and Homelessness Action. By midday, so many people had joined that the state hotline operators reported a huge volume of calls.

 

Take Action: Continue the Calls!

With less than two weeks left (session is scheduled to end on March 13), we’ve got to keep the pressure on our lawmakers to invest deeper in the Housing Trust Fund and to pass ESHB 2368 without significant compromises! If you haven’t taken action yet (or lately) please do today. It isn’t too late to call. If you already called on Friday, please find at least one person today that didn’t, and ask them to call. Share with them how easy it was and offer to stand by their side while they make the call themselves. Here is the phone number and sample script:

Call 1.800.562.6000 between 8:00am-8:00pm and leave one message for all of your lawmakers (including the Governor):

"Please make sure the homeless housing and assistance surcharge fees don’t sunset by supporting E-S-H-B 2368. And neither the House nor the Senate Capital Budget invests enough in affordable housing. Please help ensure all Washington residents have opportunities for safe, healthy affordable homes by making a deeper investment in affordable housing."

Read on for detailed updates (and don’t miss the update on the Document Recording Fee Bill).

 

Special Thank-Yous

  • Dave Finet from the Opportunity Council who drove from snowy Bellingham *twice* to testify for the Document Recording Fee Bill and for the Housing Trust Fund.
  • Thomas Green who came for the third time this session to share his personal story to illustrate the importance of the Fair Tenant Screening Act.
  • All the dedicated Vancouver advocates, including Andy Silver and Craig Lyons who have gone above and beyond to organize their community and educate their lawmakers to pass the Document Recording Fee Bill!

And again, thanks for being an advocate for affordable housing and ending homelessness.

 

The Housing Trust Fund

The Housing Alliance was extremely disappointed with both the House and Senate Capital Budgets. Although the Senate’s lack of any appropriation was no surprise, the House’s low appropriation was. We knew that the capacity of the Supplemental Capital Budget was very low, but we had hoped for a deeper investment.

The House budget allocated $5 million for energy efficient housing (this was originally in the governor’s budget). The House also allocates $2 million for weatherization of homes for low-income homeowners. This program pays for weatherization specialists to perform air-sealing work, to add insulation, to seal leaky duct seams, and to replace inefficient appliances in the homes of low-income residents. And the House budget also includes a $6 million pot that housing for people with chronic mental illness can apply for (although they will compete with a large list of other important capital needs related to treatment for people with mental illness). Additionally, the House also funds a handful of individual projects, including a King County Housing Authority project called Vantage Point.

We also have a new budget tracking tool that allows you to quickly compare all three budget proposals.

 

Housing and Essential Needs/ Aged, Blind & Disabled and the Mysterious Bill Unveiled

The House of Representatives’ supplemental budget proposal makes no changes to the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) and the Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) programs that offer various types of assistance to people with long- and short-term disabilities. The 2013-2015 Biennial Operating Budget’s HEN and ABD appropriations are carried forward.

A collective sigh of relief was exhaled across the state last week when the Senate’s Operating Budget made no attempt to gut HEN and ABD. Another sigh of relief happened when the content of a mysterious new bill was revealed on Tuesday.

The bill in question was SB 6573The Senate’s supplemental budget proposal assumes the passage of this bill. Senate Bill 6573 basically changes the definition of disability for the HEN and ABD programs. If passed, this bill would result in $850,000 in ABD and Medicaid savings due to ABD recipients moving from ABD to HEN, and then from “Presumptive SSI” Medicaid to “expansion” Medicaid (that’s the Medicaid that has been expanded thanks to the Affordable Care Act). The Senate proposes to transfer this savings to the Operating Budget’s General Fund. We support SB 6573, but believe the savings should be reinvested into HEN to accommodate the resulting pressure on the HEN caseload. This is especially important since HEN is nearly at capacity and may not be able to serve a larger caseload without additional resources.

The Senate’s budget proposal also assumes $600,000 in HEN and ABD incapacity exam savings due to Medicaid expansion. This savings is transferred to the operating budget’s general fund. We are concerned that this saving assumption is too high, and we believe any savings should be reinvested back into HEN and ABD rather than the general fund.

The Housing Alliance urges the legislature to pass SB 6573 and to reinvest its savings into HEN. Any incapacity exam savings should be reinvested back into HEN and ABD. 

