housing action
Legislature Failed to Make Significant Progress on Housing Crisis



Thursday, March 7 2024

Contact: Kristin Hyde

Affordable Housing Advocates Applaud Budget Investments, Say Lack of Action to Address Rent Gouging Leaves Hundreds of Thousands of Renters at Risk of Displacement 

Olympia, WA – Michele Thomas, Advocacy and Policy Director for the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, today reacted to the end of the 2024 Washington state legislative session:

“We are profoundly disappointed that a minority of lawmakers blocked a moderate approach to provide relief and stability to nearly one million households across Washington. We are deeply thankful to bill sponsors Representative Emily Alvarado and Senator Yasmin Trudeau and the many legislators who supported rent stabilization, which made a historic step forward when it advanced out of the House last month. But with the Senate failing to pass the bill, excessive rent increases will continue to cause impossible trade-offs for renters who are skipping medication, deciding which bill doesn’t get paid, and struggling to pay for essentials like food, heat and transportation. Evictions are on the rise and rent increases will continue to push people out of their homes until our lawmakers pass rent stabilization. Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color are overrepresented as renters. Inaction to address rent gouging continues racial inequities in housing and homelessness in our state. But the movement for rent stability is growing stronger every year. The problem isn’t going away and neither are we.”

The Affordable Homes Act or the Real Estate Transfer Tax would have created a permanent funding source for the Housing Trust Fund and for affordable housing for people with disabilities. Like the rent stabilization measure, this policy would be a gamechanger, providing sustainable funding to address the affordable housing gap that all of our communities face. The leadership of Representative April Berg and Senator Noel Frame was tremendous and this bill will be back next year for consideration. 

“Every single community across Washington state is facing a lack of affordable housing and the crisis of increasing homelessness. While we’ve laid the foundation for success through state budget investments in housing, we know we need to do much more to address this ever-growing crisis,” said Rep. April Berg (D-Mill Creek) Chair of the House Finance Committee and prime sponsor of the Affordable Homes Act (HB 2276). “That’s why it is so unfortunate that two critical policies that would help our state make significant headway, the Affordable Homes Act and the Rent Stabilization bill, were unsuccessful this year. Our efforts on these policies will continue, but the disappointment at our lack of progress on housing this session is palpable.”

One bright spot of this session is the housing and homelessness investments made in both the Operating and Capital Budgets. 

Added WLIHA’s Thomas, “We want to thank budget leaders and advocates who turned out in huge numbers to meet with lawmakers and testify to ensure that there were no cuts to homeless services and that the state stepped up investment to begin to meet the need for more affordable homes. Special thanks to Representative Nicole Macri (D-43) and Representative Julio Cortes (D-38)  for their hard work to ensure homelessness services where prioritized in the Operating Budget and to Senator Yasmin Trudeau (D-27) and Representative Steve Tharinger (D-24) for prioritizing affordable homes in their Capital Budgets.”

Affordable housing “wins”:

  • The final supplemental operating budget includes $60 million to help backfill the projected funding gap from document recording fees, which should ensure that state-funded shelter and rapid rehousing programs can maintain their current service levels through the second year of the two-year budget.
  • The final supplemental capital budget includes $127,539,000 for the Housing Trust Fund – a significant investment for the second year of a two-year budget. This will be added to the record $400 million investment made in the biennial budget that was released last year, bringing the two-year total to $527,539,000 for affordable housing for the biennium.

Missed opportunities:

  • House Bill 2276, sponsored by Representative April Berg (D-44), and Senate Bill 6191, sponsored by Senator Noel Frame (D-36), collectively known as The Affordable Homes Act, would have created a permanent and dedicated fund source for affordable housing by adding a modest 1% to a new program mirroring the existing real estate excise tax on properties that sell for more than $3.025 million.
  • HB 2114, sponsored by Representative Emily Alvardo, and SB 5961 by Senator Yasmin Trudeau would have prevented landlords from issuing excessive rent increases. HB 2114 was referenced as “one of the most closely watched housing bills in the country,” in New York Times coverage, the amended version of the bill would have allowed landlords to increase rent on current tenancies up to 7% every 12 months, set rents at whatever they wanted for new tenancies, and exempt new rental housing units for 10 years after occupancy. 

