This election, stand for affordable homes for all!

Reiny Cohen, Director of Communications

Be on the lookout, your ballot is arriving this week!

What’s great about voting by mail in Washington is that we have plenty of time to educate ourselves about the issues. The bummer is, sometimes people forget to mail their ballot back in time. Don’t let this happen to you!! This election is critical to our mission - ensuring all people have the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home. We made some great progress in 2015 and we need your help to keep the ball rolling. Every vote is important. Mail in your ballot!

2015 Housing Alliance Endorsements

I-1366 NO! (Washington State)

I-1366 is sponsored by Tim Eyman and associates. The intent is to coerce Washington state lawmakers into passing a constitutional amendment to permanently require a two-thirds vote to raise revenue. If the legislature fails to amend the constitution by April 15, 2016 with this requirement, the state sales tax would be cut by 13%, resulting in $8 billion in revenue lost over the next six years. 

The state budget has already been cut by more than $11 billion since 2008. Further reductions would lock into place our inadequate and regressive tax structure and result in drastic cuts for safety net services, public education, and more. We encourage you to VOTE NO!

I-122 YES! (Seattle)

Initiative 122 is a campaign finance reform initiative on the ballot for Seattle residents that would change the way political campaigns are financed to allow every voter to become a campaign donor. It limits big money interests in city policy-making, increases accountability and transparency in local government, and gives ordinary people a stronger voice in local government.

Public campaign financing in other cities has increased voter participation among members of historically disenfranchised communities. We believe that implementing this reform would make it easier for low-income people to impact city elections and city policy decisions. We encourage Seattle residents to VOTE YES!

Check your mailbox to see if your ballot has arrived, and be sure to mail it back by Tues, Nov 3rd! If you do not receive your ballot, contact your county elections office. 



Announcing a new member of the Housing Alliance family!

Reiny Cohen, Director of Communications

Hello friends! My name is Reiny Cohen, and I am very excited to announce that I am the new Director of Communications for the Housing Alliance!

It's been an interesting journey to get here - I was an on-air personality and behind the scenes production guru for a variety of radio stations in Seattle from 1999-2014. Most recently you may have heard me on 94.9 KUOW/NPR. After a long career in radio I decided to pursue a path in to the advocacy world - I worked on a candidate campaign, followed by a legislative campaign, and finally landed here, where I get to be a voice for an issue I so deeply care about. 

The Housing Alliance does amazing work and I am honored to be joining such a talented and passionate team. I look forward to getting to know the members and will try to cross paths with as many of you as possible.

Stay tuned for exciting news on interactive communications and story telling to come in the near future!


Feel free to contact me any time -, 206-442-9455 x208

This is not goodbye...

Ben Miksch, Affordable Housing Policy and Advocacy Specialist


As some of you may have heard already, tomorrow I will be parting ways with the Housing Alliance and heading off in search of new adventures.


This was a decision that I made several months ago, and I have to say that it has was a very hard decision to make. My experience over the last four years here has been an incredible and transformative journey, and it's hard to imagine giving that up.


But I keep reminding myself that I'm not really leaving the Housing Alliance. Sure, starting on Friday I won't be an employee of the Housing Alliance. But the Housing Alliance isn't just an organization and its employees. The Housing Alliance exists to serve as a vanguard and a steward to the movement organized around ensuring that everyone in Washington has the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home that is part of a thriving community.


We're all part of the Housing Alliance, because we all own this movement together.


And I can't say enough about what a relief that is to me, because I would never want to say goodbye to the community that I've had the incredible good fortune to join through this work. You all are some of the most incredible people I've ever met, and the depth of the heart, courage, kindness, passion, dedication, and expertise that I've witnessed in this movement is staggering.


This is already going on too long, so let me close with this Harry Potter-style moving picture that really feels like a far better description of my experience here and of what I love most about our movement than I'll ever be able to put into words:





--Ben Miksch


P.s. If you ever need to get ahold of me, you can always find me at




Welcoming Athena!

Athena Youm, Membership & Development Associate

Hello, supporters and allies!

My name is Athena Youm, and I am the new Membership & Development Associate for the Housing Alliance. I have a background in nonprofit community and organizational development. I come to the Housing Alliance after organizing community outreach, managing a campaign, and coordinating fundraising events for a human rights advocacy organization in South Korea. I am also a returned Peace Corps volunteer, and I have five years of experience working with low-income and marginalized communities.

I am excited at the opportunity to join the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to thrive, and live in safe, healthy, and affordable homes. I am committed to social justice, racial equity, and community empowerment. I understand the importance of advocacy and legislation that not only supports low-income communities, but also strives to breakdown systemic oppression.

