While several tenant protection priorities did not make cutoff, opportunities remain for Legislature to positively impact state affordable housing crisis

Joaquin Uy, Communications Specialist

March 11, 2015 was an important cutoff date for the Washington State Legislature. Most bills needed to be voted off of the floor of their chamber of origin in order to advance toward the eventual goal of becoming a law. Three bills that died would have helped protect vulnerable renters.

The Truth in Evictions Reporting Act or SSB 5376 would have fixed a flaw in the way evictions are currently reported. Tenant screening companies report all eviction lawsuits as equal, even lawsuits that have been settled to the landlord’s satisfaction or when the tenant has won in court. However, eviction court has many different outcomes: the tenant could have been wrongfully named, the tenant could have been a victim of their landlord’s foreclosure, or the tenant could have won. But, none of this matters as tenant screening reports list all eviction lawsuits as equal. The misleading and inaccurate tenant screening reports make accessing a rental home much more difficult in the future.

SSB 5376 would have ensured that tenant screening reports are fair and accurate and don’t report all eviction records as equal.

SSB 5376 had significant bipartisan support, which makes it even more disappointing that it didn’t make the March 11 cutoff,” says Housing Alliance Director of Policy and Advocacy Michele Thomas. “This legislation was about basic fairness and justice for all renters. With affordable rental homes shrinking across Washington, we need to stop inaccurate and misleading tenant screening reports from blocking renters from obtaining housing.”

Another tenant protection bill that did not make the cutoff was SHB 2051 or the 90-day Notice/Relocation Assistance and Rent Increase Bill. This bill would have given cities the ability to ensure tenants have reasonable notice of at least 90 days for large rent increases.

HB 1565 and SB 5378 creating statewide protections from source of income discrimination were other opportunities lost this session. These bills would have made it illegal for a landlord to deny housing solely because the household is relying on assistance to pay a portion of their rent. As more and more families in Washington struggle to pay rent, our state needs to ensure that vulnerable households have housing opportunities.

Despite the disappointing news, Michele Thomas sees opportunity. “While both legislative bodies should have done more to advance tenant protections, the Fair Tenant Screening Act - SHB 1257 (Walkinshaw) is still alive. The House of Representatives prioritized this important bill. And, lawmakers still have the opportunity to provide significant funding for affordable housing through the capital budget, to fully fund safety-net housing programs like Housing and Essential Needs, and to ensure final passage of the Homeless Youth Act.”

SHB 1257 will make the tenant screening process more practical and economically efficient for both tenants and landlords. In a housing search, tenants will be able to buy just one tenant screening report that they can provide to all prospective landlords requesting the data.

The Housing Alliance also supports funding the Housing Trust Fund at $100 million. The vast majority of state investments in affordable homes assist people who are extremely low-income and are otherwise unable to afford a home. Housing and homelessness advocates across the state will be watching the budget process closely to ensure legislators robustly fund this effective budget tool for shrinking the affordable housing gap.



The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 8

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

The Post Fiscal Cutoff Report

Last week was eventful again for affordable housing and homelessness issues, with many important bills being voted out of their chamber of origin. As we mentioned in last week’s email, Wednesday, March 11 is the last day bills can be voted off the floor. (All bills directly related to the budget are exempt from this cutoff.) The next step for bills that make it past Wednesday’s cutoff is the policy committee in the opposite house.

We are very happy to share that the following bills had already cleared this hurdle as of Friday, March 6.

Your Advocacy Worked!

A huge thank you to everyone who took action last week and sent messages to their legislators asking them to support HB 1257 the Fair Tenant Screening Act. The bill was voted out of the House with 51 yeas and 47 nays. This is a very important milestone, and it means we are that much closer to passing this bill into law and ensuring that people have an option other than to be charged over and over again for duplicate tenant screening reports.

It's very important that we say thank you to the legislators who voted in favor of the bill and remind the others about why the legislation is necessary.

We make it easy for you to send your "thank you" or "please reconsider" emails to your representatives.

Start by clicking here!

The Fair Tenant Screening Act
SHB 1257 (Walkinshaw)

This top priority bill was voted out of the House on Thursday after an eventful floor debate. You can watch the floor action here.

It is sometimes rare that we get to send thank-yous during the legislative session. So please take a moment to thank the lawmakers who voted yes on this important bill. This action will also allow you to share your disappointment with the lawmakers who voted no and to encourage them to reconsider. (Their support may be needed again this session if the bill is amended in the Senate.)

These lawmakers deserve a special thank you for their leadership and support:

Representative Brady Walkinshaw (43rd LD-Seattle) is the prime sponsor and has been a skillful and fierce leader:

Representative Laurie Jinkins (27th LD-Tacoma) is the chair of the Judiciary Committee and a cosponsor of the bill. She has done a lot of behind-the-scenes work to move this bill and did a fantastic job opposing a slew of bad floor amendments:

Representative June Robinson (38th LD-Everett) has been a long time supporter of this issue. She is a housing leader and was the prime sponsor on last year’s bill. Her floor speech was a perfect summary of the reason this bill is so important, and we greatly appreciate that she shared the story of a Housing Alliance leader and Emerging Advocate graduate Thomas Green:

Representative Steve Kirby (29th LD-Tacoma) impressed many during the committee hearing back in February with his strong words that expressed the same frustration that we feel about the endless roadblocks thrown out to prevent this problem from being solved. He shared that frustration again on the floor. He was speaking for so many of us who have been working long and hard:

Representative Linda Kochmar (30th LD-Federal Way) was the lone and brave vote from the Republican caucus. We know it can be hard to be the standalone if your caucus has made the decision to act in unison, (as it appears that they did on this bill). She deserves your thank you for voting her conscience and for standing up for what is right:

Workforce Housing in King County
SHB 1223 (Springer)

Also known as “the King County Stadium Bonds Bill”, SHB 1223 passed the House late Thursday night with bipartisan support. In 2011, the State Legislature authorized King County to use a portion of lodging tax revenues to develop affordable homes for working families, but these funds are not available until 2021. Simple clarification language for the existing legislation would help non-profits and housing authorities build these homes much sooner. Thanks are due to Representative Larry Springer (45th LD-Kirkland) for his great leadership: The Senate companion SSB 5208, was still in Senate Rules Committee as of Friday evening.

Homeless Youth Act
2SHB 1436 (Kagi)

The Homeless Youth Act passed the House earlier this week with significant bipartisan support. The act will also establish the Office of Homeless Youth Programs to coordinate funding, policy, and practice efforts related to homeless youth and young adults and to make recommendations to the Governor. In addition, the act will create a Homeless Youth Advisory Council to serve as a liaison between service providers and state government. Representative Ruth Kagi (32nd LD-Seattle) deserves thanks for her leadership: and Representative Maureen Walsh (16th LD-Walla Walla) also deserves thanks for effectively securing significant bipartisan support: The Senate version 2SSB 5404 is on the Senate floor, but not voted on as of Friday evening.