“Housing costs” were named as a top priority by voters and lawmakers. Median rent in Washington state increased 34% between 2001 and 2019.  U.S. Census Pulse Survey released in February, shows that nearly 500,000 Washingtonians felt pressure to move between August 2023 and February 2024 due to a rent increase with Black, Hispanic and mixed-race households feeling more pressure to move than white renter households. 65%, nearly 150,000 renters, who felt pressure to move ended up being displaced by the rent increases. Wages for hundreds of thousands of working families in Washington aren't keeping up with rent. Numerous studies have shown you’d have to work nearly 80 hours a week to afford a 1 bedroom rental earning minimum wage.

At every hearing on the measures, supporters of rent stabilization far outnumbered critics, and hundreds of tenants traveled to Olympia to share their experiences of rent gouging with lawmakers.

Edward R. King Jr of Bellingham who owned and operated The Little Cheerful Cafe in Bellingham Whatcom shared: “As a result of my MS and related health challenges I had to stop working. I moved into an apartment community where my mother lived. The rent increased from $750 in 2015 to $1700 in 2023. When I couldn’t keep up, and there were no options I could afford, I moved into my car. Thankfully after eight years on the low income housing wait list I have found a place. I’m paying 60% of my income, $800 for 540 square feet.”

Tina Hammond, a renter in Spokane: “The legislature failed renters. We can’t survive another year of these excessive rent increases.”

Kelley Rinehart from Silverdale: “My wife and I are Mom & Pop Landlords and we depend on our rental income for our retirement. We do well when our tenants do well and the rent stabilization bills this year were a fair and balanced attempt to get at the bad actors out there while not hurting us landlords. I’m disappointed that lawmakers didn’t get these common sense protections passed and hope that they will come back next year to provide all tenants with the stability they need to stay in their homes.”

Julie Sparkman, renter in Spokane: “In the last year, we have had a rent increase every 90 days for a grand total of $560 - which is a 57% increase. My dream of homeownership is dead. I have burned through my savings, and my teenagers now are not even hoping to start their adulthood - which comes in a year - with an apartment. The rents are just too high.” 

Marty Miller, Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing, Yakima: “Washington’s rural and agricultural communities need more affordable homes. Farmworkers are the backbone of agricultural communities but they and their families are struggling to find housing that is affordable. The Affordable Homes Act, HB 2276 and SB 6191, would have significantly increased our state’s ability to meet local needs and I’m disappointed that lawmakers did not pass these important bills for the second year in a row. Advocates for rural and farmworker housing will be back next session and we hope that lawmakers will be responsive.” 

Marc Cote, Executive Director of Parkview Services: “A large portion of people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities live on very low incomes. And if they don't have family who can support them or have families that are aging, they need affordable homes. This is at a crisis in our state. And the affordable homes they require are specialized, and include 24/7 support services in order to live safely and healthily. The Affordable Homes Act recognized this need and would have created sustainable funding that our communities could rely on. I urge lawmakers to pass this bill next year and not turn their back on people with disabilities.”

Anne Sadler, president of the Association of Manufactured Homeowners and a manufactured homeowner in Skagit County: “Manufactured homeowners across the state are suffering from years of excessive rent increases and we are upset that lawmakers did not pass rent stabilization. These bills would have prevented seniors from being forced out of our homes with nowhere else to turn. But now, we will continue to face large and necessary rent increases and continue to wonder if we are the next neighbor forced into their car or onto the streets. Our state lawmakers must do better next year and quickly pass rent stabilization to protect us.” 

To talk with impacted landlords, tenants, and affordable housing advocates, please contact Rob Huff at (253) 229-5769


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