A Washington native, it’s amazing to witness the skyrocketing rents and deepening income inequality throughout the state. I remember when $800 seemed too expensive for a studio, but now people are paying $1,000+ for efficiency units. The search for affordable housing has reached a breaking point for the most vulnerable in our communities. It is particularly bad for people/families of color, due to racism and continuing socioeconomic disparities. I’m glad to be part of an organization working to address these issues.

As the newest member of the Housing Alliance team, I’m looking forward to working with such a passionate and dedicated organization, and interacting with Housing Alliance members and community allies. While I’m learning about the ins and outs of housing justice and advocacy, I hope all of our supporters will help us achieve even greater advances for affordable housing during the 2016 legislative session. Hopefully, we’ll have even bigger wins with fewer special sessions.

I’m looking forward to meeting most of you throughout the year! In the meantime, please reach out at anytime to or 206.442.9455 x205.



California Here She Comes

Honah Thompson, Social Justice Intern

Tomorrow I will be saying goodbye to the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and the lovely state of Washington. I have learned more than I could have imagined in my year as a part of the United Church of Christ's Justice Leadership Program, and so many of my new skills and understandings come from the amazing folks I have met through my work at the Housing Alliance.

A year ago, I'm not sure I could tell you what a state senator or representative (or a governor for that matter) does. I didn't know how to talk to a law maker about issues that matter to me. I had no idea what it would be like to plan (or even attend) an advocacy day or statewide conference. I would vote whenever it was convenient, but I didn't realize how greatly the issues on the ballot affect my community and the issues I care so much about. Fastfoward to now, I am actively engaging in what is going on at the capitol, I am making phone calls and sending emails to people I know and total strangers to tell them about what is happening in the world of advocacy and policy, and so much more that old Honah would be too afraid to try. 

Now that my internship year is over, I will be moving back to California to attend graduate school at U.C. Berkeley for a masters in social work with a medical concentration. But I couldn't just leave quietly. I had to go out with a Housing Alliance Karaoke session inspired farewell (set to R. Kelly's Ignition (Remix)).

Now, um, usually I don’t do this but uh…
Go ‘head on a break ‘em off wit a lil’ preview of the goodbye speech

No I’m not trying to be rude,
But hey Brianna I’m feeling you
The way you dance break the way you do
Rep that Action Fund crew
That’s why Kate B’s up in yo gill
Tryin’a book conference hotels
Y’all must be an advocacy coach
The way you got me playing the field
So WLIHA gimme that BAP BAP
Lemme give you that EAP EAP
Runnin ‘round the capitol
Red scarves on our shouldos (?)
While they say on the radio

Goodbye Housing Alliance
Fresh advocacy compliance
Ben you rollin that body
Got every corgi here wishin
Joaquin not here to tweet it
I’m like so what I’ll use wit
Come the freakin’ weekend baby
Gonna read Alex’ tool kit

House, House, House, House, House, House, House
House, House, House…. Senate

Facebook a picture of a goat
Rachael email out a meeting note
Alouise and Andrea
Turnin’ out EAP advocacy playas
Yo I’m feelin what you feeling
No more hope and wishing
Rheans bout to order you new keys
And help clean up the kitchen

So gimme a safe house house
Give it to me for dirt cheap
Michele runnin back and fo’
West Seattle to the Capitol
While they say on the radio

Goodbye Housing Alliance
Y’all got chocolate down to a science
Honah’s rolling to Cali
Just north of Silicon Valley
Kate M don’t karaoke
Except when she does karaoke
Come the freaking weekend baby
I’m gonna be outtie

Whiskey poppin at the happy hour
We got food everywhere
Don’t let the intern starve…
We got Kate B to my left
Kate M on my right
We bring em both together we got staffing done right
Then after retreat it’s the (happy hour)
Then after whiskey sour it’s the (karaoke hour)
And round about 5 you gotta (clear the office)
Then take it to yo room and work from home

Can I get a BAP BAP
Can I get an EAP EAP
Make it rain peanut butter
KIND bars by 24’s
While they say on the WLIHA blog

Goodbye Housing Alliance
I left clean towels in the kitchen
Honah rolling that body
‘cause she and Kate B leg wrestlin’
Sippin on French press coffee
One day you’ll make color copies
It’s a freaking Wednesday baby
We can have waffle fun

Goodbye Housing Alliance
I would have stayed but now no chance
I’ll be rolling to Berkeley
And not livin’ in a church
No more Migliore
I gotta get back to the bay
I’ll probably miss you
But I’m not doing social work halfway

Yo we off in this jeep
Heading to Olympia
Blasting the radio
KIND bars in the back of the truck
Bouncing up and down
Because 75 mil
Do the goodbye remix
Honah’s peacin’ out…




It’s been an honor and a pleasure…

Joaquin Uy, Communications Specialist

When I first joined the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, I had received various warnings from friends. Working for a legislative advocacy organization would make me an official Olympia insider. And seeing front row how laws really are made and passed would…basically kill my soul. I received warnings of horse-trading and backroom deals…politics!

