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A Housing Alliance Welcome to...

Paige McAdams, Communications Intern

My name is Paige McAdam, and I am thrilled to be the new communications intern for the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and moved to Seattle in 2011 to attend Seattle University, where I am now a senior political science major planning to attend law school in the fall. In the long-term, my goal is to provide legal services to those who need it most. My specific areas of interest are in civil rights and bankruptcy law.

I chose to move to Seattle because of the sense of community here, which can be rare in large cities. Four years later, I still see that sense of community every day and am so glad to be a part of it. My time at Seattle University has allowed me to become well versed on social justice issues and has given me a variety of opportunities to work within Seattle. During my freshman year, I was a contributing writer for Seattle-based street newspaper Real Change. I have also worked extensively in youth development, and I currently tutor math and science at Washington Middle School where roughly half of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

I also worked as a mentor and academic tutor at a local nonprofit. The bright, dedicated, and endlessly talented kids that I worked with have inspired me beyond belief. And as cliché as it sounds, I’ve learned more from them then they have from me. As a result, I am extremely passionate about ensuring that all children have access to the resources they need to tap into all their potential.

These experiences showed me the importance of creating dialogue and conversation regarding issues of poverty and homelessness. When I saw the opportunity to work with the Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness, I jumped at the chance to work with others striving to end homelessness. Lack of affordable homes is a huge problem in Washington State, and I believe whole-heartedly that it is a problem with a solution. With over 18,800 people facing homelessness in our state, I believe that we can do better.

I look forward to working with the Housing Alliance and learning more about the ways that systematic inequalities and issues lead to homelessness, as well as the ways that we can prevent this from happening. As a political science major, I have a strong interest in the ways that policy directly affects people, and am so excited to be working with like-minded advocates working towards change in Washington State.

As a communications intern for the alliance, I’ll be working on social media, research, data analysis, graphics, and anything else that comes my way. I am looking forward to learning more about nonprofit communications, and am excited to work with the alliance as well as the Seattle U Project on Family Homelessness and its other partner organizations.

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 13

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Legislative Items Still in Motion

The end of the regular session is rapidly approaching, and budget-related issues received a lot of attention last week. Lawmakers also spent a lot of time considering bills that have made it to the floor of the House or Senate. To get there, the bill had to make it through their own chamber of origin and then through the opposite chamber’s policy and fiscal committees. Bills not considered necessary to implement the budget (NTIB) will need a vote by Wednesday, April 15.

Important bills continue to await for a vote including SHB 1223 (Springer), which will provide $45 million in bond revenue to King County for affordable workforce housing in transit-oriented neighborhoods. You can help push this bill forward by emailing your senator. Our friends over at Housing Development Consortium make it easy for you to take action. Simply click here to start. The Extended Foster Care bill, SSB 5740 (Fain) is still in House Rules and needs to be pulled to the floor where it can be voted on. Stay tuned to our social media feeds (Twitter and Facebook) for updates and action requests if these bills need another advocacy push to move to final passage.

Learn at Lunch
2015 Session Wrap-up

Join the Housing Alliance to debrief the session and to discuss how affordable housing and homelessness issues fared. If there is a special session, we will discuss what to expect and what advocates can do to ensure that the final budgets include the House’s affordable housing allocations.

2015 Session Wrap-up Webinar
Wednesday, April 29
12:00pm - 1:00pm

Register here!

Good News from Last Week

The Homeless Youth Act - SB 5404 (O’Ban) passed last Friday with a strong bipartisan vote. It’s now on its way to the Governor for his signature. Since it was what’s called “Governor Request” legislation, we are confident that the Governor will sign it soon. Thanks are due to Senator Steve O’Ban (28th - Lakewood) who was the prime sponsor. Please take a minute to send him a quick thank you for his leadership. Go the House Bill Report to learn about the final bill.

 

The Senate Capital Budget is Released!

The Senate both released and then had a public hearing on their capital budget last Wednesday. We were pleased to discover that their Housing Trust Fund allocation isn’t too far off of the House’s allocation, signaling an opportunity for the final budget to include the House’s $80 million. To read an analysis of both budgets, please see our blog post.

For the Senate capital budget hearing, two Housing Alliance Emerging Advocates Program graduates made the trip to Olympia to share how homes funded by the Housing Trust Fund has impacted their lives. Susan Russell and Nick Reyes educated lawmakers about root causes of homelessness and how the state’s investments can transform lives. TVW highlighted their compelling testimonies in their daily roundup of the important events of the day. You can view it below:

It is very significant that both the House and Senate capital budgets have prioritized the Housing Trust Fund. This is no doubt due to your tireless advocacy for affordable housing that has been building in strength each year. Thank you to every advocate who has been educating and urging your lawmakers to adequately fund affordable housing. We aren’t done yet and need to keep pushing so the final budget includes the House’s capital budget allocation levels.

