The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (Housing Alliance) is grateful for the serious attention and hard work by the Governor, legislators, and advocates on the issue of funding housing and services for people experiencing homelessness. SSB 5875 reauthorizes document recording fees, ensuring that for the next five years, shelters around the state won’t be closing, and services to prevent and triage homelessness will remain available. However, improvements still need to be made.
Four-Year Extension A Victory For Our Most-Vulnerable Neighbors
SSB 5875 creates a four-year extension for the $10 surcharge and two-year extension for the $20 surcharge, meaning both fees expire in 2019. We need to permanently eliminate these sunsets to avoid regularly risking the safety and well-being of families and individuals experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. And many lawmakers noted the same desire in their remarks before voting last night. We deeply appreciate the hard work of ESHB 2368 sponsor Rep. David Sawyer (D-Tacoma) and SB 6313 sponsor Sen. Jeannie Darneille (D-Tacoma). Both showed strong leadership in extending the sunsets, rather than having the sun permanently go down on the needs of our most vulnerable populations. The Housing Alliance will continue to work to eliminate the sunsets altogether. The Housing Alliance also praises Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) who recognized in her floor speech the issue of the bill’s language guaranteeing a 45% set-aside to for-profit landlords. This is a provision that could be improved upon in the future.
Through this legislative action, our housing champions and advocates managed to save roughly $225 million for homelessness services across the state over the next four years. Since the fees were instituted in 2006, the total incidence of homelessness has decreased by 29 percent.
Throughout this session, the Housing Alliance has consistently supported passage of ESHB 2368, which eliminated the sunsets. However, Sen. Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) abruptly killed the bill at the end of February despite bipartisan support and having supported a companion bill earlier. The Housing Alliance remained hopeful and continued organizing advocates to express their concerns with legislators. Housing Alliance Executive Director Rachael Myers was pleased that the legislature reached a compromise.
"Two weeks ago, we thought this bill was dead and that shelters would be shutting their doors. We’re extremely relieved that the legislature did the right thing. This funding means that 32,000 people will have a roof over their heads instead of being outside in the cold. And we're inspired by the hard work of legislative champions like Rep. Sawyer and Sen. Darneille and by the grassroots advocates all over the state who stood up and spoke up for their homeless neighbors."
The Capital Budget
The Housing Alliance is very disappointed that the legislature was not able to pass a Supplementary Capital Budget Appropriation to further help prevent and ameliorate homelessness across Washington through the proven, successful mechanism of the Housing Trust Fund. When both houses released their budgets at the end of February, the Housing Alliance supported passage of the House Capital Budget, which made investments in affordable housing:
- $5 million allocation for energy-efficient housing.
- $2 million for weatherization of homes for low-income homeowners.
- $6 million competitive pool for housing and treatment of people with chronic mental illness.
- Several specific affordable housing developments across the state.
This significant funding change concerns Housing Alliance Director of Policy and Advocacy Michele Thomas.
“This is the first time in about a decade that the legislature hasn’t passed a supplemental Capital Budget, so we are dismayed and disappointed. The House had deep bipartisan support for a budget that would have built safe, healthy, affordable housing for vulnerable people across this state, while creating good, family-wage jobs. We thank House Capital Budget Chair Representative Hans Dunshee for his hard work. And we call on Senate leadership to commit to passing a robust budget next year that deeply invests in the affordable housing our communities need.”
The Housing Alliance is committed to advocating for deeper investments in affordable housing for the next biennium.
Housing Alliance staffers and members in counties across the state are available for comment. Please contact Joaquin Uy (joaquin(at)wliha(.)org or 206.427.2999) for all media inquiries. ###