Three years later, I’m thrilled to say that my friends were wrong. My experience at the Housing Alliance hasn’t jaded me. In fact, I continue to be inspired. And much of that inspiration comes from you the advocates.

You are the foundation of the Housing Alliance. Every year, an astounding mass of people send emails to their elected officials, converge on Olympia for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day, gather at the Conference on Ending Homelessness, retweet and repost Housing Alliance social media posts, send us awesome notes about a legislator meeting, and so much more. And what’s even more amazing? The advocacy numbers keep growing. The movement to ensure all Washington residents have an opportunity to live in safe, healthy, affordable homes in thriving communities increases every year.

I could give you numbers and datasets about the advocacy network’s growth. But what I’ll treasure most from my time here at the alliance is meeting you face-to-face and exchanging stories.

Lisa, who is an Emerging Advocates Program graduate and Real Change vendor went from advocacy newbie to creating a web page to help folks share their own personal stories of homelessness.

Jamie runs a youth program. While, she advocates for affordable housing in the Asian/Pacific Islander community, she was also moved to share her own story at Advocacy Day. Almost in tears, she broke down how repeat tenant screening fees prevented her from accessing a home in increasingly unaffordable Seattle.

Andrea recently arrived to Washington State to start a new life with her family, after losing nearly everything to a hurricane. Despite an unsteady few months, they found a home and Andrea recorded her family’s story to use for advocacy. She also became a social media advocacy powerhouse.

During the gloomy days of session, when it seemed like all housing and homelessness legislative hope had passed, it’s these stories that kept me going.

That’s also why I made sure that as much as possible our communications to you was exciting and creative. You deserve emails that aren’t boring, that break down the wonk and make the enigma that can be the legislature easy to decipher and think about. Whether, it’s a thank you that includes animation of an excited jumping dog or a clapping rabbit, I wanted to make the world of housing and homelessness policy accessible. I wanted you to look forward to reading (or skimming) our emails. And based on our open rates, I think we’ve succeeded.

That’s why it is with a heavy heart, that I depart from my position at the Housing Alliance. An awesome opportunity has presented itself at the City of Seattle, and I would be foolish to pass on it. Besides, I believe someone else, someone new, should experience the joy and wonder of this unique perch at the alliance. A new face should join this small and impactful team. My coworkers are a lot like you, driven, passionate troublemakers dedicated to fighting evil, whether through securing a sizable investment in the Housing Trust Fund or educating legislators about laws that will protect tenants. I’m going to really miss the Housing Alliance team.

But as you might already know, I’m quite active online. This isn’t good-bye. It’s I’ll see you around. Keep in touch. You can always find me here:

It’s been an honor and a pleasure working with you as a Housing Alliance staff member. And it will continue being an honor and a pleasure standing shoulder to shoulder with you as a fellow housing and homelessness advocate.

P.S. Know anyone who'd be a great fit for my position? Send them the Communications Specialist job position. Thanks!

P.P.S How awesome is it to leave on such a high note?!



Historic gains for affordable housing this legislative session!

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

This past Wednesday night was more than a good night. It was an astonishing testament that advocacy works. Since January, over a thousand of you took action again and again. You told lawmakers to not leave town until they had done everything possible to expand access to affordable housing and to end homelessness. They heard your message!

Big Wins for HEN/ABD and TANF

In the dramatic hours before the end of the state’s fiscal year, Washington lawmakers secured significant new state dollars for affordable homes. And they passed several bills that will create new funding sources for housing, services, and mental health facilities. Further, the final state operating budget, signed into law at 11:30 Tuesday night, includes full funding for the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) and the Aged Blind & Disabled (ABD) programs. And it funds many other important priorities, including a nine percent increase in the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) cash grant!

$75 Million for Affordable Homes!

But wait, there’s more! Lawmakers also passed a capital budget that provides $75 million for affordable housing and $15 million for weatherization of homes owned by low-income homeowners. The $75 million for the Housing Trust Fund will create nearly 2,000 homes for seniors, homeless families, people with developmental disabilities and mental illness, veterans, homeless youth, and more. It will also create 500 new safe, healthy beds for farmworkers.