 

 

SHB 2537 - The Fair Tenant Screening Act

SHB 2537 by Representative June Robinson (38th LD) had a hearing on Thursday in the Senate, but the committee chair, Senator Jan Angel (26th LD), refused to bring it up for a vote. This means that the bill has died because last Friday was the cutoff for bills to leave a policy committee. But not all is lost. The bill had a long journey and we educated a lot of lawmakers on the importance of this issue along the way. Our sponsors and allies in the legislature are frustrated by the landlord lobby’s opposition and are ready to keep the fight going in 2015. We’ve also made in-roads with some stakeholders who were previously opposed and we will hit the interim running to move this and other tenant protections forward. Representative Robinson, Senator David Frockt (46th LD), tenant advocate Thomas Green, the YWCA of Seattle/King/Snohomish Counties, Solid Ground, the Tenants Union, Columbia Legal Services, Partners for Our Children, parent testifiers Jason and Lila, and more, have all worked hard on this bill. We think it is safe to say that none of us are giving up, and we will be back in 2015 to eliminate this unfair and unnecessary barrier to housing.

 

ESHB 2368 - The Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge

As those of you who have read any of the flurry of news articles on this (see the list below), last week was very dramatic for this important bill. Here is a quick recap:

Thursday
ESHB 2368 was scheduled for executive session in the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance (FIHI) Committee (being scheduled for executive session is typically needed in order to get a committee vote). But FIHI Co-chair Senator Jan Angel (26th LD) abruptly adjourned the committee before allowing a vote on it. TVW cutoff but we were able to get the audio and that recorded Senator Don Benton (17th LD), Senator Sharon Nelson (34th LD), and FIHI Co-chair Steve Hobbs (44th LD) in a heated disagreement with Senator Angel. Unfortunately, she was obstinate and would not reopen committee. Also, Senator Benton made it known at that moment that he was indeed planning on attaching a very bad amendment to the bill. This was a surprise because by all accounts he had withdrawn it. The amendment would have both fees sunset together in 2020, make the 45% set-aside of the state’s portion permanent, limit that set-aside only to for-profit landlords (explicitly excluding nonprofits), and add a host of other extremely problematic requirements.

Friday
Senator Nelson (34th LD) with her caucus colleagues, attempted a floor procedure called a “ninth order” in which a bill can be pulled straight from a committee to the floor for a vote. Unfortunately the motion failed along party lines 26 to 23, but this action raised the profile of the bill dramatically. In a statement by Senator Nelson’s caucus Senator Christine Rolfes and Senator Steve Hobbs had these fierce comments to share:

"In my district, and in districts across the state, this is the most important source of funding we have to help the homeless. People are playing politics with an issue that should be supported by everyone. There shouldn’t even be a second thought."
Senator Christine Rolfes (23rd LD)
"To simply do away with a primary source of funding that actually helps solve the homeless problem is ignorant at best and evil at worst."
Senator Steve Hobbs (44th LD)

You can also watch the Ninth Order action here:

We are not done yet! Because of both the amazing advocacy coming on this issue from all over the state and because of last week's drama, the bill has received a lot of media and public attention. This helps us enormously in our efforts to seek other means of getting the bill passed. Stay tuned for updates and next steps and please help us keep the pressure on by making a call to your lawmakers today (if you didn’t on Friday). And please get others to join you in your advocacy.

In the meantime, Senator Sharon Nelson and Senator Steve Hobbs deserve quick email of thanks for their extraordinary efforts last week. Please encourage them to keep fighting!

Click here to send a thank you email to Senator Sharon Nelson.
Click here to send a thank you email to Senator Steve Hobbs.

List of media reports about Thursday evening's FIHI drama:

Publicola - Morning Fizz: "What a Weird Evening."
Tacoma News Tribune - Shared Senate committee leadership turns contentious over homelessness money
The Stranger SLOG - 
Republican State Senator Shocks Colleagues, Kills Funding for Homeless Programs
Spokesman Review - 
Flurry of excitement in the Senate
Crosscut - Angel kills housing bill
Ballard News Tribune - Kohl-Welles appalled by Republicans' move to keep Washington Families out in the cold

 

Homeless Children’s Education Act

Thanks for our friends and advocates at the UW Children & Youth Legislative Advocacy Clinic (CAYLAC) for this update:

SB 6074 had a successful hearing last week in the House Education Committee who then passed it out unanimously. It is now in the House Rules Committee for a second reading! Likewise, HB 2373 was passed out of the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education and is now in the Senate Rules Committee. The Senate budget included funds for the small fiscal impact of the bill, but the House budget did not.

Advocates, including the Housing Alliance, urge the House to amend their Operating Budget to include the necessary funds.

