Advocacy opportunities

COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Provider Stakeholder Call May 27

 

COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Provider Stakeholder Call May 27

Link to the 5/27/2020 call recording.

 

Speakers on the 5/27/2020:   
Sara Rankin, Seattle University: rankins@seattleu.edu
Tristia Bauman, National Law Center on Poverty and Homelessness: tbauman@nlchp.org
Katara Jordan, Building Changes: katara.jordan@buildingchanges.org
Tedd Kelleher, Dept. of Commerce: tedd.kelleher@commerce.wa.gov

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE TODAY! 

State Advocacy:

Sign on to our organizational sign-on letter to Gov. Inslee! Read our full letter here

Once you've done that, sign this individual petition and share it with at least 10 people in your networks! Once you've signed the letters, use Twitter to call on the Governor (@GovInslee, @WAStateGov) to take action and help Washington residents stay housed, healthy, and safe! Just use the hashtags #WeNeedMoreTime and or #ExtendEvictionBan.
 

Federal Advocacy:

 

Resources:

COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Provider Stakeholder Call 05/20/2020

 
Speakers on the 5/20/20 Call:
  
 
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE TODAY! 
  • Send an email to thank your Congress members for sponsoring the Emergency Rental Assistance & Rental Market Stabilization Act! For those who did not sponsor, please ask them to sign on or publicly support the housing and homelessness provisions now included in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act!
 
  • Sign NLIHC's Letter urging Congress to Include $100B in Emergency Rental Assistance in Next Coronavirus Relief Package.
 
 
Resources from the 5/20/20 Call
 

COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Provider Stakeholder Call 05/06/2020

COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Provider Stakeholder Call 05/06/2020
 
Speakers on 5/06/2020 Call
 
 
Please click the above link to contact your members of Congress today and ask them to ensure that the next stimulus package includes:
 
  • $11.5 billion in Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funding. This combined with the $4 billion previously provided in the CARES Act will reach the funding level needed to expand access to emergency shelter, short-term rental assistance, and housing stabilization services;
  • $100 billion in rental assistance to keep people housed and ensure landlords, including low-income housing providers, have the income they need to continue to operate;
  • $8.5 billion to ensure that public housing authorities can continue to operate at full capacity;
  • A uniform, national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures;
  • Resources for housing counselors and legal services to help renters and homeowners stay housed; and a requirement that local communities follow guidance by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and institute a moratorium on homeless encampment sweeps.
  •  
Resources from 05/06/2020
As always, several resources were highlighted in the chat that are worth uplifting: 

COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Provider Stakeholder Call 4/22/2020

COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Provider Stakeholder Call 4/22/2020

Here is a link to the 4/22/2020 recording

 

Speakers from 4/22/2020:

  

Action Alert: Take action today and email your members of congress!

Ask them to ensure that the next stimulus package includes:

  • $11.5 billion in Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funding. This combined with the $4 billion previously provided in the CARES Act will reach the funding level needed to expand access to emergency shelter, short-term rental assistance, and housing stabilization services;
  • A uniform, national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures; and
  • $100 billion in rental assistance to keep people housed and ensure landlords, including low-income housing providers, have the income they need to continue to operate.

 

Resources Highlighted: 

COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Provider Stakeholder Call 4/08/2020

Resources for Weekly COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Call - 04/08/2020

Here is a link to the recording of the 4/08/2020 call.

 

Speakers 04/08/2020

 

Tracking Federal Funding:  Here is a link to Denny Heck's bill, providing $100B for emergency rental assistance. 

Action Alert: Take action in support of this bill here

 

Resources Highlighted: 

COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Provider Stakeholder Call 3/25/2020

Weekly COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Call - 03/25/2020

3-25-20 COVID-19 Call Recording

 

Speakers:

 As we continue to elevate the need and build the case for extending the eviction moratorium and appropriating rental assistance funding at the state and national level, we will need data and stories to present as evidence (even when to us the need is already clear). If you track data at your organization, or if you would like to help people share their stories, please connect with me ASAP at johns@wliha.org.

 

Join WLIHA & WHAAF for our 2019 Annual Member Meeting – it's virtual!

 

You’re invited to join the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund's Annual Member Meeting, taking place this year as a virtual event.

We have a lot to celebrate and an exciting state legislative strategy for next year that we can't wait to share with you! State legislators will be taking your questions about what to expect in the 2020 legislative session, and we’ll also get to hear from local lawmakers about recent wins and housing needs across Washington.

 

What: Annual Member Meeting
When: Tuesday, December 10 from 4:30-5:30pm
Where: Anywhere! All you need is your phone or a computer to join us for this short, power-packed member meeting.

To get the login details: RSVP here

 

If you have questions about this event, please contact teresac@wliha.org

 


 

And, if you're in the King County region, join the Housing Development Consortium and the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance on Thursday, December 12 to close out 2019! In addition to brief HDC member business, we are gathering with members, supporters, and friends for a joint happy hour and networking celebration! We hope you’ll be able to join in the festivities, including the famous HDC prize wheel, appetizers, wine, beer, and non-alcoholic refreshments. We'll also relive some of the top advocacy and programmatic moments of 2019 and look ahead to the 2020 legislative session!