HB 2263 Creates a Local Option for Affordable Housing and Mental Health Services

If you are not already jumping up and down, consider that lawmakers also passed HB 2263 late Wednesday night. This bill provides local communities the option of asking their voters to support a new tax for affordable housing and mental health facilities. Those funds could also be used for operations and maintenance needs as well as homeless services. A similar local taxing authority for mental health services brought in nearly $100 million across the state in 2014 alone.

Check out this video of nonprofit board members from around the state testifying for HB 2263!

Funding for Affordable Homes Near Transit

And that’s not all! Lawmakers also passed SB 5987. This transportation package includes significant new dollars for affordable housing and services in the Puget Sound region. The bill requires that at least $20 million be provided for affordable housing near transit. It also establishes that 80% of the surplus properties in light rail stations must be made available for affordable housing. Additionally, an amendment by Representative Jessyn Farrell (46th LD, Seattle) creates a funding source for the Puget Sound region of up to $518 million for services to improve educational outcomes in early learning, K-12, and higher education. This includes, but is not limited to low-income, homeless, or foster care youth.

These new dollars for the Puget Sound region are on top of the victory earlier in the session via Representative Larry Springer’s (45th LD, Kirkland) HB 1223. This bill secured at least $45 million for new affordable housing in transit areas.

A Big Win for Permanent Supportive Housing!

Whether you attended Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day earlier this year, or met with your legislator or their staff in-person, or sent an advocacy email supporting our legislative agenda, you helped make this session historic!

In addition to all the great legislative news, the Housing Alliance recently received this info: the state’s Health Care Authority is submitting a federal waiver request to the feds that includes the ability for our state to use Medicaid funds to pay for the medically necessary services delivered in permanent supportive housing. This was a top legislative priority for the Housing Alliance this year! Even more, the federal government issued a bulletin late last week confirming that Medicaid dollars can be used for these services.

All Because of You...

All of this great news means new resources are coming to our communities to create affordable homes and fight homelessness. And it couldn’t be at a more important time. You told your lawmakers to do more and they listened.

Thank you for your advocacy.

There is more to do, and we hope that you will continue to join us as we work to build on these victories in the 2016 legislative session.

Stay tuned. We’ll have an opportunity for you to thank lawmaker champions and please plan now for in-district advocacy opportunities this summer and fall. Consider inviting your lawmakers to your board meeting or to tour affordable homes built with state dollars. The Housing Alliance can assist you in your advocacy efforts, including with getting your board involved with advocacy! It works, let’s keep it going!



A Final Capital Budget!

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

More great housing & homelessness news from the capitol!

The capital budget was just released, and it includes $75 million for the Housing Trust Fund! This is an amazing victory in a year with so much pressure on the capital budget! The House just passed the budget on a 96-2 vote, and the Senate still has to pass the budget. But the bill released includes amounts both sides had previously agreed to, which means that amendments are very unlikely.

Additionally, Weatherization Assistance for low-income homeowners was allocated $15 million. Weatherization improvements of owner-occupied homes save homeowners money and keep homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Weatherization assistance is especially important in rural communities and has environmental benefits of less energy consumption.

The capital budget also directs the Department of Commerce to use $2.5 million in existing funds to create a pilot for ultra-energy efficient affordable housing.

Overall, this is very great news! Almost 2,000 households in need across the state will have safe, healthy, affordable homes because of this allocation, and farmworkers will have safe, affordable seasonal housing. There are plenty of thanks to be made. Stay tuned for the mighty list of lawmakers who championed these allocations.

You can check out the full budget language here. Section 1032 contains the HTF allocation.

If you have a moment, please send a quick thank-you note to these legislative champions:

Rep. Hans Dunshee (44th LD, Snohomish):
Rep Derek Stanford (1st LD, Bothell):
Rep Richard DeBolt (20th, Chehalis):
Speaker Frank Chopp (43rd LD, Seattle):
Rep June Robinson (38th LD, Everett):


A Final Operating Budget!

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

The House and Senate have agreed on an operating budget. As of the time of this post, it is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature. The budget bill, which goes into effect tomorrow July 1, funds affordable housing and homelessness services. The final capital budget is still not released and funds capital construction programs including the Housing Trust Fund. We expect it to be released later today.

The operating budget reflects significant wins that are only achievable from strategic and relentless advocacy from you and strong lawmaker champions. Most significantly, the final budget fully funds the Housing & Essential Needs program (rent assistance for very low-income temporarily disabled adults), fully funds the Aged, Blind & Disabled program (cash assistance for very low-income permanently disabled adults), and includes a nine percent cash grant increase for TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). This is a partial restoration of a larger TANF cut made several years ago.

