Recent Blog Posts
Joaquin Uy, Communications Coordinator
Of course, this week's biggest news was our overwhelmingly successful Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day! But before we talk about that, first some major updates on a few of our legislative priorities, starting with Part 2 of the Fair Tenant Screening Act.
The Housing Alliance has been hard at work making sure tenants who've been negatively impacted by inaccurate tenant screening reports were present to share their stories with legislators. Also, advocates from membership organizations turned out to testify at FTSA hearings in both houses.
The first hearing was on Tuesday with the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance. On the agenda was SB 5568, Part 2 of the Fair Tenant Screening Act. This bill was introduced by Senator Steve Hobbes, and would make it illegal for tenant screening reports to include records of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Part 2 of the Fair Tenant Screening Act is making its way through both legislative bodies. This bill will ensure everyone in Washington State, especially survivors of domestic violence has a right to fair and accurate tenant screening reports.
We need you to please click here to take action now, and tell your legislators to support HB 1529 in the House and SB 5568 in the Senate.
Want to rent an apartment? Great, just fill out an application, your name, date of birth, job, income… oh and would you mind noting if you’re a survivor of domestic violence? Landlords would like to know.
At least that’s what the lobbyists for the Rental Housing Association said at Tuesday’s Senate hearing. It’s worth pointing out that Joe Puckett with the Washington Multifamily Housing Association signed on in support of the bill. Some landlords agree these records shouldn’t appear on tenant screening reports.
Nonetheless, the hearing had testimonies from both supporters and detractors. The landlord groups against the bill said the bill was a “solution seeking a problem,” and that no one was really experiencing any discrimination in rental applications due to a record of domestic violence. Rental Housing Association folks made this point again, saying, “You haven’t heard complaints, and you haven’t heard from victims. You’ve heard supposition and anecdote today, but there are no victims here saying they’ve had a problem getting housing and it’s because of this.”
We find this especially odd considering just fifteen minutes prior, 2012 Housing Advocate of the Year Patricia Ridge told her personal story about how a history of domestic violence made it hard for her to find housing for herself and her children. Listen to Patricia’s moving testimony below:
Linda Olsen with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence added her testimony that she’s been doing focus groups over the past two years in her role as housing coordinator. And she’s directly heard from numerous domestic violence survivors that these court orders were why they were denied tenancy.
By allowing records of domestic violence to continue appearing on tenant screening records we continue to make it easy for landlords to deny a home to anyone with a record of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. That’s wrong, and it’s illegal to boot. So let’s pass SB 5568 and make it so this doesn’t happen to anyone anymore. Please take action! Click here and tell your legislator to stand up for fair and accurate tenant screening reports!
On Thursday, the House version of Part 2 of the Fair Tenant Screening Act (HB 1529/Stanford) had a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. The room was packed and 23 organizations signed-in pro with 7 (including the Housing Alliance) testifying in support. One particularly moving testimony came from Maureen Roat an attorney with the Housing Justice Project. Maureen talked about the hundreds of clients she's worked with who felt trapped by the "black mark" of an eviction notice on their record, even when they prevail in court.
The House bill has already been scheduled for an executive session for Thursday. This is critical because the first cut-off of the session is next Friday, February 22. If policy bills don’t get voted out their committee by the 22nd then they'll be dead for the session. That's why it's absolutely critical for you to tell your House representatives to pass HB 1529 to ensure fair and accurate tenant screening reports. Please take action! Click here and tell your legislators in both the Senate and the House to stand up for fair and accurate tenant screening reports!
Several of our support bills also had hearings this week. The Foster Care to 21 Bill (SB 5405 by Senator Ed Murray), was heard on Monday. And both the House and Senate versions of the Unused Properties Bill (SB 5598 by Senator Mark Mullet and HB 1563 by Representative Jessyn Farrell), were heard on Thursday. All three bills had great testimony.
Perhaps the biggest news on our support items was the bill to permanently reinstate the 72-hour notification rule for homeless youth in the shelter system. On Friday, we learned that SB 5147/Hargrove has passed the House! You might remember that it passed the Senate unanimously late last month. We join our allies in advocating for the governor to sign it into law on Youth Advocacy Day next Friday.
In other news, this week sure began with a advocacy BANG! The 10th Annual Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day brought people from all over the state to Olympia making this truly a landmark event!
Over 650 advocates representing 43 out of the 49 legislative districts made this Advocacy Day the largest ever. People squeezed into the United Churches Sanctuary to join the standing-room-only crowd. Later, all Advocacy Day workshop facilitators reported full attendance in each presentation. Attendees participated in a variety of workshops. Topics included using social media to advocate to their legislators, an in-depth analysis of affordable housing and homelessness issues in the legislature, and even Advocacy 101 in Spanish.
Throughout the day, many attendees talked about how empowering it felt to share their personal stories with their elected officials and talk about affordable housing and homelessness issues. Social media was also abuzz with Advocacy Day-related tweets and messages. Here's a sample of tweets or Twitter comments using the hashtag #HHAD2013:
The culminating event of the day was the noontime rally at the steps of the Capitol. It was the first time we had ever organized a rally of that size on Advocacy Day. The sea of red on the steps was both awe-inspiring and motivating. Housing Alliance Executive Director Rachael Myers and formerly homeless youth Brittany Lang led the rally attendees in a powerful chant that could be heard even inside the Capitol building!
Altogether, the day was quite an inspirational experience for both the organizers and the participants. Here's a video recap of the day, so you can renew your energy to continue advocating for a Washington where everyone has an opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home.
Of course, Advocacy Day wouldn't have been possible without the hard work, dedication, and good spirits of our volunteers and attendees. Here's a video message of gratitude from the Housing Alliance staff.