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. 



A different kind of resolution.

Guest Blogger: YouthCare Board Chair Matthew Turetsky, JD

While you may be making New Year’s resolutions, nonprofits are passing board resolutions. For instance, YouthCare’s board just unanimously resolved that in order to create a balanced budget supporting a thriving Washington State, our legislature must explore new revenue options.

YouthCare’s mission is to build confidence and self-sufficiency for homeless youth by providing a continuum of care that includes outreach, basic services, emergency shelter, housing, counseling, education, and employment training. We’re not public budget mavens or policy wonks. (We rely on the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance to help us sift through the policy details.) We are a service provider committed to helping homeless young people move off the streets and prepare for life. As our board took a deeper look at how budget cuts would impact the young people we serve, it was clear we needed to publically state that an all-cuts budget would be harmful for Washington’s homeless youth.

YouthCare’s Board Public Affairs Committee guides the organization’s public policy decisions. They reached out to the Housing Alliance Board Advocacy Project for help with crafting board resolution language. Based on a sample resolution that the project’s lead Ben Miksch shared with us, we were able to craft two statements supporting revenue. The next step was for the full board to discuss and approve. This was new territory for us, as we formed our Public Affairs Committee just three years ago. And this was the first big public policy discussion with the full board of directors.

Pictured l-r: Margaret with YouthCare's Pathways Transitional Living Program, Kate B., YouthCare Executive Director Melinda Giovengo, YouthCare Communications Coordinator Liz Trautman, Erin with YouthCare's housing programs, and Ben.

The full YouthCare board first reviewed the state budget process, identified key decision makers, and the budget outlook for the next biennium. (Who knew that board meetings could double as civics classes?) We discussed the state’s $4.8 billion revenue shortfall in the next biennium and the legislature’s obligation to address the McCleary decision to fund basic education. We also examined how the state might balance the budget without new revenue sources: by making deep cuts to vital human services.

Losing state funding for homeless youth programs like Street Youth Services and HOPE beds would lead to more young people on the streets and in unsafe situations. Cuts to TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) and the Housing and Essential Needs programs would be devastating to our clients who are parenting or working to access SSI benefits. When the state safety net frays, the youth we serve fall through the holes.

We believe that to improve the lives in our community, we need to do more than stave off cuts. Our state should invest in programs and policies working to prevent and end youth homelessness. That’s why YouthCare supports passing the Homeless Youth Act, which would establish an Office of Youth Homelessness for coordinating the state’s efforts to address the needs of our young people. Additionally, we support a robust investment into the newly renamed Washington Youth and Families Fund.

Board members were brimming with questions about the budget process. (And here I thought I was going to put them to sleep with talk of general fund revenues and pension obligations.) After a great conversation, the board unanimously passed a resolution affirming, “that YouthCare supports budgets that will create the most robust and stable revenue system needed to protect and strengthen the entire continuum of youth housing and human services.”

I am thrilled YouthCare is moving forward with support for changes to our revenue system. And, unlike my own New Year’s resolutions, which tend to fizzle out around February 1, this is a resolution that will endure and continue to shape YouthCare’s work throughout the legislative session and beyond. Happy New Year!


Editor's Note:
Your board can be just as awesome as YouthCare's board. The Housing Alliance offers a number of ways for board members to be active in housing and homelessness advocacy:



Ed Brooke: Saluting a housing champion (Repost)

In light of former U.S. Senator Edward Brooke's passing, we're reposting this article honoring the pioneering housing champion authored by the "Queen of Civic Engagement" Nancy Amidei. This was originally published on October 28, 2013.

Guest Blogger: Nancy Amidei, Civic Engagement Project

Watching events unfold in D.C. in recent weeks with so much partisan rancor, conjured up memories of working in D.C. My boss, U.S. Senator George McGovern (D-SD), regularly worked across the aisle with Republican Senators - Bob Dole, Chuck Percy, Jacob Javits, and others. And he was not alone; there was a different approach to governing

Then, I noticed that October 26 was the birthday of former U.S. Senator Edward Brooke. When Brooke won his seat in 1966, he was the first African American popularly elected to the U.S. Senate. A Republican from Massachusetts, he was a veteran, and a former State’s Attorney General. 

Born in 1919 (and still living), his name should be known to just about anybody who cares about fair and affordable housing because of “the Brooke Amendment”, the cap on the rents low-income people are expected to pay for housing. The original standard, no more than 25% of income, has already been eroded. It's now 30%. And as should be obvious, if 30% of your income is tied up just to stay housed, you don’t have much left for the rest of life’s necessities. But at least – thanks to Ed Brooke  there is a limit on what people can be charged to live in subsidized housing.

Brooke, a Republican, together with Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale, a Democrat, co-authored the Fair Housing Act, which included the 25% standard. His involvement and the bill’s success were even more remarkable than might be obvious now. 

He and Mondale were both “freshman” senators, in the second year of their first terms. In other words, they had no seniority, a factor much valued in the Senate.