 

Operating Budget: Next Steps

The biggest difference between the House and Senate operating budgets is how they are funded. The House’s budget includes new revenue from both tax reforms and the closing of special tax preferences. The Senate’s budget includes cuts to state agencies, savings from not enacting state employee bargaining agreements, and other so-called “gimmicks” to avoid new revenue. The Senate operating budget also makes significant cuts to TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) and doesn’t include funding for important safety net programs such as state food assistance.

Overall, we believe the state needs more revenue to get us off the path of budget deficits and social service cuts. The Housing Alliance is relieved both houses made no cuts to the Housing & Essential Needs/Aged, Blind & Disabled programs and SSI Facilitation services. But we know that these programs remain at risk each year unless our state reforms our tax policies. Washington has the most regressive tax system in the country, meaning that households with the lowest incomes contribute significantly more of their incomes in taxes than the wealthiest. Our lawmakers have a real opportunity for reform this year. HB 2224 (Carlyle), which we covered in last week’s blog post, is the revenue bill that would create a capital gains tax among other things.

We urge all affordable housing and homelessness advocates to contact your lawmakers to ask them to pass this bill. Even if your lawmaker has previously told you that they will not support progressive tax reforms, they must hear from constituents who will support them if they change their minds. United For Fair Revenue is organizing a “Tax Week of Action.” Join in by calling your lawmakers today and urge them to “Pass HB 2224 because we need fair tax reforms and sustainable budget solutions.” You can learn more here. 

 

The End is Nigh

The last day of regular session is Sunday, April 26. The very significant differences between the House and Senate’s budgets will be difficult to reconcile by then. If they are unable to come to a final agreement, they will still end the session on that day, but will need the Governor to call them to back for what’s called a “special session.” The Governor could do that immediately, or could wait until the budget negotiators have a final deal. The coming weeks will provide more insights on what to expect. As always, stay tuned to Housing Alliance social media for updates.

 


 

2015 Budget 3.0 - Our Analysis.

Housing Alliance Policy & Advocacy Team

You can see our previous housing and homelessness analyses of:

Governor's budget here: 2015 Budget 1.0 - Our Analysis.
House's budget here: 2015 Budget 2.0 - Our Analysis.

Senate's operating budget here: 2015 Budget 2.5 - Our Analysis.

Check out our bill tracker here to compare each of the budgets.

You Did It! Your Advocacy Worked!

At around 9am on Wednesday, April 8, the Washington State Senate released their capital budget for the 2015-2017 biennium. You can read the budget in its entirety at this page. Then the Senate held their public hearing on the budget only three hours later. Despite the hastily scheduled release and hearing, we had a number of advocates in Olympia ready to testify. You can watch their testimonies below.

 

Senate Capital Budget

Overall the capital budget contains $87.8 million for affordable housing compared to the House's total $110.2 million. Of that, the Senate's allocation for the Housing Trust Fund is $65 million compared to the House's $80 million. Here is the specific breakdown:

$65 million for the Housing Trust Fund

Like the House's budget, the Senate's budget outlines a minimum number of homes and beds to be created for seniors, families with children, people with disabilities, veterans, homeless youth, and farmworkers. It also adds the category of homeownership to this list.

$20 million for Energy Matchmakers

This funding would help enable low-income households to make weatherization improvements to save homeowners money and decrease home energy consumption. This funding level matches the House's allocation.

0 for HTF Portfolio Preservation

Money in this category is marked for renovation and upkeep needs (aka “capital needs”) for homes that have received previous HTF funding. The House funded $5 million for HTF Portfolio Preservation.

0 for ultra energy-efficient affordable housing demonstration

These funds would be used to pilot innovative energy-efficient designs for single- and multi-family affordable housing. The House funded $5 million for this demo.

$200,000 for Spokane Fairchild purchase of land for affordable housing development

This small allocation is to help purchase land for affordable housing related to the relocation of low-income households from the Fairchild Air Force Base flight path. This also matches the House's alllocation.

$2 million for Vantage Point Senior Apartments

This allocation is specificed for King County Housing Authority's Vantage Point apartment complex in Renton’s North Benson neighborhood. The 77-unit project will house low-income seniors and people with disabilities when it opens in late 2015.

$600,000 for proposed homeless veterans shelter at Western State Hospital

This allocation is to help create an emergency shelter for homeless veterans at unused buildings at Western State Hospital.

 

We hope the final budget passed by the entire legislature includes the House's suggested appropriation of $80 million for the Housing Trust Fund, and with the $5 million for the Housing Trust Fund Portfolio Preservation, and $5 million for the ultra energy efficient affordable housing demonstration.

 


 

Free Webinar Series: the Power of Board Advocacy

Ben Miksch, Affordable Housing Policy and Advocacy Specialist

In support of the Stand for Your Mission campaign, BoardSource and the Alliance for Justice are hosting a series of free webinars on why advocacy is a critical tool for helping nonprofits accomplish their goals. The series will also explore best practices for the boards of nonprofits interested in doing everything they can to support their mission.

