State Legislative Advocacy

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We advocate for public policy that supports our vision that all Washington residents have the opportunity to live in safe, healthy, affordable homes in thriving communities.

 


2020 Affordable Housing and Homelessness Priorities


Download a PDF version of all our priorities here. 

 

Download our 2020 bill tracker here: updated as of 02.18.2020 

 


Lead Policy Agenda 2020


BUILD HOMES AFFORDABLE FOR LOW-INCOME PEOPLE.

The for-profit housing market produces very little housing that is affordable for the lowest income people, leaving a gap of more than 200,000 homes for people earning less than half the area median income. Local communities need resources to build homes that cost what those households can afford.


Invest $10 million into the housing trust fund for preservation of affordable homes. The Housing Trust Fund provides homes for families with children, seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, farmworkers, and more. Many currently affordable homes across Washington are at risk of being lost to the for-profit market. An additional $10 million- dollar appropriation for the Housing Trust Fund in the Supplemental Capital Budget would help save homes and prevent the displacement of people living in them. This would preserve affordable homes already subsidized but at risk of loss. Funds could be used for the preservation of all units at risk of loss, including USDA properties in rural communities and homes funded with Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

 

HB 1590/ SB 6126 (Doglio/ Takko): Allow the local option for a 1/10th of 1% sales tax increase for affordable housing to be implemented by local elected officials. Local jurisdictions need more options to generate local funds for affordable homes. In 2015, the Legislature authorized cities and counties to implement a sales tax for affordable housing, but using the option requires an electoral process that is expensive and time-consuming. This would allow this local option to be enacted through a simple majority vote of the city or county council. Local governments could still send it to the voters, but would not be required to.

 

Status: House: Passed the House 52 to 46. Senate: Did not make floor cutoff.


HB 2797/ SB 6631 (Robinson/ Saldaña) Improvements to 1406. Improvements are needed to last year’s House Bill 1406 to ensure that local jurisdictions can take full advantage of the state sales tax credit for affordable housing.

 

Status: House: Passed out of the House 63 to 33. Senate: Did not make floor cutoff.


REDUCE IMPEDIMENTS TO BUILDING AFFORDABLE HOMES.

Changes in current law are needed to reduce the cost and impediments to building affordable homes. These bills would make it easier for nonprofits and public housing authorities to develop affordable homes.


HB 2634/ SB 6366 (Walen/ Mullet): Create a real estate excise tax exemption for selling property to a nonprofit or public housing authority who acquires it for affordable housing. The lack of properties available to develop multifamily housing and the inability to compete with for-profit developers to acquire existing properties is a significant issue facing affordable housing developers across the state. Providing a Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) exemption when selling to a nonprofit or public housing authority for affordable housing will incentivize preserving or developing affordable homes. All sales or transfers of real property to a nonprofit entity, public development authority, or public housing authority would be exempt from the REET if the purchasing entity records a covenant requiring the property to be used for affordable housing.

 

Status: House: Passed the House 94 t0 4. Senate: Hearing in Ways and Means (2/20)


HB 2384/ SB 6232: (Doglio/ Kuderer) Fix the property tax exemption for affordable rental housing for very low-income households. Nonprofit affordable housing is currently granted a property tax exemption under certain circumstances, but it needs to be adjusted to work with the needs of today’s affordable housing providers. If a tenant’s income increases, which it often can because affordable housing stabilizes lives and improves employment opportunities, housing providers can be required to pay the full property tax. This unpredictability drives funders to require significant up-front cash reserves which can significantly increase the cost of building affordable homes.

 

This bill would adjust the initial target income of tenants from 50% of Area Median Income (AMI) and below, to 60% AMI and below to apply to more people. It would also eliminate the wildcard of future tax liability by allowing a tenant to increase their income without triggering a tax increase for the property.

 

Status: House: Passed the House 96 to 2. Senate: Did not make floor cutoff.


SHB 2343/ SB 6334 (Fitzgibbon/ Salomon): Improvements to 1923

Concerning urban housing supply. Improvements are needed to last year’s House Bill 1923 that creates incentives for reducing the cost of building homes.