Below are preliminary budget details. More to come as new operating budget developments and details unfold.


Housing & Essential Needs and Aged, Blind & Disabled Programs

  • Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) program is fully funded.
  • Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) program is fully funded.
  • HEN/ABD incapacity exams were cut by $2.2 million due to current underspend projections.
  • SSI Facilitation Services is fully funded.
  • Medical Care Services is fully funded.


Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

  • A nine percent ($31 million) TANF cash grant increase.
  • The budget earmarks $5,000,000 of the home security account solely for the Department of Commerce to provide emergency assistance to homeless families in the TANF program.
  • TANF Participation Incentive was a program that was ultimately never implemented. The budget eliminates funding for an additional $55 incentive payment to TANF parents who participate in mandatory WorkFirst activities at least 20 hours per week and meet the requirements of their Individual Responsibility Plans (IRP). Payments were scheduled to begin in the last quarter of fiscal year 2015. However technology changes have not occurred to enable the payment during fiscal year 2015. The incentive payment was to be provided in addition to the regular monthly cash assistance.
  • The budget reduces funding for Workfirst job activities to reflect projected under-expenditures.


Other Housing/Homelessness Budget Items

  • The budget creates a “Deed of Trust Act Workgroup”, funded at $20,000 by the Foreclosure Fairness Account. One-time funding is provided to the Department of Commerce to convene a workgroup of interested stakeholders to review the state's Deed of Trust Act contained in Title 61 RCW. The workgroup is tasked to review and make recommendations to ensure that the Act remains a workable system for financial institutions, loan servicing companies, trustee, and borrowers. A report on the review and recommendations is due the Governor and Legislature by December 1, 2015.
  • Washington Youth and Families Fund is funded at $3 million. One million of that is funded from an Affordable Housing for All Account and the rest is funded from a Washington Housing Trust Account.
  • A “Regional Day and Hygiene Center” is funded at $100,000. The budget provides funding to plan and develop a regional approach in southwest King County to provide day and hygiene shelter services to homeless populations. Services would include laundry, showers, restrooms, and resource referrals, but would not include overnight operations. The plan will identify appropriate partners and a service model to meet regional needs; evaluate the establishment of a facility or facilities to provide day and hygiene services; and work with existing providers to expand services to provide day and hygiene shelter services.
  • Washington Telephone Assistance Program (WATAP) and Community Voicemail funding is eliminated. More about WATAP here. More about Community Voicemail here.


Funding for Housing/Homelessness Legislation

Extended Foster Care - SSB 5740 (Fain)

  • The budget provides funding for youth who qualify for Extended Foster Care due to being employed for 80 hours or more per month, as authorized under Chapter 122, Laws of 2014 (EHB 2335).

Office of Youth Homelessness  - 2SSB 5404 (O’Ban)

  • The budget funds the Office of Youth Homelessness at $14.431 million.
  • Additionally, crisis residential centers, hope beds, and street youth services provided to runaway and at-risk youth are transferred from the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to the newly created Office of Homeless Prevention and Protection Programs within the Department of Commerce.

Homeless Student Stability Act -  SB 5065 (Frockt)/HB 1682 (Fey) is not funded.

Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) - the HMIS proviso was not included in the budget. More about HMIS here.


Stay tuned. We'll have more information about the capital budget as we hear about news from Olympia.



New Housing Alliance team member!

Rhean Souders, Finance and Operations Administrator

My name is Rhean (which rhymes with Ian) Souders, and I started this week at the Housing Alliance as the Operations and Finance Administrator.

In this role I’ll be taking care of the internal needs of the office, from assisting both the Executive Director and Director of Policy and Advocacy to working on the budget and day-to-day finances, office management, and staffing processes.

My experience in these areas comes from over 10 years of work at The Seattle Times in a variety of administrative roles, and I’m excited for the chance to adapt those skills to the nonprofit world and the Housing Alliance in particular. Prior to my work at The Times I spent over four years serving and working with AmeriCorps*VISTA and other national service programs in Washington and across the country, and I’m thrilled to be working again toward resolving the problems of poverty. In VISTA I saw first-hand the effects of unstable living situations, especially on children, and I believe that working toward long-term solutions to basic needs like housing is absolutely essential to building a functional, sustainable, and just society. I look forward to participating in the Housing Alliance’s work in education and policy change to bring about those long-term solutions.

In Washington I’ve been both a “dry-sider” and a “wet-sider,” and I love spending time all over this incredibly diverse state. From the golden fields of the Palouse to the drizzly streets of Seattle, I feel right at home, and I’m glad to help make this a better place to live.




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