I have been following Stand for Your Mission closely, especially since they released this excellent discussion guide for boards on the power of board advocacy. We’ve been talking about the power of board advocacy with members of the Housing Alliance for years now, and it’s exciting to see the rest of the country catching on to what we already know here in Washington State.

I’m eager to hear what they have to say on these webinars… and did I mention they’re free?

 


(L) Mark Smith, Housing Consortium of Everett and Snohomish County Executive Director with (R) Fred Safstrom, Advocate and Housing Consortium of Everett and Snohomish County Board Member

Making the Case: Why Advocacy by Nonprofits is So Important
In webinar #1, BoardSource and the Alliance for Justice will be discussing what advocacy is (hint: it’s a lot more than lobbying) and how it can help public charities accomplish their goals.

April 2, 2015 at 11:00am (Pacific Time)
Check back here for an archive of this webinar.

 

You CAN Advocate: Overview of the Legal Rules
Contrary to popular myth, 501(c)(3) public charities can lobby. In this webinar, the second in BoardSource and the Alliance for Justice’s free advocacy series, they will provide an overview of what counts as lobbying, and how much you can legally do.

April 9, 2015 at 11:00am (Pacific Time)
Click here to register

 

Putting It All Together: How to Incorporate Advocacy Into Your Organization
In the last of our free series of webinars on nonprofit advocacy, Abby Levine* from the Alliance for Justice will share case studies explaining why and how several different organizations embrace advocacy.

April 16, 2015 at 11:00am (Pacific Time)
Click here to register

*Not to be confused with Ann Levine, local board advocacy guru and rock star advocate, who will be sharing some of her wisdom about board advocacy at the upcoming Conference on Ending Homelessness. (Another thing you should register for!)

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 12

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Budgets and Revenue

Last week was full of significant developments with three budget hearings, another policy cutoff, and a hearing on the House revenue proposal.

The week kicked off with budget hearings and then ended with the House passing both their operating and capital budgets and with the Senate stymied by many hours of debate on their own operating budget. The Senate plans on more floor action this week and a floor vote on the operating budget. We’ve heard no official word yet of when the Senate will release their capital budget, but stay tuned to our blog and social media for updates.

Take the Budget Advocacy Call-in Day Pledge!

So far the legislature has released two operating budget proposals and one capital budget. You can read our current budget comparison here. We still have an opportunity to make sure the final budget invests in affordable homes and protects safety net services that help keep people off the street. Sign the pledge to call your elected official on Budget Advocacy Call-in Day on Tuesday, April 7. Then we'll email you on that day with a messaging template, phone number, and other details.

Take the Budget Advocacy Call-in Day Pledge Here!

After you sign the pledge, please send this link to two other friends, and make sure they take the budget advocacy pledge too:

bit.ly/BudgetCall15

The House Capital Budget

As we reported last week, the House capital budget allocates a tremendous $110.2 million to affordable housing, and we hope that the Senate will follow suit. For a more detailed breakdown, see our blog here.

 

The Senate Operating Budget

The biggest surprise of the week was the Senate operating budget. It appears to fully preserve the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN)/Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) programs and SSI facilitation services! This was Senator Mark Miloscia’s (30th-Federal Way) number one operating budget priority this year, and he deserves a big thank you for his work to help produce the first Senate budget in many years that fully funds these critical safety net programs. Please click here to send him a quick thank you.

Overall the Senate operating budget doesn’t include revenue and actually extends current tax loopholes and creates new ones. Their budget includes many fund transfers and agency cuts including massive staff cuts to the DSHS department that oversees safety net programs like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), ABD, and SSI Facilitation. It assumes a lot of savings from unspecified “lean management practices,” and it transfers money from the capital budget. It also proposes a very significant cut to TANF and doesn’t restore cuts to basic food assistance.

While we greatly appreciate that HEN, ABD, and SSI Facilitation were not cut, we also worry the budget contains hidden reductions that will result in cuts to safety net programs. For instance, we are concerned the Senate includes unrealistic budget assumptions around program savings that could result in future cuts. We’ve alerted lawmakers about this problem and will continue to address it so the final budget doesn’t contain any hidden or unintended cuts. Their budget also does not include funding for a Medicaid Benefit for Permanent Supportive Housing. Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th-Seattle) offered an amendment in committee to add it, but it went down on a party-line vote. Please email her a thank you for trying to add this to the budget.

 

The House Operating Budget

The House’s Operating Budget is good for affordable housing and homelessness and we urge the Senate to adopt it. The budget also funds DSHS staff to write a waiver to allow the state to use Medicaid dollars to pay for the tenancy support services delivered in permanent supportive housing. This is an exciting first development regarding our Medicaid Permanent Supportive Housing Services Benefit budget priority. With your consistent advocacy, we all can ensure it is in the final budget. Because of a legislative staff error, the original budget didn’t include this funding, and Representative Cody worked to amend the budget to include it. Please send her a quick thank you for her hard work.