The Homeless Student Stability Act
2SHB 1682 (Fey)

The Homeless Student Stability Act was pulled to the floor and voted off the House floor on Friday! This act will provide schools with much-needed support to identify and serve homeless students. In its current form, HB 1682 would provide funding to OSPI to help support schools in identifying and coordinating services on behalf of students experiencing homelessness. The bill would also provide support for school housing partnerships. In the current version of the bill, the amount for HSSA will be determined by the budget. Special thanks are due to prime sponsor Representative Jake Fey (27th LD-Tacoma):

Extended Foster Care
2SHB 1735 (Orwall)

Extended Foster Care passed the House Thursday. Passing this legislation will provide youth with a documented medical condition the opportunity to remain in the foster care system until the age of 21 in order to achieve a high school diploma/GED, pursue their post-secondary education, or pursue programs that break down barriers to employment. Thanks are due to the prime sponsor Representative Tina Orwall (33rd LD-Des Moines): The Senate version SSB 5740 was pulled out of the Senate Rules Committee on Friday.

Homeless Management Information System
SSB 5898 (Miloscia)

The HMIS bill was pulled from Senate Rules to the Floor on Friday evening. This positions it for a vote before Wednesday’s cutoff. Changes to Washington's current HMIS informed consent privacy statute (RCW 43.185C.180) from "opt in" to "opt out" could help improve statewide compliance and strengthen privacy protections, especially for survivors of domestic violence.

TANF and Workfirst Activities
ESHB 1875 (Walsh)

This is the bill that will allow TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) recipients to complete two years of education while receiving TANF instead of just one. The bill passed on Thursday with very significant bipartisan support and Rep. Maureen Walsh is (once again) deserving of thanks for her great leadership:


Highlights for This Week

After March 11, committees will resume a regular meeting schedule, and attention will start turning to the upcoming budget release. This year, the House will be the first go public with their budget proposals, with March 23 being the approximate date of release. In the meantime, policy bills that make it past the March 11 cutoff will need to be scheduled for a hearing in the opposite chamber. The committee chair gets to choose which bills they want to give a hearing to. If they want to stop a bill from progressing, they simply refuse to hear it by the next deadline on April 1 (seriously).

Last week’s progress is thanks to your extraordinary response to the call to action. Thank you for contacting your legislator and for pushing your networks to join you. It worked, and we will likely need you to do the same thing again in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more updates and opportunities to weigh in.


Stay Informed!

In the meantime, are you signed up to receive your lawmaker’s newsletter? Most lawmakers send out email newsletters, and we encourage you sign up for them. They frequently contain important information that is hard to otherwise find, like notices of upcoming town halls back in their home districts.

Town hall meetings with your lawmaker are a great way to emphasize that affordable housing and homelessness issues should be a top priority. And a lot of lawmakers are planning town halls over the next couple of weeks. You can sign up for the newsletters by visiting your lawmaker’s homepage. House Democrats have the option to sign up for their newsletter in the bar on the right of the page, House and Senate Republicans at the top of each page, and Senate Democrats at the bottom of each page. Check out your lawmakers’ pages today to see if there is a town hall coming up soon.

Below are a few town halls that we know of. You can see another list of town halls here.

Thursday, March 12 (telephone town hall)

25th District
Rep. Zeiger and Rep. Stambaugh Telephone Town Hall
6:00pm – 7:00pm
Dial: 1-253-561-0087

Friday, March 13

9th District
Rep. Fagan constituent coffee
3:00 – 5:00pm
Harvest Moon Restaurant
20 South 1st St, Rockford, 99030

26th District (1 of 4)
Rep. Young
6:00 – 7:00pm
Norm Dicks Government Center
345 6th St, Bremerton, 98337

Saturday, March 14

1st District
Sen. McAuliffe and Rep. Stanford, and Rep. Moscoso
10:00am – noon
Northshore Senior Center in the Wellness Center
10212 E Riverside Drive, Bothell, 98011


3rd District
Sen. Billig, Rep. Ormsby, and Rep. Riccelli
1:00pm – 2:30pm
WSU-Spokane Riverpoint Campus
Academic Center Auditorium
600 N Riverpoint Blvd, Rm #20, Spokane, 99202


5th District (3)
Rep. Rodne and Rep. Magendanz
Maple Valley
10:00am – 11:00am
Maple Valley Community Center
22010 SE 248th St, Maple Valley, 98038


1:00pm – 2:00pm
Issaquah Fire Department, Station 71
190 E Sunset Way, Issaquah, 98027


North Bend
3:00pm – 4:00pm
Mount Si Senior Center
411 Main Ave S, North Bend, 98045


10th District (2)
Sen. Bailey, Rep. Smith, and Rep. Hayes


10:00am – 11:30am (10-10:30am – Meet and Greet/10:30-11:30am – Town Hall)
Coupeville Rec Hall
901 NW Alexander St, Kirkland, 98033


Mount Vernon
2:00pm – 3:30pm (2-2:30pm – Meet and Greet/2:30-3:30pm – Town Hall)
Conway School
19710 SR 524, Mount Vernon, 98274


11th District
Sen. Hasegawa, Rep. Hudgins, and Rep. Bergquist
1:00pm – 3:00pm
Regional Communications & Emergency Coordination Center (RCECC)
3511 NE 2nd St, Renton, 98056


21st District
Sen. Liias, Rep. Ortiz-Self, and Rep. Peterson
10:30am – Noon
Meadowdale High School, Great Hall
6002 168th St SW, Lynnwood 98037


23rd District (2)
Sen. Rolfes, Rep. Appleton, and Rep. Hansen


Bainbridge Island
9:30am – 11:00am
Bainbridge Island City Council Chambers
280 Madison Ave N, Bainbridge Island, 98110


2:00pm – 3:30pm
The Jenne-Wright Administration Center, Central Kitsap School District
9210 Silverdale Way NW, Silverdale, 98383


26th District (3 of 4)
Rep. Young


Port Orchard
10:30am – 11:30am
Port Orchard City Hall
216 Prospect St, Port Orchard, 98366


Key Peninsula
2:30pm – 3:30pm
Key Peninsula Civic Center,
17010 South Vaughn Road KPN, Vaughn, 98394


Gig Harbor
6:00pm – 7:00pm
Gig Harbor City Hall
3510 Grandview St, Gig Harbor, 98335


27th District
Sen. Jeannie Darneille, Rep. Jenkins, and Rep. Fey
10:00am – noon
Evergreen State College – Tacoma Campus
1210 6th Ave, Tacoma, 98405