 

Status: House: Passed the House 93 to 2. Senate: Did not make floor cutoff.


INCREASE HOUSING STABILITY.

Stable housing improves health and educational opportunities. Preventing families from losing their homes prevents homelessness and helps people stay in their communities near jobs, schools, and services.


HB 2453/ SB 6379 (Macri/ Kuderer): Require a legitimate reason to make someone move. Currently in Washington, landlords can end a month to month lease and make a tenant move without even telling the tenant why. This is a loophole in Washington’s fair housing laws and other legal protections for tenants and can mask illegal retaliation and discrimination. The fear of getting a twenty-day no cause notice to move is a common reason tenants don’t assert their rights under the law. Landlords should not be able to make someone move unless they have a legitimate business reason and they should not be allowed to provide such little notice.

 

This would require a landlord to have a legitimate business reason to make someone move and require more than twenty days notice. The bill includes a variety of reasons similar to Seattle’s Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, but also applies to month to month tenancies.

 

Status: House: Did not make cutoff Senate: Did not make floor cutoff.


Fund foreclosure counselors to protect homeowners. Homeowners in Washington continue to face the loss of their homes through foreclosures, including tax-lien foreclosures as the population of homeowners ages and includes more people on fixed-incomes. Funding is needed to maintain skilled counselors and mediators who connect homeowners to prevention resources and to information on homeowners’ rights in the foreclosure process.


HB 2724/ SB 6378 (Macri/ Kuderer) Improvements to 5600. Concerning residential tenant protections. Some landlords have exploited loopholes in last year’s Senate Bill 5600, changes are needed to ensure tenants are protected from unfair evictions as intended.

 

Status: House: Did not make cutoff Senate: Passed the Senate 30 to 18 with 1 excused.


PREVENT AND END HOMELESSNESS.

While many of our other priorities will also help prevent and end homelessness, these directly target homelessness by expanding rental assistance, eliminating the ABD reduction for people living in shelter, and letting tenants spread out high move-in costs over three months.


Establish a pilot program to provide rental assistance to disabled adults and seniors to prevent homelessness. When disabled adults and seniors successfully complete the arduous process of securing federal supplemental social security income, they increasingly find themselves still far short of the income needed to meet today’s sky-high rents. $783 is not enough even to afford a studio apartment in most areas of Washington. Receiving SSI makes these individuals ineligible for Housing & Essential Needs rental assistance which otherwise fills a housing gap for disabled adults. This would establish a pilot program to provide immediate relief to prevent homeless- ness and study program options for cost-effective interventions for consideration in 2021.


Eliminate the ABD shelter penalty. The Aged, Blind, or Disabled (ABD) cash grant program serves extremely low-income people with disabilities who are in the process of applying for federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) assistance. The grant was dramatically cut from $339 per month to $197 per month during the Great Recession and the shelter penalty was implemented which lowers the cash grant even further to $120 per month for people who are determined not to have out-of- pocket housing expenses.

 

The ABD cash grant is a critical resource for addressing basic needs and every ABD recipient should be able to access the full $197. This impacts about 15 percent of ABD recipients who are already struggling to make ends meet. While there is more work needed to increase the grant, eliminating the shelter penalty is a common-sense step the legislature can take during a supplemental budget year to address the needs of an extremely low-income disabled population.


HB 1694 (Morgan): Require landlords to accept a 3-month payment plan for move-in costs when a tenant requests it. Moving costs, including first and last month’s rent, deposits, and fees can add up to thousands of dollars and is a major hurdle for people trying to transition out of homelessness. Allowing tenants a three-month payment plan to cover these move-in costs will help address this significant barrier. This bill would not regulate fees but requires a landlord to accept a tenant’s request for a three-month payment plan for all the move in fees, deposit, and first/last month’s rent. 

 

Status: House: Passed the House 54 to 44.


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Watch this page for regular updates. For more information, contact Director of Policy and Advocacy Michele Thomas at michelet@wliha.org

 

 

 Picture courtesy of Alec Miller Arts