The House budget also fully funds HEN, ABD, and SSI Facilitation. It allocates $3 million to the Washington Youth and Families Fund and funds all of our support bills including the Homeless Student Stability Act and other important programs that protect low-income households throughout the state.

 

Revenue

The House’s budget is also more sustainable because it includes new and fair revenue. The House Finance Committee had a hearing on the revenue package last week with strong testimony from housing advocates Sonya Campion and Peter Shapiro. If the proposed capital gains tax passes, both said they would be subjected to it, and they welcomed it! (See below for more details on this tax.) The whole package is outlined in the bill report on HB 2224.

Here is a summary of the House’s revenue package:

  • Imposes a five percent tax on capital gains, which is a tax on wealthy individuals when they receive a windfall profit. Forty-two other states already have this tax, and it could bring in significant revenue each year. You can learn more about this at the Washington Budget and Policy Center’s blog.
  • Reinstates the 0.3 percent business and occupation (B&O) surtax on service businesses.
  • Increases a small business credit for service businesses.
  • Eliminates a preferential B&O tax rate of 0.275 percent for travel agents and tour operators.
  • Eliminates a preferential B&O tax rate of 0.138 percent for resellers of prescription drugs.
  • Repeals the sales and use tax exemption for bottled water.
  • Changes the nonresident sales and use tax exemption for tangible personal property into a remittance program.
  • Narrows the use tax exemption for extracted fuel.
  • Eliminates the preferential B&O tax rate of 0.484 percent for royalty income.
  • Authorizes additional methods of establishing nexus for purposes of business and occupation and sales taxes.
  • Limits the availability of a real estate foreclosure exemption.

 

A Final Update on Our Lead Legislative Priorities

Unfortunately, last Wednesday’s cutoff closed the door for progress on most tenant protections this session. We thank everyone who took action this year to help advance tenant protection legislation. While we are disappointed that the bills are dead for this year, we know that the process educated a lot of lawmakers. This will help all of the bills next session. We witnessed incredible public testimony, deep education of lawmakers, and tremendous advocacy. Thank you!

The interim will give us an opportunity to meet with lawmakers to hear more about their decisions to not advance the bills and to learn what could be done differently. We, of course, will also work throughout the interim to educate more lawmakers and deepen the support and urgency behind the bills.

The good news is that also none of the many “bad” bills survived. Columbia Legal Services worked hard on one bill in particular and successfully transformed it from a problematic bill to a helpful one. SB 5538 (Angel) addresses a landlord’s obligations to store or dispose of the property of a deceased tenant. A father pushed it after his son was killed, and his landlord kept the deceased son’s property “for ransom” and charged the family $1,000 to get it. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee last week and is now in House Rules Committee.

 

Take the Pledge Now, Then Make the Call on April 7!

We'll need a lot of advocacy and communication to legislators to bridge the gap between the House and Senate budgets. We are calling on all advocates to pledge to join the Housing Alliance in Budget Advocacy Call-in Day on Tuesday, April 7. Lawmakers need to hear from you at least once for each of the remaining three weeks of the regular session. Please click here to pledge to call your lawmaker on Tuesday and to organize two of your friends, coworkers, family members, or fellow board members to join you. We’ll send you the action page on Tuesday. It will have the state’s toll-free hotline where you can leave one message for all of your lawmakers, and we’ll also have suggested talking points.

 


 

2015 Budget 2.5 - Our Analysis

Housing Alliance Policy & Advocacy Team

Our housing and homelessness analysis of the Governor's budget here: 2015 Budget 1.0 - Our Analysis.
Our housing and homelessness analysis of the House's budget here: 2015 Budget 2.0 - Our Analysis.

At around noon today, the Washington State Senate released their operating budget for the 2015-2017 biennium. You can read the budget in its entirety at this page. The Senate's operating budget is a mix of good news and deep cuts. The biggest surprise is that it does not include cuts to the Housing & Essential Needs program; the Aged, Blind & Disabled program; and SSI Facilitation Services. This is fantastic news and is a reflection of incredible advocacy over the past several years and recent weeks. This is the first year since the beginning of the Great Recession that all three operating budget proposals preserve these programs. Great work!

However, we do see proposed cuts to the incapacity evaluations and also assumed savings in ABD that we are concerned about. We have a new updated Advocacy Action Alert that generates emails to both your senator and your representatives. The letter to your reps thanks them for protecting HEN/ABD/SSI Facilitation and the senate letter does the same and includes language about the coming capital budget. Go here to take action! See below for more details on the key programs we are tracking. Note that much of the below details are first-read analysis and are subject to updates.

Check out our bill tracker here to compare each of the operating budgets.