29th District
Sen. Steve Conway
10:30am – 12:30pm
Garfield Book Co. at Pacific Lutheran University
208 Garfield St S #101, Tacoma, 98444


30th District (2)
Sen. Miloscia, Rep. Gregory, and Rep. Kochmar
Federal Way
10:00am – 11:30am
Federal Way City Hall, Council Chambers
33325 8th Ave S, Federal Way, 98003


12:30pm – 2:00pm
Milton City Hall
1000 Laurel St, Milton, 98354


32nd District
Sen. Chase and Rep. Ryu
2:00pm – 3:30pm
Shoreline Fire Department
17525 Aurora Ave N, Shoreline, 98133


35th District
Rep. MacEwen and Rep. Griffey
2:00pm – 3:30pm
The Pavilion at Sentry Park
190 W Sentry Dr, Shelton, 98584


36th District
Sen. Kohl-Welles, Rep. Carlyle, and Rep. Tarleton
10:00am – noon
Phinney Neighborhood Association, community room
6532 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, 98103


38th District
Sen. McCoy, Rep. Sells, and Rep. Robinson
10:00am – 11:00am
Everett Community Resource Center, Port Gardner Room
3900 Broadway Ave, Everett, 98201


41st District
Sen. Litzow, Rep. Senn, and Rep. Clibborn
10:00am – noon
Somerset Elementary School
14100 Somerset Blvd, Bellevue, 98006


42nd District
Sen. Ericksen, Rep. Buys, and Rep. VanWerven
1:00pm – 3:00pm
Whatcom Community College
Syre Student Center
237 W Kellogg Rd, Bellingham, 98226


43rd District
Sen. Pedersen, Speaker Frank Chopp, and Rep. Walkinshaw
1:00pm – 2:30pm
Seattle Central College, Erickson Theater
1524 Harvard Ave, Seattle, 98122


45th District
Sen. Hill, Rep. Goodman, and Rep. Springer
10:00am – 11:30am
Woodinville High School Auditorium
19819 136th Ave NE, Woodinville, 98072


48th District
Sen. Cyrus Habib, Rep. Ross Hunter, and Rep. McBride
Redmond City Hall
15670 NE 85th St, Redmond, 98052



The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 7

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

The Halfway Point

This week marks the halfway point of the legislative session, which is scheduled to end on April 26. Last Friday was the second “cutoff” of the session. All bills with a fiscal impact had to clear a fiscal committee in order to proceed. Bills that are considered “necessary to implement the budget” are not subject to these cutoffs. But many policy bills with fiscal impacts are subject to cutoffs, including most of the bills on the Housing Alliance’s support agenda. The next cutoff is Wednesday, March 11. All bills have to be voted off the floor and moved to the other chamber by that date. The next week and a half will include a lot of floor action, so stay tuned for developments as bills move forward.

Tell lawmakers to pass crucial legislation to protect tenants before the March 11 cutoff!

All bills, including the ones below, have to be voted off the floor and moved to the other chamber by Wednesday, March 11 or they're dead. The next week and half will include a lot of floor action, which is why we need you to click here to tell your elected official that you support bills eliminating barriers to housing.

Please take action below to:

Make tenant screening reports fair and affordable. Pass the Fair Tenant Screening Act (HB 1257)!

Ensure innocent tenants won't unfairly have evictions on their record. Pass the Truth in Evictions Reporting Act (SB 5376)!

Give cities the ability to make sure tenants have reasonable notice for large rent increases. Pass the 90 day notice Bill (HB 2051)!

Take action now!

Moving Into Budget Advocacy...

We are now reaching the point of the session where budget writing will start to take center stage. We’ve heard the House will release their budgets around Friday, March 20. We hope to see a capital budget investment of $100 million in the Housing Trust Fund and operating budget investments in key priorities like the Permanent Supportive Housing Medicaid Benefit and the Washington Youth and Families Fund. We also hope to see the Carbon Polluters Tax - SHB 1314 (Fitzgibbon) move forward, because it is good public policy and because it creates a permanent funding stream for the Housing Trust Fund. Continue to stay tuned to these weekly emails, Housing Alliance action alerts, and social media for updates. Also refer to our bill tracker to see where key priorities are at in the process.


Your Advocacy Worked...

Thank you to everyone who took action last week. Earlier in the week, many of you called to urge your lawmakers to invest $100 million in the Housing Trust Fund. And then a whole lot of you responded to last Thursday’s urgent request to help get the Homeless Student Stability Act - SHB 1682 (Fey) and Extended Foster Care - SHB 1735 (Orwall) past the Friday cutoff. We are very happy to share that both bills made it through and are now in the Senate Rules Committee with all of our other support agenda bills!

...That's Why We Need You to Keep It Up!

We need to keep the pressure up to make sure affordable housing and homeless priorities make it past the finish line. The Truth in Evictions Reporting Act - SSB 5376 (Habib), the Fair Tenant Screening Act - SHB 1257 (Walkinshaw), and the Relocation Assistance and Rent Increase Bill - SHB 2051 (Farrell) all need a push. Last Thursday was the annual Landlord Lobby Day, and we know that they exaggerated the impact and spread some misinformation about the bills. We need your help to correct the record and to urge your lawmakers to vote yes!

Please click here to take action today, and urge everyone in your network to join you by sharing the action page link ( on Facebook! Thank you for all you do to help move affordable housing and homelessness priorities forward. Your involvement is key, so please keep it up!



The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 6

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

An Amazing Day of Advocacy

Last week was extraordinarily active for affordable housing and homelessness advocates. Our annual Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day was by far the highlight of the week with over 650 advocates in Olympia last Tuesday. The energy throughout the day was electric, with determined and enthusiastic advocates all over the capitol campus carrying important messages to their lawmakers. The day started off with special guests state Senate Democratic leader Sen. Sharon Nelson (34th LD-Maury Island) and Geoff Baker a board member of Yakima Valley based Generating Hope/Noah's Ark. Both challenged advocates to stay active beyond Advocacy Day throughout the rest of the session. Susan Russell, a graduate of the Housing Alliance’s Emerging Advocates Program and recent Real Change Vendor of the Year, delivered a riveting and grounding call to action that kept everyone motivated throughout the long and action-packed day.
Susan Russell pictured below (center) with Director of Development Kate McMullen (left) and Homelessness Policy and Advocacy Specialist Kate Baber (right).

Take Action Today!

1) Call your lawmaker to remind them about the messages they heard from Advocacy Day constituents to invest $100 million in affordable housing!

Call 1-800-562-6000, and leave one message for all of your lawmakers! Tell them to:

“Please ask Capital Budget writers to invest $100 million in the Housing Trust Fund.”

Encourage your colleagues, fellow board members, friends, and family to also make the call!