 

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

The House of Representative’s supplemental budget proposal reinvests $17.023 million in TANF underspend funds back into the program. This investment is an important first step to rebuilding this critical family safety net program, which was deeply cut during the Great Recession. Some of the highlights in the House budget that are closely related to homelessness and housing stability include:

  • Creates a 15% incentive payment to families who meet DSHS engagement requirements. In 2011, the TANF cash grant was cut by 15% and is now $372/month for a family of two, or just 30% of the federal poverty level. This incentive payment will provide much needed resources to families to help pay for their basic needs, including rent and utility bills.
  • Restores the Additional Requirements for Emergent Needs (AREN) assistance amount to a maximum of $750 per household per year rather than per lifetime. AREN provides emergency housing and utility assistance to struggling families and helps them avoid eviction and homelessness. This appropriation would restore a 2011 budget cut, which reduced AREN assistance to $750 per lifetime. Currently, 13.6% of TANF families are homeless, so the restoration of AREN assistance is critical.
  • Funds House Bill 2585, which will ensure kinship care providers who rely on unearned income, such as retirement income, have equal access to child-only TANF assistance. This bill will help low-income grandparents and other kinship care providers meet their families’ basic needs when they assume care of a child relative.
  • The Senate’s budget proposal reduces WorkFirst funding by $4.11 million, but does not cut the TANF cash grant. The Senate appropriates $52,000 to fund SB 6394, which expands kinship care providers’ access to child-only TANF.

The Housing Alliance urges the legislature to adopt the House of Representative’s TANF supplemental budget proposal since it makes significant investments to improve TANF families’ housing stability and economic security.

Please stay tuned for more information about our policy and budget priorities. Like last week, a lot can happen this week. And we’ll need your quick and consistent advocacy to ensure legislators do the right thing.

 


 

Our 2014 Budget Analysis

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy
Kate Baber, Homelessness Policy and Advocacy Specialist

For a quick comparison of each of the three budgets, check out our new Budget Tracker here.

Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Budget

Neither the House nor Senate Capital Budget invest deeply in affordable housing. The Senate budget invests nothing. The House does a lot better with a $5 million allocation for energy efficient housing (this was originally in the governor’s budget). Go here for more information on this particular budget item and search for "High Energy Efficient". The House also allocates $2 million for weatherization of homes for low-income homeowners. This program pays for weatherization specialists to perform air-sealing work, to add insulation, to seal leaky duct seams, and to replace inefficient appliances in the homes of low-income residents. And the House budget also includes a $6 million pot that housing for people with chronic mental illness can apply for (although they will compete with a large list of other important capital needs related to treatment for people with mental illness). Additionally, the House also funds a handful of individual projects including a King County Housing Authority project called Vantage Point.

The Housing Alliance urges both the House and Senate to invest deeper in affordable housing.

Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) & Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) Programs

The House of Representative’s supplemental budget proposal makes no changes to HEN or ABD from last year. The 2013-2015 Biennial Operating Budget’s HEN and ABD appropriations are carried forward.

The Senate’s supplemental budget proposal assumes the passage of Senate Bill 6573, which would change the definition of disability for the HEN and ABD programs. 

If passed, this bill would result in $850,000 in ABD and Medicaid savings due to ABD recipients moving from ABD to HEN, and from Presumptive SSI Medicaid to the expansion of Medicaid from the Affordable Care Act. The Senate proposes to transfer this savings to the Operating Budget’s General Fund. We support SB 6573, but believe the savings should be reinvested in HEN to accommodate the resulting HEN caseload increase. This is especially important since HEN is nearly at capacity and may not be able to serve a larger caseload of people without additional resources.

The Senate’s budget proposal also assumes $600,000 in HEN and ABD incapacity exam savings due to Medicaid expansion. This savings is transferred to the Operating Budget’s General Fund. We are concerned that this saving assumption is too high. And we believe any savings should be reinvested back into HEN and ABD rather than the general fund.