 

I.  Senate Operating Budget

While the House largely didn’t bolster safety net programs that have been cut over the past five years, they did a lot to preserve what is currently in place. The House also made investments in new services for homeless families and youth. Unfortunately, they did so in one case by shifting resources from other critical homelessness services instead of increasing the overall investment in homelessness.

Housing & Essential Needs/Aged, Blind & Disabled/SSI Facilitation Services

These services provide a lifeline of support for very low-income single adults with disabilities so they can keep their home and thrive. It is confirmed that funding for HEN, ABD and SSI Facilitation Services are fully preserved. However, we are concerned with two assumed savings in the Senate’s budget proposal that could lead to future cuts:

1) Their budget proposal assumes $4 million will be saved due to increased federal SSI recoveries for ABD recipients who move to SSI. We are concerned that this savings estimate is too high and could result in cuts to DSHS and/or ABD.

2) The budget proposal also assumes that there will be a savings in HEN/ABD incapacity evaluations due to: applicants having better medical records as a result of Medicaid expansion, and  the 12-month HEN referral authorizations. The incapacity savings is grouped together with savings from an unrelated program, so the fiscal assumptions behind this savings are unclear. We are concerned that the budget overstimates savings and could result in a cut to incapacity evaluation services.

$3 million for Washington Youth and Families Fund

This fund provides stable, long-term funding for both on- and off-site supportive services linked to affordable housing for young people and families. While we recommended investing $6 million for the fund, the Senate allocated only $2 million in funding, lower than each of the House's and the Governor’s allocation of $3 million.

TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)

The Senate's budget proposes deep cuts to TANF. Together, the proposed TANF cuts amount to about $50 million and the 15% cut to the cash grant is not reversed.

Medicaid Permanent Supportive Housing Services

We didn't expect this to be in the initial Senate budget. But, we will be pushing to make sure this is included in the final budget. This would allow more chronically homeless people to access housing and services and help individuals with severe and chronic health issues stay off the street and live in a healthy home. Stay tuned, as we’re sure to have more developments next week. More about this benefit at our state advocacy page.

 

II.  New Revenue

Unfortunately, the Senate budget doesn't add any new revenue. Savings come from many different sources, specifically cuts to programs, to state worker compensation, to Commerce, and to DSHS's ESA program area. This is the program area that oversees TANF, ABD, SSI Facilitation, food assistance, etc. The Senate budget also fails to restore the State Food Assistance cuts and doesn't fund Breakfast after the Bell (SHB 1295). Washington State 211 information service and WTAP (Washington Telephone Assistance Program) funding are also eliminated. WTAP allows Washington residents with low incomes who are on food assistance, cash assistance, or Medicaid to get a break on the cost of their telephone landline. WTAP serves 43,000 people, and 19,550 people on WTAP are 65 and older.

Some critics suggest eliminating WTAP because they believe people will just use cell phones. However, many people in our vast state live where cell phone coverage is spotty or doesn’t work, as much of Washington is rural. For example, there are 25 rural school districts in Washington with enrollments of less than 1,000 students. A look at the major carrier coverage maps show areas of no cell coverage. And, many older people don’t have cell phones. Their landline is their only phone. Additionally, WTAP funds are used to provide community voice mail to homeless individuals. This provides people without a fixed address (and certainly without money for cell phones) a way to pick up messages from potential employers, landlords or social service providers.

 

III. Senate Capital Budget

No word yet on exactly when the Senate will be releasing their capital budget. But you can bet that we'll have our analysis up shortly after.

In the meantime, please take action on the budgets that have already been released!

 


 

2015 Budget 2.0 - Our Analysis

Housing Alliance Policy & Advocacy Team

You can read our housing and homelessness analysis of the governor's budget here: 2015 Budget 1.0 - Our Analysis.

At around 11:30am today, the Washington State House of Representatives released their operating and capital budgets for the 2015-2017 biennium. You can read both budgets in their entirety at this page. While there are some things that can be strengthened, we applaud the House for including new revenue and making significant investments in affordable homes and services that help people meet their basic needs.

Check out our bill tracker here for how the House budget compares to the Governor’s budget.

 

I.  Capital Budget

Overall the capital budget contains $110,200,000 for affordable housing with $80 million specifically for the Housing Trust Fund. Here is the specific breakdown:

$80 million for the Housing Trust Fund

The budget emphasizes the Department of Commerce’s role in awarding “loans and grants on a competitive basis to affordable housing projects statewide.” It outlines a minimum number of homes and beds to be created for seniors, families with children, people with disabilities, veterans, homeless youth, and farmworkers. It also provides significant flexibility to fund other low-income housing if the state lacks suitable projects in those categories.

$20 million for Energy Matchmakers

This funding would help enable low-income households to make weatherization improvements to save homeowners money and decrease home energy consumption.

$5 million for HTF Portfolio Preservation

Money in this category is marked for renovation and upkeep needs (aka “capital needs”) for homes that have received previous HTF funding.

