The 2023 legislative session included important victories for low-income people across Washington.
Lawmakers opened the legislative session by declaring 'this is the year for housing' and they had opportunity to create transformational change However, they failed to pass bills that would have stabilized rents, provided longer notice of rent increases, and created permanent funding with progressive revenue to build affordable homes at the scale the crisis requires. They did pass many bills to make it easier for developers to build market rate housing. But these homes will be out of reach for low and even moderate-income households and will not provide the affordable homes our communities need.
Despite the disappointments, the wins should be celebrated because they are real and will have a significant impact on the many low-income households struggling to keep a roof over their heads. These wins are a direct result of the incredible, relentless advocacy of thousands of people across the state who spoke out this session.
The Capital Budget makes significant investments in affordable homes, including:
- $400 million for the Housing Trust Fund.
- $40 million for land acquisition to quickly acquire land for affordable housing to be built.
- $14.5 million for shelter and housing for homeless youth and young adults.
- $6 million for preservation and investments in manufactured housing communities.
- $60 million for infrastructure needed when building new affordable homes.
The Operating Budget includes significant funding for homelessness. Highlights include:
- An 8% increase in the Aged, Blind and Disabled cash grant starting in 2024.
- A permanent ongoing increase of $26.5 million for the Housing and Essential Needs rental assistance program.
- An ongoing homeless services increase of 6.5%, which is a $45 million investment in our state's frontline provider workforce.
- Over $50 million for HB 1260/Alvarado to eliminate the ABD repayment requirement.
- $5 million for eviction prevention and increased funding for tenant's right to counsel.
- $150 million for HB 1474/Taylor to create the Covenant Investment Act to provide homeownership opportunities for people harmed by racist real estate practices like racially restrictive covenants and redlining.
Funding was also included to backfill the loss of funding for homeless services and to prevent cuts, plus an additional $18 million to help cover a portion of the local shortfall that cities and counties are experiencing for locally funded homeless services. These investments are critical to prevent cuts to homeless services across the state. Although we appreciate that funding was included for this, it remains to be seen if there is enough. If revenues decline more than what is assumed by this budget, the state will have to address this again next session. It is also important to understand that a significant amount of the state shortfall was filled with funding that the state and counties failed to spend on rental assistance. Additionally, revenue declines from 2022 reduced funding for homelessness prevention by about $88 million, which is not backfilled by this budget.
We deeply appreciate the hard work by our champions and budget writers that went into securing the many budget investments. Overall our state needs to enact progressive revenue to ensure that there are funds available to fully meet the needs of our communities, so we can turn a corner on our housing and homelessness crisis.
There is more work to do in the coming months. Thank you for advocating strongly and boldly for affordable homes, for programs to end homelessness, and to protect renters. Our movement grew during the 105-day legislative session by over 7,000 people! We will continue to grow and to build more power throughout the interim period before the legislature returns to Olympia in 2024.