2) Please thank these legislators for their work in supporting source of income discrimination protection by clicking each one below: 

SB 5378 Prime Sponsor Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th LD-Seattle)

HB 1565 Prime Sponsor Representative Timm Ormsby (3rd LD-Spokane)

Representative Jesse Young (26th LD-Gig Harbor)

Big Thanks!

Thank you to everyone who came to Olympia so early in the morning to educate your lawmakers on the important issues we are all working on. Legislators felt your significant impact! Please share your thoughts about your experience. Everyone who registered will be getting an email with a link to a survey so that we can get your feedback. And don’t forget to share your favorite photos from the day with us! We saw a lot of advocates taking selfies and pictures with lawmakers. Please share with us on Facebook.

A huge event like Advocacy Day can’t happen without the amazing crew of volunteers who helped plan and execute the day. Thank you to all the Legislative District Leads and folks who came in the wee hours of Tuesday morning to set-up and help with registration. Thanks to those who helped cleanup, run a workshop, and passed out lunches. Also specific thanks to volunteer photographer Lindsay Brandon and to Firesteel and Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness for the social media support and the on-site and off-site photo booths.

And an extra special thanks to Alouise Urness, Honah Thompson, and the entire Housing Alliance team for the love and hard work that turned Advocacy Day 2015 into a day to be remembered!

Advocacy Day May Be Over, But Your Advocacy Must Continue

We are entering the 7th week of the 15-week session, and you still have a lot of opportunities to weigh in and make a difference. The Housing Alliance is challenging all advocates to commit to contacting your lawmakers at least once each week, until the session is over.

Senator Nelson echoed this challenge in her Advocacy Day morning remarks and encouraged folks to continue to weigh in. She confirmed that it is nearly impossible to advocate to your elected official too often, and lawmakers need to hear from you consistently!

This week, we are encouraging everyone to call the state’s toll-free legislative hotline to ask your lawmakers to invest $100 million in affordable housing. If last week you were in Olympia or if you called or emailed your lawmaker, personalize the below message as a follow-up for this week.

Take action today!

Call your lawmaker to remind them about the messages they heard from constituents at Advocacy Day to invest $100 million in affordable housing!

Call 1-800-562-6000 and leave one message for all of your lawmakers:

“Please ask Capital Budget writers to invest $100 million in the Housing Trust Fund.”

Encourage your colleagues, fellow board members, friends, and family to also make the call!


Some Bad News About This Cutoff

Last week marked the first cutoff of the session. All bills had to be voted out of their policy committee by last Friday in order to continue in the process. Unfortunately, one of the Housing Alliance’s top priorities did not make it out of their committees of origin: legislation outlawing housing discrimination based on participation in a government assistance program, HB 1565/Ormsby and SB 5378/Kohl-Welles. That means that the issue is effectively "dead" for the session. But we will be able to start over next year. The bills are companion bills and would have made it illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to someone solely because of their participation in a government assistance program to help pay their rent (like Section 8 or a state-funded voucher program). This is a very important issue, and you can bet we will be back on it next year.

Thanks to those of you who testified, made calls, met with your lawmakers, and sent letters. You have educated lawmakers and reinforced the importance of the issue for our champions, which will help a lot when we pick this back up next year.

Special thanks to testifiers Tamara Gray, Dana Dildine, Kristina Sawycky, Brenda Anibarro, Jim Adrian, Kurt Wiest, Chris Lowell, Jonathan Grant, and Eric Dunn.

Thanks are also due to the prime sponsors Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th LD-Seattle) and Representative Timm Ormsby (3rd LD-Spokane) and also to Representative Jesse Young (26th LD-Gig Harbor).

Rep. Young worked hard over the last couple of days to try to get the bill out of the House Judiciary Committee. Please take a minute to thank all of them for their work. You can click on their name below to send an email. And please try to add a personal note to the content:

SB 5378 Prime Sponsor Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th LD-Seattle)

HB 1565 Prime Sponsor Representative Timm Ormsby (3rd LD-Spokane)

Representative Jesse Young (26th LD-Gig Harbor)


Good News About the Next Cutoff

The good news is that all of our other priority and support issues are still moving! Please go to our bill tracker to quickly see which lead and support bills are still alive. The next cutoff is just one week away and all bills with a fiscal impact have to clear their fiscal committee in their house of origin. Bills that don't have a fiscal impact skip those committees and go straight to the Rules Committee.

This week will be a rush to get many bills through various fiscal committees. Several of our key support issues need to get through their fiscal committee to order to continue in the process. Stand by for another call to action if any of the issues need extra help to keep moving.

Last week was an inspiring reminder of how big, diverse, and strong this movement is. Help us make sure the education and advocacy of Advocacy Day keep going all session long. Pledge to take action each week and mark that by calling your lawmakers today!

Thanks much to all of you who have worked so hard to move these important issues. And stay tuned, because there is a lot more work to be done!
Communications Specialist Joaquin Uy's selfie (above) with Social Media and Advocacy Workshop attendees.
Sen. Sharon Nelson (below) reminding advocates that everyday is an opportunity to talk to your legislators about housing and homelessness issues.

2/23/2015 edit: made corrections to names and updated thanks-yous.



The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 5

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

See You This Tuesday?

The sixth week of the session begins on President’s Day. The next day on Tuesday, hundreds of advocates from across the state will converge on Olympia for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day to educate their lawmakers on what they can do this session to help prevent homelessness and ensure more people have the opportunity to live in safe, healthy, and affordable housing. Advocates are coming at the perfect time. Friday the 20th marks the first cutoff of the long session. All bills must be voted out of their policy committee of origin, or they will not be able to continue down the path to becoming law.

This Week's Online
Advocacy Checklist

1) Thank You, Rep. Walkinshaw!
Please click here to send Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (43rd LD-Seattle) a quick note of thanks for his leadership and hard work on the Fair Tenant Screening Act (HB 1257), which passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last Thursday.

2) Please Pass These Out of Your Committee, Rep. Jinkins
Click here to email House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Laurie Jinkins (27th LD-Tacoma) to ask her to move out of her committee HB 1460 (Habib), the Truth in Evictions Reporting Act, and HB 1565 (Ormsby), outlawing source of income discrimination.

3) Please Hear This Bill, Sen. O'Ban
Click here to send an email to Human Services, Mental Health & Housing Committee Chair Sen. Steve O’Ban (28th LD-Tacoma) asking him to hold a hearing on the Senate version of the source of income discrimination protection bill - SB 5378 (Kohl-Welles).

4) Tell Your Legislator to Support These Key Tenant Protection Bills
Let your lawmakers know that creating more opportunities for affordable homes means protecting vulnerable tenants. Take action today by going to this page that will help you quickly and easily send emails to each of your legislators.