Plus, they were fighting for fair housing for people who were not just poor, but – as everyone in the Senate knew – also people of color. (As a returning veteran, Brooke himself had experienced discrimination from landlords unwilling to rent to him and his family.)

At the time, the Civil Rights Act was still new. In much of the country, neighborhoods, schools, businesses, the military, and even churches were strictly segregated by race. And notions like “equal employment” or “fair housing” were instantly, viciously, fought.

Edward Brooke received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.
Every time Brooke and Mondale tried to get a vote on their Fair Housing Bill, entrenched Senate bigots with much more seniority filibustered it. There must have been enormous pressure on Brooke to just take his bill and get lost. Happily for all of the millions whose lives have been affected by the Fair Housing Act, he didn’t. And, after the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April of 1968, the bill was quickly brought up for a vote, passed by the Senate and House, and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.

Brooke served two terms in the Senate until 1978, working for many issues of race and economic fairness. Then, post-Senate, he chaired the Board of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

So, a happy birthday toast to a hero of the affordable housing movement Ed Brooke! Perhaps the most appropriate way we can commemorate is to pledge to follow the Housing Alliance during the coming legislative sessions. They’ll provide easy ways for you to advocate to your elected official to protect fair and affordable housing laws and policies at both the federal and state levels. They’ll also keep you informed of the latest developments in this and the other Washington about affordable housing and homelessness. You can join their advocates email list herelike them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter. Ed Brooke was one politician who made a difference. But he couldn’t have made it happen without people like you behind him!

Editor's note: In the 80s, Senator Brooke also served as chair of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. They also have this great tribute to Senator Brooke at their blog here.



The Top 10 Housing Alliance Moments of 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, we reflect back on the top ten Housing Alliance moments of this year. We'll present (finally) the entire list to you here, including NUMBER ONE! Let us know about your personal housing & homelessness advocacy highlights from 2014. Share yours at our Facebook and Twitter pages. And may you have a very Happy New Year!




#10 - Our Issues Trended on the Social Media Day of Action.

We kicked off 2014 strong with a Social Media Day of Action on January 15. From 12:00am to 11:59pm, our supporters and friends made #HHAD2014 a trending hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. The day of action helped us more than DOUBLE our reach and bring attention to our 2014 affordable housing and homelessness legislative priorities.



#9 - SEA...HAWKS!!!

Housing Alliance staff had a front row seat for the Super Bowl Champions Parade that took place in downtown Seattle on February 5. Although, it took awhile for our beloved Seahawks to pass our offices on 4th & Union. Once they did, we greeted them with loud cheers, blue & green confetti, and of course, Skittles! You can see our complete set of photos from the celebration here.



#8 - 2014 Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day Breaks Records.

Every year, Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day sets the tone for the upcoming legislative session and is one of our state’s largest advocacy gatherings. At Advocacy Day 2014 on January 28, our first-ever photo booth sponsored by Seattle-based advocacy organization Firesteel was a hit. In another first, at least 1 out of every 5 Advocacy Day attendees was a nonprofit board member. Registration for Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day 2015 is now open! You can register here.

Photo courtesy of Firesteel.



#7 - Gong Ceremony at the Capitol to Commemorate Statewide Homelessness.

On Thursday March 6, advocates from all over Washington sounded a gong exactly 5,043 times to recognize the 5,043 individuals found sleeping outside at night across the state during the January 2013 point-in-time count of homeless individuals across the state. The gong ringing took place in front of the capitol dome, and 19 legislators participated. We also held a press conference to draw attention to our efforts to save the Document Recording Fee/Homeless Housing & Assistance Surcharge Bill.

Pictured right: Rep. Jessyn Farrell (46th LD - Lake Forest Park)



#6 - Senator Patty Murray Wows the Audience at our Annual Awards Event.

We were so pleased to have Senator Patty Murray join us at Bringing Washington Home, our 5th Annual Advocacy Awards ceremony. However, we weren’t expecting her to touch on so many of our Emerging Advocates Program graduates’ stories. In her own words, “They serve as an important reminder that the programs for which you advocate represent a lifeline for members of our communities—our neighbors or friends in need.” Emerging Advocates Program (EAP) graduates Rebecca Snow Landa, Glenda Miller, and Susan Russell were in the audience to hear Sen. Murray reflect on their experiences. They also were there to cheer on their fellow EAP grads and evening awardees Shelby Powell, and Ellie Lambert. It was a great night celebrating the power of advocacy and our community.

Pictured below (l-r): Susan Russell, Virginia Shelby Powell (2014 Grassroots Leader of the Year), Ellie Lambert (2014 Individual Advocate of the Year), Glenda Miller, Thomas Green, and Rebecca Snow Landa.



#5 - Medicaid Supportive Housing Benefit White Paper Release.