The Housing Alliance urges the legislature to pass SB 6573 and to reinvest its savings into HEN. Any incapacity exam savings should be reinvested back into HEN and ABD.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

The House of Representative’s supplemental budget proposal reinvests $17.023 million in TANF underspend funds back into the program. This investment is an important first step to rebuilding this critical family safety net program, which was deeply cut during the Great Recession. Some of the highlights in the House budget that are closely related to homelessness and housing stability include:

  • Creating a 15% incentive payment to families who meet DSHS engagement requirements. In 2011, the TANF cash grant was cut by 15% and is now $372/month for a family of two, or just 30% of the federal poverty level. This incentive payment will provide much needed resources to families to help pay for their basic needs, including rent and utility bills.
  • Restoring the Additional Requirements for Emergent Needs (AREN) assistance amount to a maximum of $750 per household per year rather than per lifetime. AREN provides emergency housing and utility assistance to struggling families and helps them avoid eviction and homelessness. This appropriation would restore a 2011 budget cut, which reduced AREN assistance to $750 per lifetime. Currently, 13.6% of TANF families are homeless, so the restoration of AREN assistance is critical.
  • Funding House Bill 2585, which will ensure kinship care providers who rely on unearned income, such as retirement income, have equal access to child-only TANF assistance. This bill will help low-income grandparents and other kinship care providers meet their families’ basic needs when they assume care of a child relative.

The Senate’s budget proposal reduces WorkFirst funding by $4.11 million, but does not cut the TANF cash grant. The Senate appropriates $52,000 to fund Senate Bill 6394, which expands kinship care providers’ access to child-only TANF.

The Housing Alliance urges the legislature to adopt the House of Representative’s TANF supplemental budget proposal since it makes significant investments to improve TANF families’ housing stability and economic security.

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 6

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Last week started with huddles of advocates and lobbyists outside the Senate and House chambers, sending last minute pleas to lawmakers to advance or oppose bills. In the end, the House voted out over 300 bills, with the Senate voting out just over 180. Over 1,600 bills were introduced this year and many are now "dead." Though some policy bills with a state budget impact can be considered "Necessary to Implement the Budget" or NTIB and are exempt from many of the cutoffs.

Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge Bill (ESHB 2368) & Tenant Screening Act (SHB 2537) Updates

Even though there is only three weeks of the legislative session left to go, a lot of hurdles and developments lie ahead for affordable housing and homelessness priorities. Policy bills have to clear committees by this Friday the 28th, and then bills with a fiscal impact have to clear the fiscal committees by Monday the 3rd. Luckily, Senator Steve Hobbs (44th LD) and Senator Mark Mullet (5th LD) successfully pushed for both the Fair Tenant Screening Act (SHB 2537) and the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge Bill (ESHB 2368), aka the "Document Recording Fee Bill" to be scheduled for hearings in the Senate. ESHB 2368 is set for a 1:30pm hearing on Tuesday and SHB 2537 is set for 1:30pm on Thursday. Tune in to TVW to watch the hearings live. Advocates and service providers are lined up to testify and will share their stories on why these bills are so important.

Double Action Advocacy!

Senate Policy Action 
House Budget Action

ESHB 2368 (Homeless Housing & Assistance Surcharge) and SHB 2537 (fair & portable tenant screening reports) are still in the Senate. Help us get these passed out. And the House is set to release their budgets this week. Tell your representatives you support a sizable investment in the Housing Trust Fund.  Click here to start the email process.

And please send this link around so others like you can take action: http://bit.ly/1fbYgaD

Once/if the bills clear that committee, the Fair Tenant Screening Act will advance to the Senate Rules Committee, and the Surcharge Bill will advance to Senate Ways and Means. Stay tuned to the Housing Alliance all week for updates.

Everyone Should Have the Opportunity to Live in a Safe, Healthy, & Affordable Home

With the Senate and House budgets expected to be released this week, we will finally learn what each chamber has in store for the Housing Trust Fund. The size of the Capital Budget has been a moving target, and many were waiting for last week's official revenue forecast to see if any significant changes were in store to the previous revenue projections. The budget news was relatively goodno negative surprises because the revenue is coming in closely to what was last projected. There is a small (in state budget terms) increase of $30 million expected, and it is certainly good news that the state keeps heading in the direction of growth rather than the painful budget deficits of so many previous cycles.

Stay tuned for updates on the Housing Trust Fund and on the other important budget related programs like Aged, Blind and Disabled and Housing & Essential Needs.

A Week of Action!

This week is a critical week to make your voice heard. Please join us in pushing for the Senate to pass the Fair Tenant Screening Act and the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge Bill and for both chambers to support a deep investment in the Housing Trust Fund!

Here is what you can do this week:

Monday
Email your elected officials today. We make it easy to do. Click here to start. Then spread the word on Facebook and Twitter using this link: http://bit.ly/1fbYgaD

Make sure your friends, colleagues and family join you in advocacy. Also, watch for budget updates. The Senate is expected to release their budgets today, Monday.