One Down, Five More To Go

All of the Housing Alliance key policy bills still need to be moved out of the committee where they started except for the Fair Tenant Screening Act - HB 1257 (Walkinshaw), which was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last Thursday. This bill will allow tenants to just pay once every 30 days for a tenant screening report when searching for a rental home. Please click here to send Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (43rd LD-Seattle) a quick note of thanks for his leadership and hard work on the bill.

Please also help make sure that several of the remaining bills get out of their committees by emailing these two committee chairs and asking them to move the bills out:

Click here to email House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Laurie Jinkins (27th LD-Tacoma) to ask her to move out of her committee HB 1460 (Habib), the Truth in Evictions Reporting Act, and HB 1565 (Ormsby), the bill that would outlaw discrimination based on a renter’s participation in a government assistance program to help pay a portion of their rent.

Click here to send an email to Human Services, Mental Health & Housing Committee Chair Sen. Steve O’Ban (28th LD-Tacoma) asking him to hold a hearing on the Senate version of the source of income discrimination protection bill - SB 5378 (Kohl-Welles).

Even If You Can’t Make It to the Capitol, You Can Still Help!

If you can’t join us for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day on Tuesday, you can still make sure lawmakers hear our messages loud and clear. Keep a look out for a message in your inbox, Facebook feed, and Twitter feed for an Advocacy Day action alert. You may not be able to physically be with us in the capitol. But you can still participate. While we’re meeting with legislators face-to-face, you can support us by flooding legislators’ inboxes and voicemails. Stay tuned.

Another Busy Wednesday

Wednesday was the big day last week with the Senate hearing key tenant protection bills. Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles’ bill SB 5377 gives cities the option to require 90-days notice of a rent increase over 10%. During the Wednesday Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee hearing, many people testified in favor including Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata and a Seattle tenant who has had over four rent increases in the past five months that more than doubled her rent.

The committee also heard the Truth in Eviction Reporting Act SB 5376 on that same day. Although testimony was cut short on the bill, two tenants were able to testify to share their stories of unfair eviction records and the many doors closed to them because of this “scarlet letter.” The committee also heard another bill SB 5259, sponsored by Senator Andy Billig (3rd LD-Spokane). This bill will require landlords to give tenants a voter registration form, which will help ensure that highly mobile households stay registered to vote. If you haven’t yet taken action to ask your lawmakers to support key tenant protections this session, please do so today! Click here to send your lawmakers an email.

You can watch Wednesday's big hearing here from TVW:


Get Active! Seriously Active!

The House Alliance is challenging you and your fellow advocates to commit to taking action at least one time each week for the rest of the session. Your lawmakers need to repeatedly hear from you. And it is never too much to contact them each week! As long as you are polite and clear, weekly emails and/or calls will ensure that your lawmaker knows that affordable housing and homelessness is a top priority for voters in their district.

You have a variety of ways to weigh in this week. This includes attending Advocacy Day this Tuesday and acting on this action alert. And you can help grow our movement by forwarding this blog post to friends, colleagues, and family. Tell them why you care and how easy it is to take action. Encourage them to join you!

Thank you for your advocacy so far and stay tuned. We have ten more weeks of the regular session and we all need to stay active and strong in order to ensure affordable housing and homelessness issues keep moving forward.



Check out what these two emerging advocates are emerging into.

Andrea Marcos, Membership and Development Associate

We’ve said it before and we’re going to say it again…

Stories are power!

The Housing Alliance is excited to announce two graduates of our Emerging Advocates Program were chosen to participate in The Moth’s storytelling workshops coming up later this month. Congrats to Faye Johnson and Kirk McClain! We know how awesome you are, soon The Moth will too. 

The Moth is a non-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. The group presents storytelling events across the United States and offers a national public radio show, The Moth Radio Hour.

The Moth is partnering with Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness to offer two 8-hour workshops on the theme, “Home: Lost and Found” for people with personal stories about homelessness. Participants will learn about storytelling craft and get a chance to refine their own personal stories with storytelling experts.

Faye (second from the left) during a 2014 Emerging Advocates Program session.

Faye and Kirk went through our 2014 Emerging Advocates Program, where we spent six weeks together building skills and power for people directly experiencing housing instability or homelessness to advocate for positive policy change. When Faye called me up a few days ago to let me know she got into the workshop, I was so excited and grateful to be connected to such amazing leaders who are continually working for positive change in our communities (we could write blog post after blog post about what EAP graduates are up to). 

“I want to be able to help others out of where I had been for the majority of my life. I see the impact that I can make by me telling my story.” said Faye. “Because if I could tell my story then the person who is listening could get a feeling of hope.”

Then the next day I got an email from Kirk. He was accepted too. Some of you may know Kirk already or have seen the interview he did with our executive director Rachael Myers at the news site ThinkProgress.

Or maybe you read the blog post he wrote, reflecting on his first experience at our Conference on Ending Homelessness last year.

If you’re at Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day next week, tell Faye and Kirk congratulations! They’ll both be there bringing their stories and leadership to meetings with their district’s elected officials advocating for affordable housing policy and ending homelessness.

I’m going to say it one more time, “Stories are power!”


The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 4

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Last Wednesday was Quite a Day!

The big event last week was Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee, which heard all three of the Housing Alliance’s priority tenant policy bills. Over 20 people showed up in Olympia before 8:00am to testify and to ask lawmakers to support the bills.

Fair Tenant Screening Act

The hearing started with the Fair Tenant Screening Act, HB 1257. Prime sponsor Representative Brady Walkinshaw (43rd LD-Seattle) opened up the hearing making several key points about the bill. He talked about how portable tenant screening reports are good for consumers. He also mentioned that even though industry always initially resists change, they end up adjusting. This is why the bill allows 18 months for the market to adjust to the change before the law goes into effect.

Many advocates testified to the importance of the bill including Ashley Albert, Kimberly Mays, and Thomas Green. These three testified at the committee hearing of the Senate version of the bill back in Week 2. At this hearing, Emerging Advocates Program grad and Real Change Vendor of the Year Susan Russell joined to share her personal story of experiencing housing barriers because of the repeated and high cost of tenant screening fees. Representative Steve Kirby (29th LD-Tacoma) expressed strong feelings of frustration with the tenant screening industry’s lack of movement on the issue over the years. It was an important moment in the hearing that you can watch below. Many of us who have been working for years to find a compromise solution that still adequately solves the problem share the representative’s frustration. Please click here send Rep. Kirby a quick note to thank him.


Truth in Evictions Reporting

Next up in the committee schedule was the Truth in Evictions Reporting Act or HB 1460, sponsored by Representative June Robinson (38th LD-Everett). This bill will regulate how evictions are reported. Rep. Robinson started by pointing out that she knew “of no other circumstance where you can go to court and then be treated for the rest of your life as if you were guilty.”