Summer in Seattle can be...slow. But policy staff were hard at work on a research paper exploring the concept of creating a new Medicaid benefit to both help end chronic homelessness and bring permanent supportive housing (PSH) to scale. PSH pairs affordable housing with intensive tenancy support services, housing case management, and care coordination. It’s designed to serve people who are experiencing or are at risk of chronic homelessness and who have a severe and persistent mental health disorder, a chemical dependency disability, or chronic and complex physical health conditions. Although permanent supportive housing exists across Washington, there is not enough funding currently available to bring this model fully to scale.



#4 - 2014 Conference on Ending Homelessness Sets Records.

The 2014 Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness (COEH) in Yakima on May 21-22 was record-setting in many ways. We had the highest number of attendees for Yakima ever: 617 housing and homelessness service providers and private sector employees from all over Washington attended the two days of workshops. Attendees could pick from 50 workshops, our highest number yet. And 22 of them offered Continuing Education Unit credits, also a record.

Our 2014 COEH keynote speakers were especially entertaining. Nonprofit blogger Vu Le first made attendees laugh when entering the stage to the epic theme music from the cable television program “Game of Thrones.” But his reflections as a young child raised in a family that recently immigrated to the US were both humorous and thought-provoking. And Rex Holbien’s presentation of the striking images and stories he’s documented for his Facing Homelessness project led to a standing ovation and not a dry eye in the house.



#3 - Emerging Advocates Program Reunites!

Our Emerging Advocates Program (EAP) trains individuals who have experienced homelessness or housing instability in a range of skills for effective advocacy. EAP participants from all three 2014 programs joined with last year's attendees for an October celebration with Housing Alliance staff. In addition to a display of art created by EAP graduates, we had a visual timeline that charted organizational and personal milestones since the program began in 2013. There was also an open mic for anyone who wanted to share their personal experiences during or since the EAP program.




#2 - Prioritizing Anti-oppression and Equity: Class Matters!

Towards the end of 2014, Housing Alliance staff and a board member underwent "Exploring Class and Class Cultures," an all-day training using materials from the organization Class Action. With support from facilitators, staff reflected on their class background growing up and how it both motivates and strengthens their day-to-day work at the Housing Alliance. We also explored messaging styles and communication norms unique to specific classes and across class. We all developed tools to challenge micro-aggressions that we may we encounter within the organization and in the broader community. The Housing Alliance staff emerged knowing much more about each other’s past and the unique perspectives and strengths we all bring to our work.




#1 (tied) - Document Recording Fee/Homeless Housing & Assistance Surcharge Bill KILLED in Committee.

On the evening of February 27, the thud of a gavel made shockwaves throughout the homeless community and beyond. With this single action, a committee chair had effectively killed our bipartisan-supported Document Recording Fee Bill that would have kept in place a modest $40 document recording fee to fund effective homeless services across the state. An audio recording of Senators Don Benton, Steve Hobbs, and Sharon Nelson objecting to the abrupt end of the committee meeting was released, and we went into nonstop emergency mode to spread the news far and wide.

#1 (tied) - Document Recording Fee/Homeless Housing & Assistance Surcharge Bill SAVED in the Last Hours of Session!

Yup, we just couldn't help ourselves. We have two highlights tied for number one, one a really terrible moment for housing and homelessness, and the other a really awesome triumph! In two weeks, we saw over 70 total media hits from publications all over Washington about the “legislative malpractice” that killed the Document Recording Fee Bill. The media clamor combined with our coordinated efforts to maintain and amplify the advocacy for this bill resulted in a final hours legislative win. In the last moments of the 2014 Legislative Session, both houses passed an alternate version of the bill that preserved the housing and homeless surcharge until 2019. This meant successful services across Washington could continue to transition people off the streets into shelter and stability.

Pictured below: Some of our favorite memes from this past legislative session.


What are your housing & homelessness advocacy highlights from 2014? Let us know at our Facebook and Twitter pages.




Top 10 Housing Alliance Moments of 2014 (#2)

As we get ever closer to the 2015 State Legislative Session, we're presenting the top ten Housing Alliance moments of this year in segments. We did mention that we'd be presenting the final segment of the list today. But we all here thought that number two should stand alone because it was an awesome moment for all of us here at the office. So, without further ado...


#2 - Prioritizing Anti-oppression and Equity: Class Matters!

Towards the end of 2014, Housing Alliance staff and a board member underwent "Exploring Class and Class Cultures," an all-day training using materials from the organization Class Action. With support from facilitators, staff reflected on their class background growing up and how it both motivates and strengthens their day-to-day work at the Housing Alliance. We also explored messaging styles and communication norms unique to specific classes and across class. We all developed tools to challenge micro-aggressions that we may we encounter within the organization and in the broader community. The Housing Alliance staff emerged knowing much more about each other’s past and the unique perspectives and strengths we all bring to our work.

Tune in next week as we reveal the top moment from this past year. Really. We will this time. We swear. We really have no choice.

Do you have your own housing & homelessness advocacy highlights from 2014? Share yours at our Facebook and Twitter pages.




Subscribe to RSS - blogs