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GOVERNOR SIGNS BIPARTISAN BILL TO PREVENT 71,000 MORE PEOPLE FROM BECOMING HOMELESS
Today, Governor Gregoire plans to sign EHB 2048, a bill that reaffirms the state's commitment to ending homelessness by protecting and expanding funding for services for the homeless, as well as increasing cooperation between state & local government, service providers and private landlords.
"This deep recession--the worst in 80 years--has pushed many people into homelessness, including those who have never experienced housing problems before," said Representative Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney, the Seattle Democrat who chairs the House Community & Economic Development & Housing Committee and was the prime-sponsor of the bill. "Homelessness has many faces; families who have faced foreclosure, veterans returning to disappearing jobs, young people exiting the foster care system."
"Without passage of this bill, 71,000 more of our neighbors may have wound up on the streets," said Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, referring to a Department of Commerce estimate. "Instead we came together and we supported programs that have been proven effective." Senator Kohl-Welles sponsored the Senate companion bill to EHB 2048.
Document recording fees are the single largest source of state funding for homeless programs in Washington State. These programs have reduced homelessness by at least 16 percent statewide, and 53 percent for unsheltered households with children. The law extends the sunset of a $20 document recording fee on real estate related documents from 2013 to 2017. Additionally, a new $10 fee will be added to help make up for lost revenue to state and county homeless programs. In addition to filling a revenue gap, the new fee is intended to help increase cooperation between state & local government, service providers and private landlords, and is set to expire in 2015 to evaluate its success. "If we hadn't passed this law, the sunset would have meant the closure of many emergency shelters and transitional housing programs, as well as significant reduction in emergency rent assistance," said Rachael Myers, Executive Director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. “Instead, the passage of this law means that thousands will be spared from suffering the brutality of homelessness.”
"In Washington State today, 13 percent of the population is struggling to survive with incomes at or below the poverty line," said Bill Block, Project Director for the King County Committee to End Homelessness. "Among single women with young children, 47.9 percent are struggling in poverty. And just last week, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction released data showing a 19 percent increase in the number of homeless students identified in our schools. There is a dire need for services that prevent and end homelessness."
This law is especially effective because it allows for a variety of local approaches to effectively prevent and end homelessness. This includes housing vouchers, eviction prevention services, short-term housing assistance, and more. The bill allocates 60 percent of the revenue to counties in a manner that allows for local flexibility and innovation, and 40 percent to the state to fund critical programs housed in the Home Security Fund, such as tenant based rental assistance, emergency shelters, and prevention services. "These programs have been so successful because they embrace a variety of approaches that are tailored to the populations and communities they are working with," said Greg Winter, Director of the Whatcom Homeless Service Center.
"What really got this bill over the finish line was the dedicated advocacy of concerned citizens," said Rachael Myers. “Hundreds of people across the state contacted their elected officials asking that this law be passed. It just goes to show you that when people care about their neighbors and communities, and they let their legislators know, we can make a difference.”
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The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance works to ensure that all Washington residents have the opportunity to live in safe, healthy, and affordable homes in thriving communities. We do this through advocacy, education and organizing. Our organizational members and individual supporters come from every community in Washington State.