Right now, all evictions are reported as equal, no matter the outcome. Tenants can be wrongfully sued, prevail in court, be evicted by a bank because their landlord foreclosed, or reach a settlement with the landlord. But all these are reported as if the tenant actually lost. Susan Watchie Olden came to the committee to share how this issue has impacted her life. Years ago, a landlord wrongfully sued her, and she prevailed in court. The landlord had to pay her a settlement. She was able to continue renting the home until her son graduated from high school later that year. But the eviction on her record has closed door after door. Most landlords will categorically deny any tenant associated with an eviction lawsuit, and Susan is living this reality years after the eviction was filed.

Innocent tenants are marked for life because the court’s database keeps the records available to the public, even after the seven years in which a tenant screening company is not supposed to report on them. “Innocent until proven guilty” one of our country’s most foundational legal principles, is often denied to tenants. Merely being named marks you with a “scarlet letter” and closes many doors indefinitely. As Susan so succinctly pointed out, “I found at there is no such thing as exoneration when it comes to eviction court.” You can watch her entire testimony below.


Protections from Source of Income Discrimination

Finally, HB 1565 by Representative Timm Ormsby (3rd LD-Spokane) was up. This bill will outlaw discrimination based on a tenant’s use of rental assistance to pay a portion of their rent. Representative Ormsby perfectly outlined the need for the bill by pointing out that the legislation isn’t a form of rent control. Tenants will have to pay the rent, and meet all the other requirements. He also pointed out that last year, as a condition of the reauthorization of the homeless housing surcharge on real estate related documents that, 45% of the state’s portion of the revenue was mandated to be for private rental market vouchers. He said that “the state is a good faith participant in that rapid rehousing program that directs millions of dollars to private landlords and all we are asking for those landlords to be a good faith participant as well. All we are asking is that you can’t refuse to rent to someone or evict someone just because they are relying on government assistance such as disability or SSI. This promotes the mobility that we all wish we could have.”

The bill had a diverse group of supporters lined up to educate lawmakers on who is impacted by this discrimination, how it disparately impacts households at high risk of discrimination and, in the case of one landlord, why participating in the federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program is good for both tenants and landlords alike.

Tamra Gray, a veteran from Longview, shared her remarkable story of experiencing homelessness with her children and the many doors that were closed to her once she obtained tenant-based rental assistance from Longview Housing Authority. After she finally secured housing, she was able to recover and stabilize her life, moving on to secure a job with Longview Housing Authority where she assists other vets who are experiencing the housing struggles she so recently experienced herself. You can watch her testimony below.


East King County tenant Nina Caso submitted written testimony to the committee members with her story:

“Every place I called, I was immediately told that they do not take Section 8. I called about 30-40 places and even with my monthly income of $1500, a clean criminal record with no evictions and good rental history, I was still denied every time. Eventually I was going to give up, but decided to try and drive around to look at places around Bellevue. The first place I went to was called Castle Creek. They were happy to accept me and I am still living here now and loving it.

My experience was extremely challenging and frustrating at first and I was going to give up because everywhere I turned I was told no for no reason whatsoever – at least none that I could control. I wanted to move on with my life, but I was prevented from doing so for an extra 3 months. Please pass HB 1565 so that I won’t hear “We don’t take Section 8” next time I have to move, and make it easier for other renters like me to find a place to live too.”


Highlights for This Week

Next week will be the fifth week of the session, which means we are already over 1/4 of the way through! February 20, the first cutoff date of the long session, is just around the corner. The first cutoff requires that all bills must be voted out of their policy committee in their house of origin, or be “dead” for the session. For example, SB 5123 (Frockt), the Fair Tenant Screening Act, must be voted out of the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee by the 20th in order to continue its path to becoming law.

The Senate version of the Truth in Evictions Reporting Act, SB 5376 is up for a hearing on Wednesday the 11th at 1:30 in the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. At a press conference on the first week of session, the prime sponsor, Senator Cyrus Habib (48th LD-Medina) had this to say about the bill, “Many of us do believe that you ought to be given second chances in life...a fresh start...But that's not what's happening in reality. For me, this is a due process issue...and problem. It's kind of like a zombie eviction. It just keeps coming back to life even though it's been slayed in court.”

Show your support for this and the other important tenant bills by clicking here to quickly send an email to your lawmakers today.
And please take an extra second to personalize it, which makes your email even more effective!

Lastly, if you haven’t yet registered for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day, make sure you do so today! You won’t want to miss this valuable and energizing advocacy experience. You will join 600 other advocates to both learn more about the issues and to educate lawmakers on the importance of this year’s affordable housing and homelessness agenda. Learn more and register here.



The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 2

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Take Action

The second week of the state legislative session was just as busy as the first, with hearings on key housing priorities including SB 5123, the Fair Tenant Screening Act sponsored by Senator David Frockt (46th LD-Seattle). The House Capital Budget Committee had a hearing on Governor Jay Inslee’s budget proposal. The Housing Alliance and others thank the Governor for allocating $75 million for the Housing Trust Fund.  But, we ask the House to bring that up to $100 million. Please join us in sending a strong message to the legislature that we need to pass a budget with new revenue options to ensure that we prevent further holes to our already frayed safety net. Add your name to our revenue petition!

Fair Tenant Screening Act

Wednesday’s hearing on the Fair Tenant Screening Act was the highlight of the week, with incredible testimony by a strong crew of advocates, people personally impacted, and Housing Alliance staff. Thomas Green, Ashley Albert, and Kimberly Mays clearly identified the importance of SB 5123 when they shared how expensive repeat tenant screening fees have blocked their access to a home. It was Ashley’s first time in Olympia, and her testimony was quite moving. You can watch it below:

You can also read Ashley's testimony here.

Special thanks to everyone who testified: Ashley Albert, Kimberly Mays, Thomas Green, Patricia Abbate of Solid Ground, Liz Mills of the YWCA of Seattle | King | Snohomish, Eric Dunn of the Northwest Justice Project, and Jonathan Grant of the Tenants Union.

Numbers of Homeless Students in School and Racial Disparities Up

The week was overshadowed by the weekend release of the most current count of K-12 students experiencing homelessness in our state. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction announced that they identified 32,494 students as homeless in the last school year. This represents 3.1 percent of students statewide and is an increase over the previous school year’s count, which was the already too high 30,609. School districts are required to gather additional data on these students including their race because SB 6074 (Frockt) passed last year, a bill that Columbia Legal Services championed and we supported. The resulting data this year is startling, showing a significantly disproportionate experience of homelessness among kids of color. Native American, African American, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students were much more likely to be homeless than their White peers.