Tuesday
If you work at or are on the board of a nonprofit or a company committed to expanding affordable housing and ending homelessness, then send an organizational letter to local lawmakers. We have sample letters for the Housing Trust Fund and for the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge Bill ready to go.

Click here to download the Sample ESHB 2368 Organizational Letter.
Click here to download the Sample HTF Supplemental Appropriation Organizational Letter.
Please email Ben if you need anything else (and please send us a copy of the letter!)

Wednesday
Get ready for Friday's Affordable Housing and Homelessness Call-in Day! Spread the word to your colleagues and on social media! Also, watch for budget updates. The House is expected to release their budgets this Wednesday.
Thursday
Rest your fingers and get ready to call the capitol tomorrow!

Friday
Call 1.800.562.6000 between 8:00am-8:00pm and ask all of your lawmakers to:

"Please make sure the homeless housing and assistance surcharge fees don’t sunset by supporting ESHB 2368. And neither the House nor the Senate Capital Budget invests enough in affordable housing. Please help ensure all Washington residents have opportunities for safe, healthy affordable homes by making a deeper investment in affordable housing." *

*Script updated February 27, 2014, 9:46pm.

Once you've made your call, please tell the world that you took action by proudly displaying our "I-am-an-awesome-advocate badge" on the square photo of your Facebook profile and Twitter page. It's easy:

1. Download the image below by dragging it from here to your desktop or by right-click on it and then clicking "save image as" and saving it on your desktop.

2. Then upload the image to the square picture in Facebook and...
 
...the only picture available to you in Twitter.

3. Don't forget to follow-up with your friends and get them to make calls and change their photos too.

Special thanks to Stephanie Velasco at Housing Development Consortium of Seattle/King County for designing the graphic!

Thank you again for all you are doing to advance affordable housing and homelessness issues this year. Advocates across the state have turned the notch up this session and it is working! From Vancouver to Yakima, to Spokane and Bellingham and more, you are being heard by your lawmakers. We've had more bipartisan support this year than in recent memory. And the fact that our issues are still moving is a testament to the deep dedication of all of you. Keep it going!


Never too early to start advocating!

 


 

Why the Homeless Housing Assistance Surcharge Sunset CANNOT Wait!

Ben Miksch, Affordable Housing Policy and Advocacy Specialist

ESHB 2368 – the bill to remove the sunset on the Homeless Housing Assistance Surcharge (a.k.a. document recording fees) – is currently sitting in the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee awaiting a hearing. A number of hurdles still stand in the way of Governor Jay Inslee signing the legislation into law. And the amount of time we have to clear those hurdles is shrinking quickly.

Housing advocates all over the state are doing a great job talking to legislators about the importance of preventing the sunsets of over 60% of funding for homeless housing in every county. You’ve also been great at educating lawmakers about how the cuts would shut the doors at emergency cold weather drop-in centers, domestic violence shelters, housing for homeless youth, and effective, life-saving programs throughout the state. But a lot of legislators have responded with something along these lines:

"This is a really important issue and I support it. But the sunset isn’t until July 2015. Can’t we wait until next year?”

That’s not an unreasonable question if you’re working off of a timeline that looks a little like this:

But that timeline isn’t the whole picture. The truth is if ESHB 2368 isn't passed this year, programs will have to implement cuts before the legislature has a chance to pass a bill in 2015.

Homeless Housing Assistance Surcharge revenues are awarded on a competitive basis. The next funding rounds will begin to take place this fall (2014) in most counties. Even if passing a bill in the 2015 Legislative Session was a sure thing, counties aren't able to contract for services based on what the law might be. Funding projections must be based on current law and that means a cut of $10 on July 2015 and of another $20 in July 2017.

That means this fall, local communities will have to start preparing for cuts to be implemented in early 2015.

This is what the timeline really looks like:

The legislature must act now if they want to prevent vulnerable populations like veterans, people living with mental illness, domestic violence survivors, homeless families, and others from being impacted by those cuts.

Take action! Tell your legislators ESHB 2368 can’t wait until next year!

If you need to see the numbers on how badly the cuts will be for state and county homelessness funding, check out this handout here that also summarizes the urgency to get ESHB 2368 passed this session.

The Housing Alliance is circulating a sample letter for organizations to fill out to send to their legislators. We don’t have a lot of time on this! If your organization is willing to fill out a letter, especially if your organization uses these fees to provide services to your community, please contact me at benm(at)wliha(dot)org as soon as you can.

CORRECTION: The first timeline had incorrect years listed. They are correct now.


 

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