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This Week in Housing Advocacy: Just Three Weeks Left

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Last week was a long, hard week in Olympia. Many bills competed for attention as the Tuesday night floor cutoff loomed in both chambers. Only one of the Housing Alliance’s top priorities fell victim to this cutoff when SSB 6321 died at 5:00 sharp Tuesday evening. This bill, sponsored by Senator Kohl-Welles, would have made it harder to use a tenant’s victory in eviction court as a reason to deny them future housing opportunities. The bill was amended in committee and received bipartisan support. Although it is dead for the session, it educated many elected officials about the need for better tenant protections and the need for regulation of the tenant screening industry. We will be back next year to pick right up on the momentum generated on this issue.

Meanwhile, SSB 6315 by Senator Frockt, is alive and well. This bill will require adverse action notices by landlords, require that decision-making criteria be given to applicants, and create an interim stakeholder group to examine how to make screening reports more affordable and more accurate. The bill received a hearing last Wednesday in the House and is already scheduled for executive session today (Monday). We hope this bill will continue to receive bipartisan support in the House – it passed the Senator floor unanimously, a tremendous feat for any progressive tenant bill.

Reduced Caseload?
The end of the week brought unexpected news that the state’s revenue intake is up by about $100 million more than previously projected. How this news impacts the budget and revenue debates remains to be seen, but there were already indications that this may provide some lawmakers with an excuse to not support revenue.

The increase in revenue is being coupled with a $340 million savings announced last week by the State Caseload Forecast Council. The savings is from less people than expected enrolling in entitlement programs. The last forecast was in November and, for some reason, the number of people enrolled now is less than what was projected. Advocates are skeptical that the decrease in enrollment correlates to a decrease in need, but instead suspect problems in connecting people to the basic services that they are entitled to. Regardless, there is still a significant budget gap and the “good news” of the revenue and caseload forecasts threaten to weaken the willingness of lawmakers to raise the revenue needed to stave off further cuts to the state’s safety net. Advocates should be on guard in the coming weeks and stay tuned for more opportunities to weigh in for revenue and against further cuts.

What to Expect this Week
Friday is the policy committee cutoff for bills that originated in the opposite chamber. This means that bills must be voted out of their policy committee in order to continue to the next step. The following Monday is the fiscal committee cutoff. Remember that the document recording fee bills, ESHB 2048 and SSB 5952, have been deemed “NTIB”  - necessary to implement the budget. This means that they are not subject to any of the cutoff deadlines. However, it is still important that these bills continue to move. With less than three weeks left of the session, we don’t want them to get lost in the shuffle.  ESHB 2048 has hearing on Tuesday at 10:00 AM in the Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee chaired by Senator Hobbs. Please help us make sure that this bill moves quickly through the Senate by taking action today.

Please take action today to help pass ESHB 2048/SSB 5952. Each biennium more than 28,000 people will experience homelessness if these bills don't pass.

Click here to email your Senator to ask that they vote yes on these important bills.

Please follow up your email with a quick call to your Senator. Call 1-800-562-6000 to ask your Senator to “Vote yes on 2048 and 5952 – modest fees on real estate related documents will prevent and end homelessness for over 28,000 people each biennium.”

New Research Shows Dramatic Rise in Homelessness if 2048/5952 isn't passed.

The Department of Commerce has released new data that shows what will happen in every county in the state if 2048/5952 isn’t passed. The data shows that the state will lose $42,262,071 in revenue, which means that at least 28,307 more people will be homeless in each biennium.

Here are examples of the impact of not passing 2048/5952 on select counties:
Click here for a pdf copy of the whole report.

County

Dollars Lost

Increase in number of people
experiencing homelessness

Yakima

$1,014,693

680

Spokane

$2,753,544

1,844

Clark

$2,541,371

1,702

Whatcom

$1,321,297

885

Pierce

$5,183,601

3,472

Thurston

$1,672,653

1,120

King

$13,267,969

8,887


Expect Developments on the Budget this Week

It is anticipated that the House will release their budget by Tuesday. Expect an email from the Housing Alliance soon after that will highlight the allocation for the Housing and Essential Needs program. The House is also expected to release a bill Tuesday for their Capital Bonds Jobs Package. This much-anticipated package will include an allocation for the Housing Trust Fund. The release of a bill means that more details will be available. Watch for updates from the Housing Alliance for any breaking news.

As always, the Housing Alliance will keep you updated with strategic opportunities for advocacy.  With the session closing in on its last three weeks, please expect a higher volume of emails from us – it is good news that we still have so many issues to advocate for. Your voice remains critical. Please don’t be hesitant about contacting your elected officials multiple times on the same issue. This shows how important the issue is to you and helps to keep it on their radar screen.

Thank you for your ongoing advocacy –

Michele

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