$5 million for ultra energy-efficient affordable housing demonstration

These funds would be used to pilot innovative energy-efficient designs for single- and multi-family affordable housing.

$200,000 for Spokane Fairchild purchase of land for affordable housing development

This small allocation is to help purchase land for affordable housing related to the relocation of low-income households from the Fairchild Air Force Base flight path.

 

II.  Operating Budget

While the House largely didn’t bolster safety net programs that have been cut over the past five years, they did a lot to preserve what is currently in place. The House also made investments in new services for homeless families and youth. Unfortunately, they did so in one case by shifting resources from other critical homelessness services instead of increasing the overall investment in homelessness.

Housing & Essential Needs/Aged, Blind & Disabled/SSI Facilitation Services

These services provide a lifeline of support for very low-income single adults with disabilities so they can keep their home and thrive. It appears that funding for HEN may have been preserved at current levels. It is confirmed that funding for ABD and SSI Facilitation Services are fully preserved.

$3 million for Washington Youth and Families Fund

This fund provides stable, long-term funding for both on- and off-site supportive services linked to affordable housing for young people and families. While we recommended investing $6 million for the fund, the House ended up matching the Governor’s allocation of $3 million.

TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)

This program is a critical lifeline for vulnerable families across Washington. We support our partners’ goals of restoring the 15% cut to the TANF cash grant and implementing other improvements to make TANF work better for Washington’s families. The House matched the Governor’s budget in that it neither restored nor significantly cut the TANF grant.

Medicaid Permanent Supportive Housing Services

We were surprised and disappointed to learn that this received no funding. But, we still have an opportunity to make sure this is included in the final budget. This would allow more chronically homeless people to access housing and services and help individuals with severe and chronic health issues stay off the street and live in a healthy home. Stay tuned, as we’re sure to have more developments next week. More about this benefit at our state advocacy page.

 

III.  New Revenue

While the House proposal doesn’t include the Governor’s proposed carbon tax that dedicated some funding for the Housing Trust Fund, it does raise new revenues from a Capital Gains Tax, closes tax loopholes, and expands the B&O tax to professional services. Our friends at the Washington State Budget & Policy Center have more revenue details about the House budget over at their Schmudget blog.

 

The House budget hearings will take on Monday, March 30. The capital budget hearing is at 8:00am and the operating budget hearing is at 1:30pm.

If you are interested in testifying at a public hearing, please email Michele Thomas.

And stay tuned, as we’ll also have an action alert that will allow you to quickly and easily email your elected official both thanking them and letting them know how they can improve the budget.

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 10

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Bill Hearings and...

Last week, Olympia was all about bill hearings and budget rumors. Many of our support issues, such as Extended Foster Care - HB 1735 (Orwall) / SB 5740 (Fain) and the Homeless Student Stability Act - HB1682 (Fey) had hearings, which sets them up to keep moving through the process. You can reference our bill tracker for the current status on all the main bills we are tracking. And check out this great Seattle Times editorial urging lawmakers to fund the Homeless Student Stability Act.

Tell Your Legislators to Protect HEN, ABD & SSI Facilitation.

Increasing housing costs means increased pressure on everyone, especially our most vulnerable neighbors. Over 195,000 households in our state have extremely low incomes and are paying more than half of their income on housing costs alone. For these families, an illness, an accident, even a simple fender bender can result in a disability that can make it impossible to work. This leaves them extremely vulnerable to losing their housing and falling into homeless.

The Housing & Essential Needs program; Aged, Blind & Disabled program; and SSI Facilitation Services are lifelines for very low-income people with disabilities that prevent homelessness.

Help us ensure legislators prioritize protecting these important safety net services!

...Budget Rumors!

Lawmakers with budget-writing roles were busy at work last week, and there was a lot speculation about when the House will release its budgets. But the House hasn’t given a firm date for the release. It could be as early as this week or as late as the first of the next month. As soon as it comes out, Housing Alliance staff will analyze it and will post an update on our blog. We will be looking at the operating budget to make sure that there is funding for a Medicaid Benefit for Permanent Supportive Housing, that HEN/ABD and SSI facilitation services are fully funded, that there is $6 million for the Washington Youth and Families Fund, and that there is funding for other important programs and services. And we will of course be looking at the capital budget with hope of $100 million for affordable housing. Stay tuned for updates!

Lawmakers Need to Hear from You!

Take this opportunity to educate lawmakers on the importance of fully funding the safety net services provided by HEN and ABD, and SSI facilitation. Need a brief overview of what these programs do? See our factsheet here.

While we expect the House budget to follow the Governor’s lead and fully protect these programs, we need to continue to educate all lawmakers about why these programs are so important. They have frequently been targeted for cuts in previous budget fights, but effective and relentless advocacy has protected them. We need to keep the advocacy up. Please take action today!