OSPI’s report ended with the following statement:

“Washington state school districts are identifying and serving increasing numbers of homeless students every year, and the numbers continue to rise. Between the 2008-09 school year and 2013-14 school year, Washington State experienced a 56% increase in the number of enrolled homeless students reported by school districts. In many cases, school is the only stable or safe place for children and youth who are experiencing the instability of disrupted housing and high mobility.

Knowing that homelessness impacts both the academic and the social-emotional well-being of students, it is critical for school districts to have the resources and supports necessary to ensure that all vulnerable children and youth, particularly those experiencing homelessness, are identified, served and supported.”

The Housing Alliance 100% agrees and urges state lawmakers to pass our full lead and support agenda, which together addresses the housing and safety net resources and policy solutions needed to prevent households from experiencing the brutality of homelessness.

Key Housing Alliance support agenda priorities also made progress last week, most excitingly with SB 5208 (Miloscia) passing unanimously out the Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee. This bill will allow King County to use proceeds from existing lodging taxes for bonding for affordable workforce housing. The Homeless Student Stability Act SB 5065 (Frockt), also received a hearing last week in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. The bill has not yet been voted on by the committee.

King County Homelessness Numbers Also Up

The week ended with annual Point in Time Homeless Count, with volunteers fanning out across the state during the wee hours of Friday morning to identify and count people trying to survive outdoors. While official count outcomes for the state won’t be available for several months, King County count organizer Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH) announced an increase in the number of people found in King County, with 3,772 people counted on Friday. This is a significant increase from the 3,123 found in 2014. It is disappointing, shameful, and alarming that so many people are homeless and that the number is increasing. High housing costs, lack of subsidized affordable housing, an inadequate safety net, and significant housing barriers all contribute to homelessness. Our state lawmakers have the opportunity this session to help our communities make progress and to help ensure more households have the housing and resources they need to prevent or exit homelessness.

Join the Housing Alliance, SKCCH, King County Committee to End Homelessness, and Real Change in Olympia on Wednesday to acknowledge each person counted outside in King County last Friday. Lawmakers will join us for the Ring Out for Revenue: Seattle to Olympia event as we ring a gong for each of the 3,772. And we will be highlighting what the state can do this session to make progress, including passing a capital budget with $100 million for the Housing Trust Fund.

There are still spots available for you to sign up to ring the gong here.

Highlights for This Week

This week will be another busy week for affordable housing and homelessness issues, both good and bad. In addition to the Wednesday action and accompanying press conference, the Housing Alliance will be joining a panel on Tuesday to testify in support of Governor Inslee’s Carbon Tax bill, which will tax the state’s biggest polluters. The Governor’s proposal names the Housing Trust Fund as a beneficiary of some of the proceeds. Here is the relevant language from the bills HB 1314 (Fitzgibbon) and SB 5283 (Ranker):

Two percent of the moneys, as needed to equal and not exceed fifteen million five hundred thousand dollars in fiscal year 2017, as needed to equal at least nineteen million five hundred thousand dollars in fiscal year 2018, and as needed to equal at least twenty million dollars in each fiscal year thereafter, deposited into the Washington housing trust fund created in RCW 43.185.030.

The Housing Alliance has also organized a work session on the intersection of mental illness and housing needs for the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee on Tuesday, January 27 at 10:00am. You can watch it live via TVW. Special thanks to Committee Chair Senator Steve O’Ban (28th LD-University Place) for agreeing to the work session.

The Housing Alliance will also be weighing in on many bills that may have a negative impact on access to housing, including SB 5219 (Benton) which seeks to allow landlords to use the accelerated 3-day pay or vacate eviction process for an allegation of nonpayment of fees. This bill and many others that will negatively impact both tenants and owners of manufactured housing will be heard on Wednesday, January 28 in the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee at 1:30pm. If you are on campus on Wednesday, please consider stating your opposition to these bills by signing in con. If you need some help, grab any of the Housing Alliance staff or stop by the Legislative Information Center for information on how to sign in on Senate bills.



Why you should attend Advocacy Day!

Guest Blogger: Penny Lipsou, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence Policy & Economic Justice Intern

Last year, on January 28, when I attended my very first advocacy day, I was excited, energized, and inspired! As an intern for Seattle-based community development organization InterIm CDA, I had the privilege of joining an organized group of folks headed to the state capitol to lobby for legislative issues. Our group of elders, youth, and InterIm staff piled into two 12-passenger vans at 7am for the trek down to Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day, organized by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.

Upon arriving in Olympia, we were greeted with breakfast, a symbolic red scarf, and a bold red folder full of information about key housing issues.

I was impressed by the diversity of advocates there for the day. I met youth who were currently experiencing homelessness, environmental architects, domestic violence shelter program managers, and others. I felt the electric power of solidarity pulse through over 600 people, from different communities all over Washington State, motivated by the belief that all Washington residents should have the opportunity to a safe, healthy, affordable home.

InterIm CDA intern Penny Lipsou (l) & WILD Program Manager Jamie Stroble (r) at Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day 2014.


Being more of a shy person, I felt a little nervous at the thought of discussing policy issues with a state legislator. Thankfully, I participated in an Advocacy 101 workshop. A supportive team of seasoned housing advocates coached us with helpful advice, political insight, and their own personal stories.

I felt ready to advocate when I later I joined a group of fellow legislative district residents. Then we were off to talk with lawmakers about barriers to a home and the state’s affordable housing shortage. The advocacy process became much less intimidating thanks to the workshops, structure, and overall spirit of Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day.

After meeting with several legislative representatives, I gained a new perspective on the dynamics of the political system and how to engage with lawmakers. By the end of the day, I was confidently raising my hand to let legislators know exactly how I felt about certain housing issues and why it’s important for them to do something about it.

Advocacy Day left me with a better sense of who in electorate leadership was truly supportive of affordable housing and ending homelessness. It also gave me ideas of what to say to those who weren’t so supportive! This in and of itself has been helpful in my subsequent advocacy work. Regardless of how legislators received our messages, it was important that we shared our stories and gave our hearts in an effort to push progressive policy forward. Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day was so pivotal to me, because it connected me with a bigger movement and inspired me to pursue social welfare policy as a career.

Given Seattle’s current cultural shift in the landscape of the housing market, I am looking forward to speaking with my elected officials on key issues at this year’s Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day on February 17.

If you haven't already, please register for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day here.

And if you need more details about the day, check out the Advocacy Day page here.

I hope to see you there!



The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 1

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Greetings and welcome to the first weekly roundup of the legislative session. Each week of this session, we’ll be posting a summary of how affordable housing and homeless issues fared in Olympia, as well as highlights for the current week. Our hope is to keep you informed and ready to advocate. With hundreds of issues competing for the attention of lawmakers, affordable housing and homelessness advocacy needs to be strategic and relentless. The Housing Alliance commits to bringing you the information and tools you need to advocate for change.

