As you may have heard by now, last Friday Senator Zarelli [R-18th LD] led conservatives in a back-door deal to pass a budget that hadn't gone through any public hearings, which means without a process in which our voices could be heard.
By a narrow margin, the Senate passed this budget. If that budget were to pass in the House and become law, the huge cuts to social services would lead to a dramatic rise in homelessness in every community across the state.
Some of the low points include:
It is hard to believe that last week was just seven days long. It started with the House passing the Fair Tenant Screening Act - SSB 6315. Tuesday brought the Senate budget proposal that preserved the Housing and Essential Needs program. On Wednesday we celebrated the amazing victory of the document recording fee bill - ESHB 2048. Then Friday morning two important Housing Alliance support bills passed: ESHB 2592 - extending important supports to some youth aging out of the foster care system, and SHB 2194 - clarifying provisions of the mobile home landlord tenant act.
The Washington State Senate released their Operating and Capital budgets yesterday, which included full funding for the Housing and Essential Needs Program -- which is great! -- and an allocation of $30 million for the Housing Trust Fund -- which is good, but far from the $100 million allocated by the House.
The incredible advocacy coming from every corner of the state and from many diverse voices is tangibly making a difference. Take for example the document recording fee bills – 2048 & 5952. On Wednesday (February 22nd), 2048 cleared the Financial Institutions Housing and Insurance Committee unanimously. When its twin bill, 5952, was voted on just weeks prior, it was minus two votes. Since then, advocates have worked hard to gain the full support of the Committee and we won. Every single member voted yes – Democrats and Republicans – and now it is time to thank them.
One of the things we’ve been talking a lot about is the Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program, which was the replacement for the Disability Lifeline. It’s a core safety-net program that helps ensure that temporary disabilities don’t force people onto the streets by providing access to some of life’s most basic household and sanitary needs.
Last week was a long, hard week in Olympia. Many bills competed for attention as the Tuesday night floor cutoff loomed in both chambers. Only one of the Housing Alliance’s top priorities fell victim to this cutoff when SSB 6321 died at 5:00 sharp Tuesday evening. This bill, sponsored by Senator Kohl-Welles, would have made it harder to use a tenant’s victory in eviction court as a reason to deny them future housing opportunities. The bill was amended in committee and received bipartisan support.
Olympia was a whirlwind of activity for affordable housing and homelessness issues last week. The Housing Alliance’s Fair Tenant Screening bills made significant progress in the Senate, while the House hosted a dramatic debate before passing SHB 2048 and sending it to the Senate. This bill will fill a shortfall in revenue for homelessness related programs with modest fees on real estate related documents.
Unprecedented Progress for Tenant Screening Bills
On Tuesday, February 7th, the Housing Alliance was joined by Andy Nicholas of the Washington State Budget & Policy Center. Andy explained the status of our current budget deficit and laid out the revenue options we should push to save ciritcal public dollars for safety net programs and services. If you missed it, we highly recommend listening to the recording.
Harnessing the Power of Advocacy
The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and the Washington State Coalition for the Homeless merged on October 1st, 2011, becoming one organization. The merged organization, operating as the Housing Alliance, will advocate for the continuum of homeless and low-income housing needs across the state.