 

Conference On Ending Homelessness 2015

Are you attending the 25th Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness in May? It will have a lot of workshops for advocates this year!

This year’s Conference on Ending Homelessness will take place on May 13 and 14 in Tacoma. The program features nearly 50 workshops including numerous opportunities for advocates! You will have the opportunity to dive into current policy issues, deepen your advocacy skills, and meet people from across the state who are also engaged in advocacy to end homelessness.

Early bird registration and scholarship applications opened last week and we encourage you take advantage of the lower rates by registering now. It will be another great conference, and we look forward to seeing you there.

These policy and advocacy highlights will be featured at the conference:

In-depth briefings on current state and federal homelessness and affordable housing policy:

Important updates about the implementation of key state-level policy initiatives:

A communication training to help advocates improve their strategies and messaging on homelessness and affordable housing issues:

Workshops highlighting local and national community organizing efforts on homelessness, and analysis building opportunities that will enhance your organizing and advocacy work:

Programming on engaging your Board of Directors in advocacy to promote and stand for your organization’s mission:

A training on engaging in electoral advocacy to build the political power needed to end homelessness:

Early bird registration, scholarship applications, and reduced conference hotel rates are now open! Hotel and conference registration rates will increase in mid-April, so be sure to register early in order to receive the best rates. We hope you are able to join us in Tacoma this May! And in the meantime, don’t forget to take action to tell your lawmakers to protect HEN, ABD and SSI Facilitation Services! Stay tuned for more updates and thanks for taking action.

 


 

The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 9

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

The Post Floor Cutoff Report

With last week’s first floor cutoff, many bills are now dead for the session. Unfortunately, the Truth in Evictions Reporting Act - SSB 5376 (Habib) didn’t get brought up for a vote on the Senate floor. The bill was ready for a vote. But then a lot of drama over an unrelated bill ended up consuming significant time and energy on the Senate floor. Our bill, which had bipartisan support, was both a casualty and an innocent bystander.

Housing Trust Fund Advocacy Begins Now!

Now that we are past the halfway point of session, and the budget release is getting closer, you’ll see we’ll be turning more attention to funding our policy issues and on finalizing the budgets. It is time to ramp up our advocacy on budget related issues. This week is a critical juncture to push for $100 million for the Housing Trust Fund. We have a goal of 150 advocates sending emails!

Start by clicking here!

Then please share the action page link with at least three other people who'll take action because you asked them: bit.ly/Week9-HTF.

Also dead is SHB 2051 (Farrell) which would have provided local jurisdictions the option of allowing up to 90-days notice of significant rent increases. This bill would have also clarified and improved the standing state authority that allows cities the ability to provide relocation assistance for tenants under certain circumstances. The City of Seattle is currently the only city that has provided for these protections, but other cities are considering them as well.

As reported last week, most of the Housing Alliance’s support issues are still alive, with the one exception of SSB 5898 (Miloscia). This bill addressed some issues with HMIS (Homeless Management Information System) and hoped to improve data collection. There may be a chance to still address some of the issues by amending part of the bill onto another one that is still alive. Many advocates and legislators can use this strategy at this point in the session. If there is a bill that is still alive that has an appropriate bill title, it is sometimes possible to amend the bill to incorporate some aspects of a dead bill. This is one reason why you may hear people say that no issue is really dead until the gavel signals that session is over.

Any bills that don’t make it this year will have the opportunity to be revisited next year. It is frequently assumed that bills will take multiple years to pass, with the first year of a bill being an “education year”. Of course, we prefer good bills to move more quickly through the process. But it is important to know that if a bill doesn’t make it this year, all the education and advocacy will help improve its chances next year.

Town Halls!

I called into my telephone town hall last week and was really excited to hear my neighbors asking about the Housing Trust Fund, about services for people with mental illness, and about the Fair Tenant Screening Act! I was also pleased to hear that my lawmakers were very well informed on these issues and very supportive. Did you participate in a recent legislative town hall and learn more about where your lawmakers stand on affordable housing and homelessness issues? Please consider emailing us at the Housing Alliance to share what you learned. Click here to email Michele now.

And don’t forget to check if there is a town hall coming up. As we shared last week, you can stay informed about town halls and more by signing up for your lawmaker’s newsletter and by checking their homepage at leg.wa.gov. Here are two lists of some upcoming town halls. One is compiled by the Washington United for Fair Revenue Coalition. And this one is from the Washington State Senior Citizens' Lobby. If you don’t see your lawmakers on either of the lists, be sure to double check their homepages to see if one has been scheduled since these lists were last updated.