Take Advocacy Action

Take action today by calling the legislature’s toll free hotline at 1.800.562.6000 with this message for all of your lawmakers:

“Eliminate barriers to housing by supporting the Fair Tenant Screening Act that’s SB 5123 and HB 1257 and by investing $100 million in the Housing Trust Fund.”

Tenant Protection Legislation Updates

Fair Tenant Screening Act
SB 5123 (Frockt ) / HB 1257 (Walkinshaw)

The Fair Tenant Screening Act prevents tenants from paying for the same tenant screening report over and over again. The bill simply says that if a tenant provides a landlord access to a high quality tenant screening report and that it is no more than 30-days-old, the landlord cannot charge the tenant for another report.

Source of Income Discrimination Protections
(Bill Number TBA Kohl-Welles / Ormsby)

Everyone should have an equal opportunity to apply for housing, which is why Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th LD-Seattle) and Representative Timm Ormsby (3rd LD-Spokane) are introducing legislation to prohibit discrimination against otherwise eligible tenants based on their participation in a government assistance program.

This discrimination is referred to as “source of income” discrimination, and has been outlawed by many states including Oregon where new protections went into effect last July. Several local jurisdictions in our state already protect tenants including King County, Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland. It’s time to bring this protection statewide, so renters have access to all communities, and no one is able to say, “You are not welcome. Do not apply.”

We need to eliminate this significant and grossly unfair barrier, especially since communities across our state are increasingly looking to the private, for-profit rental market to be a resource in ending homelessness. This is also important because the state has set-aside 45% of our state’s homeless dollars for rental assistance for the private, for-profit market.

Truth In Evictions Reporting Act
(Bill Number TBA Habib / Robinson)

The Truth In Evictions Reporting Act, which will be sponsored by Senator Cyrus Habib (48th LD-Kirkland) and Representative June Robinson (38th LD-Everett), will fix how evictions are reported.

Right now, all eviction filings are reported as equal despite the circumstances and despite the outcome. Eviction filings in which a tenant prevailed, negotiated with the landlord to settle the eviction lawsuit, or had their tenancy reinstated are all reported the same. All tenants who have an eviction filed against them have a significant mark on their record that closes many, many doors.

Court is supposed to be a place where justice can prevail, but even if a tenant wins the case, they lose many housing opportunities for years to come.

90-Day Notice for Rent Increases
And lastly, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles is also introducing legislation that will give tenants more time to respond to rent increases. Right now, Washington State law allows landlords to raise the rent, or change any other rule, with a mere 30 days notice, no matter the magnitude of the rent increase. Tenants effectively have 10 days to decide if they can manage the rent increase or if they can move because tenants must give landlords 20 days notice to vacate. Households need more time to make decisions about major disruptions like a move and to save up moving costs, like first/last month’s rent and tenant screening fees.

Today is a day to celebrate the profound legacy of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. who fought for racial justice, an end to poverty, and an end to segregation in housing and public services. State policy and the state budget are either the tools of oppression or the path towards equality. And we at the Housing Alliance see a clear link between his work and our vision to expand access to affordable housing and to end homelessness. In his honor, we’d like to offer his words for reflection and inspiration. This is from a much larger speech on the Vietnam War delivered at the Riverside Church in New York, exactly one year before his murder: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

This session will likely be challenging, and we encourage you to look more into the history and legacy of leaders like Dr. King if ever things begin to feel too bleak or unwinnable.

The Week in Review

Monday, January 12 was the first day of this year’s legislative session, and we were busy making sure that affordable housing and homelessness priorities were on top of Olympia’s consciousness. We organized two work sessions to educate lawmakers. You can watch the video of each below. First was on Tuesday and focused on the deep connection between mental illness and housing instability. And next was on Thursday with a focus on homelessness among kids, youth, and young adults. Special thanks to our partners who made these work sessions a great success!

House Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee - Tuesday, January 13

House Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee - Thursday, January 15

In between the work sessions on Wednesday, we held a press conference and briefing on important tenant legislation. As more renters struggle under the burden of high rents, weak tenant protections, daunting moving expenses, outright discrimination, and denial of housing due to unfair eviction records, these bills offer solutions that will eliminate these barriers to housing stability. See the sidebar for an outline of the key tenant bills we are working to pass this year. Note, most bills will be assigned bill numbers this week, and one is already scheduled for a hearing.

The Budget

This long session also means lawmakers need to write the new two-year operating and capital budgets, which will go into effect on July 1, 2015. Although lawmakers are technically only given 105 days (until April 26) to finish their business, they can extend it with “special sessions” if they are unable to agree on a budget. July 1 is the more important deadline. If a budget isn’t enacted by then, the government would effectively need to shut down – a scenario that no one should want since it would gravely impact essential government functions and safety net services that low-income and vulnerable people in every community across the state rely on.

The main budget points of contention this session will be whether to enact new revenue or to make more cuts. Governor Jay Inslee released a bold budget plan in December that fully funded the Housing & Essential Needs/Blind, Aged & Disabled programs and SSI facilitation. It also allocated $100 million for affordable housing, including $75 million for the Housing Trust Fund. He was able to do this, while allocating increased funding for public education because he also proposed new revenue. The Housing Alliance supports the Governor’s proposed Capital Gains Tax and his Carbon Polluter’s Tax. The Carbon Polluter’s Tax bill creates a permanent funding stream for the Housing Trust Fund. It allocates $15.5 million in fiscal year 2017, $19.5 million in fiscal year 2018, and then $20 million each year after.

Some have asked the Housing Alliance if there will be a priority project list connected to the Housing Trust Fund allocation again this year. The way to win $100 million for the Housing Trust Fund without “a project list” or earmarks, is strategic and relentless advocacy that reaches lawmakers of all political persuasions.

Lastly, a quick update for our Medicaid Supportive Housing Services Benefit. This particular agenda item is no longer a legislative priority for the Housing Alliance...instead it is a budget priority! We are seeking a budget appropriation this session to fund this benefit. It was legally authorized in last session's SB 6312.

You can track both of our lead legislative and budget priorities at our Bill & Budget Tracker here.

Highlights for This Week

Even though this week begins the second week of the session, many bills are scheduled for hearings including key affordable housing and homelessness priorities. If you are in Olympia, plan on signing in “pro” on each of these bills, or plan on calling the state’s toll free hotline (1.800.562.6000) to ask lawmakers to support these bills:

Lastly, don’t forget to register for Homeless and Housing Advocacy Day, which will be in Olympia on Tuesday, February 17. This is the day to rally with hundreds of other advocates and to tell lawmakers that affordable housing and homelessness priorities need to be on the top of their agenda this year. 




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