Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy
There’s no way to sugar coat this, so I’m not going to. We are extremely disappointed in the lack of progress on solutions to the affordable housing and homelessness crisis.
Virtually everyone in Washington agrees that homelessness is a crisis and more needs to be done. And the Washington State Legislature had very real opportunities this year to take action. They could have implemented reasonable policy solutions and made modest budget investments that would bring an end to family homelessness, ensure that no youth leaves state care into homelessness, and reduce long-term homelessness experienced by people with disabilities by 50-percent. Unfortunately, the session is ending without that policy, without source of income discrimination protections for low-income tenants, and without the investments needed to move our state forward.
Special interests, including for-profit builder, realtor, and landlord lobbyists played politics with homelessness, gambling with the life or death services that keep a roof over a family’s head. We are thankful that House budget negotiators drew a strong line against cuts to life-saving services like the Housing and Essential Needs, and Aged, Blind, and Disabled programs. Neither the Senate’s proposed cut of 80% to rental assistance for people with disabilities nor the lifetime cap on cash assistance for extremely poor and disabled adults are in the final budget agreement, and for that we are pleased and relieved. Further, many bad policy bills were defeated that would have eliminated tenant protections, criminalized homelessness, prevented the implementation of the Medicaid Transformation Demonstration and more. It would have been devastating to go backwards at a time when homelessness is increasing across the state. Both the Governor and the House Democrats introduced budgets with new investments to the safety-net that would have significantly helped people move out of homelessness or helped them stay in their homes. But with the final budget lacking these proposals, many of the 21,845 people experiencing homelessness tonight will be left to struggle for survival into the foreseeable future.
I do want to take a moment to acknowledge the great work that was done by our housing champions, specifically Representative Nicole Macri, (43rd district, Seattle). Who is in elected office matters, and Representative Macri really proved that this year. House Bill 1570 survived every single cutoff through the regular session and three special sessions, and it wasn’t until closed door, middle of the night negotiations that it actually died. House Bill 1570 made it so far in the process because of tremendous advocacy by people like you, and because it was championed by a lawmaker who knows and understands what it takes to solve homelessness in our state. The advocacy around House Bill 1570 successfully created pressure for lawmakers to prioritize the prevention of the 2019 sunset of homelessness assistance for thousands of people. And, it has built momentum for lawmakers to return to Olympia next year to fund the services that are needed to adequately address homelessness in our state. Many lawmakers spoke on the House floor of the inadequacy of the four-year extension and are already gearing up for a renewed push next year.
Another area of disappointment is the lack of progress on progressive revenue needed to move our state forward. To read more on the current proposal for a revenue compromise, see the Budget & Policy Center’s blog post. The Operating Budget isn’t final until it’s final, and the Housing Alliance will have more to say about it next week when all the details are known. Further, we are still advocating for a Capital Budget to be passed. This is a fluid situation with many working to find resolution, but calls are still needed to the Senate Republican Caucus to urge them to pass a Capital Budget. You can find a roster of all members, including email and phone numbers, here.
For now, I’d like to take a point of personal privilege and ask that you check that your voter registration is up to date. Please stay tuned for next steps. We are not done fighting.
Thank you so much for all your advocacy this year!