Looking Ahead

Now that we are past the halfway point of session, and the budget release is getting closer, you’ll see we’ll be turning more attention to funding our policy issues and on finalizing the budgets. It is time to ramp up our advocacy on budget related issues. This week is a critical juncture to push for $100 million for the Housing Trust Fund. The Housing Alliance has a goal of 150 action takers by the end of this week. This will ensure that the Housing Trust Fund is top of the priority list while budget decisions are being made. Help us ensure that hundreds of advocates take action by the end of this week. First, click here to take action today. Next, share this action alert. Here are some ideas:

Share the action page link with all of your coworkers: http://bit.ly/Week9-HTF.

Share the action page link with at least three other people who may only take action if you ask them to: http://bit.ly/Week9-HTF.

Are you a board member? Ask your fellow board members to join you in taking action this week: http://bit.ly/Week9-HTF.

Are you a student? Ask your classmates to join you: http://bit.ly/Week9-HTF.

Do you attend religious services? Bring this up and suggest that others join you in action: http://bit.ly/Week9-HTF.

Post the action page on Facebook.

Promote the action page on Twitter.

Photo credit: Kulshan Community Land Trust

National Housing Conference Coming to Seattle

Finally, we have this excellent opportunity for staff and board of Housing Alliance member organizations. Our friends over at the D.C.-based National Housing Conference (NHC) are organizing a two-day gathering in Seattle from April 7-8. Registration rate is $150, but up to 35 Housing Alliance organization members will receive a 20% discount using the code. Register here, and when prompted, use the discount code: WLIHA20. If you’re not sure if your organization is a member, check here.

Gaining community acceptance for affordable housing has long been a sticking point in developing successful communities. National and local polling data often show support for solutions to homelessness and housing affordability challenges, but when it comes to siting, neighbors often balk at the prospect of affordable housing being built nearby. Community opposition can create delays that put developments in jeopardy and make it tougher for the next affordable development to succeed.

NHC's Solutions for Housing Communications 2015 Convening will connect you with over 200 affordable housing developers, advocates, funders, and government officials for panels, workshops, and round-table discussions on challenges and opportunities in community acceptance. We'll learn together, discovering best practices for countering community opposition and exploring creative new approaches to meeting this perennial challenge.

 


 

While several tenant protection priorities did not make cutoff, opportunities remain for Legislature to positively impact state affordable housing crisis

Joaquin Uy, Communications Specialist

March 11, 2015 was an important cutoff date for the Washington State Legislature. Most bills needed to be voted off of the floor of their chamber of origin in order to advance toward the eventual goal of becoming a law. Three bills that died would have helped protect vulnerable renters.

The Truth in Evictions Reporting Act or SSB 5376 would have fixed a flaw in the way evictions are currently reported. Tenant screening companies report all eviction lawsuits as equal, even lawsuits that have been settled to the landlord’s satisfaction or when the tenant has won in court. However, eviction court has many different outcomes: the tenant could have been wrongfully named, the tenant could have been a victim of their landlord’s foreclosure, or the tenant could have won. But, none of this matters as tenant screening reports list all eviction lawsuits as equal. The misleading and inaccurate tenant screening reports make accessing a rental home much more difficult in the future.

SSB 5376 would have ensured that tenant screening reports are fair and accurate and don’t report all eviction records as equal.

SSB 5376 had significant bipartisan support, which makes it even more disappointing that it didn’t make the March 11 cutoff,” says Housing Alliance Director of Policy and Advocacy Michele Thomas. “This legislation was about basic fairness and justice for all renters. With affordable rental homes shrinking across Washington, we need to stop inaccurate and misleading tenant screening reports from blocking renters from obtaining housing.”

Another tenant protection bill that did not make the cutoff was SHB 2051 or the 90-day Notice/Relocation Assistance and Rent Increase Bill. This bill would have given cities the ability to ensure tenants have reasonable notice of at least 90 days for large rent increases.

HB 1565 and SB 5378 creating statewide protections from source of income discrimination were other opportunities lost this session. These bills would have made it illegal for a landlord to deny housing solely because the household is relying on assistance to pay a portion of their rent. As more and more families in Washington struggle to pay rent, our state needs to ensure that vulnerable households have housing opportunities.

Despite the disappointing news, Michele Thomas sees opportunity. “While both legislative bodies should have done more to advance tenant protections, the Fair Tenant Screening Act - SHB 1257 (Walkinshaw) is still alive. The House of Representatives prioritized this important bill. And, lawmakers still have the opportunity to provide significant funding for affordable housing through the capital budget, to fully fund safety-net housing programs like Housing and Essential Needs, and to ensure final passage of the Homeless Youth Act.”

SHB 1257 will make the tenant screening process more practical and economically efficient for both tenants and landlords. In a housing search, tenants will be able to buy just one tenant screening report that they can provide to all prospective landlords requesting the data.

The Housing Alliance also supports funding the Housing Trust Fund at $100 million. The vast majority of state investments in affordable homes assist people who are extremely low-income and are otherwise unable to afford a home. Housing and homelessness advocates across the state will be watching the budget process closely to ensure legislators robustly fund this effective budget tool for shrinking the affordable housing gap.

 



 

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