What: End of Year Celebration
When: Thursday, December 12, 5:30 - 7:30 pm

Where: ACT Theatre, Bullitt Cabaret
Getting there: ACT Theatre is located on 7th and Union. Visit ACT's website for directions and parking

 

Housing Advocacy in Action! Week of Feb 20th

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Olympia is in the midst of cutoff craziness, with everyone scrambling to get their bills officially “heard” and voted on before Friday’s looming deadline to clear fiscal committees (see all session deadlines here). Once bills have passed the policy and fiscal committee hurdles, they next have to be pulled from the Rules Committee to the Floor. Then they have to get called up for a vote before the next “house of origin” deadline set for March 8th.  If a bill makes it over to the opposite chamber, it goes through the whole process again over there. A bills journey is arduous, from its origin as an idea, to the final step of being signed into law by the Governor. It needs cheerleaders and advocates pushing it along, encouraging it to not give up and reviving it with first aid when needed. And right now, a key affordable housing and homelessness priority needs some of that love

The Washington Housing Opportunities Act (SHB 1570/Macri) will prevent the loss of over 62% of state homelessness dollars by eliminating the looming sunset on the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge (commonly known as the document recording fee). It will also increase resources to prevent and end homelessness by providing counties with a new local option to increase the surcharge by as much as $50. If each county council takes up the opportunity, and if the state invests deeply in the Housing Trust Fund, Washington could end family homelessness in 3 years. We could also prevent any youth from being released from state care into homelessness and we could reduce chronic homelessness by at least 50%. This is a real, tangible solution to the suffering that so many will otherwise face. Our lawmakers can do it. SHB 1570 can pass this session. It is largely contingent on how much of a fuss we make. We need to raise our voices and push the bill through the next hurdle.

Please take action today to help end family homelessness! If you’ve taken this action already in the last couple of days, can you get three other people to do it too? Send them the link to the action page and tell them that their voice can truly make a significant difference. 

Educating Lawmakers

Many lawmakers, both locally and at the state level, are asking why homelessness has increased in our state. They wonder if the resources they’ve already authorized are being wisely used and they want to know if they can reduce homelessness by investing more deeply in the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge and in the Housing Trust Fund. These are all legitimate questions, so the Housing Alliance was happy when we were asked to address them before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, February 16th. 

Below are some of the key points we shared with the committee members. If you want more details you can watch the hearing here. You can also download our PowerPoint presentation and our briefing paper on the increase in homelessness. 

  • There is a great need for permanent, affordable housing in every community in our state. Homelessness is a crisis impacting many people. Homeless has serious consequences on a person’s health & safety, on their ability to obtain or maintain a job, and on a child’s ability to learn. 
  • Each January, every county conducts an annual “Point in Time” count. While counts were just conducted for 2017, we don’t yet have the results. We do know that in 2016 that 20,844 people were identified as experiencing homelessness and 8,474 of them were unsheltered. 
  • The annual “Out of Reach” report, conducted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, finds that rents in most counties in Washington far exceed what a worker earning the state minimum wage of $11 can afford.
  • And a 2015 study on Washington’s Affordable Housing Needs found that the majority of households who are earning less than 50% of the area-median Income are “cost-burdened” in our state. This means that they are paying more than they can afford housing, causing households to wrestle with impossible choices between paying the rent or paying for childcare, medicine or a doctor’s visit. This also leaves households at great risk of homelessness, with no safety net or savings for a rainy day.
  • The State Office of the Superintendent (OSPI) recently reported that during the 2015-16 school year, 39,671 students experienced homelessness. Over 10,000 of those students were living in a temporary shelter, motel or in setting not fit for human habitation. 39,671 equals one in every 27 students in our state experiencing homeless during that school year. About half of them were grade 5 or younger. OSPI’s report also noted that the four-year graduation rate for homeless students in the class of 2016 was 53.2 percent; while for all students it was 79.1 percent. And that students of color experience much higher rates of homelessness than their white counterparts. 9.5% of African American students experiences homelessness. 
  • Housing costs have risen dramatically across the state, while incomes are not keeping up. And rent increases are directly correlated with homelessness. A recent study in the Journal of Urban Affairs found that for each every $100 increase in rent, that there was a 15% increase in homelessness in metro areas and a 39% increase in homelessness in suburban & rural areas. 
  • While the drivers of homelessness continue to include mental illness and chemical dependency, the main cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable homes.
  • The underlying reason Washington has seen an increase in homelessness is that housing has become increasingly unaffordable, while wages are stagnant and too many are living in poverty.
  • Our state has already been investing in solutions that work. While homelessness has been rising in recent years, it has still decreased by 18% since 2006, after the Homeless Housing and Assistance act was passed.
  • Currently, 98,000 people each year are not homeless because of services funded by the Homeless Housing and Assistance surcharge.
  • But our state can and should do more. Specifically we need to invest $200 million this biennium in the State Housing Trust Fund and pass SHB 1570.

 

Ask a Lobbyist!

This is a new column we are adding the Advocacy in Action blog with a goal of making space to answer questions about the legislative process. If you have a question, submit it here!

Many people are wondering why some bills have to go through both a policy and a fiscal committee, and what “NTIB” means. Since these questions directly pertain to SHB 1570/Macri, the Washington Housing Opportunities Act, these are good ones to start this new column off with. 

Bills that have both a policy and fiscal impact will often have to go through two committees before being able to reach the Rules Committee (the final step before the floor). If the fiscal impact of the bill is considered insignificant, usually meaning under $50,000, then it usually will be allowed to skip the fiscal committee and head straight to Rules after passing the policy committee. If a bill’s primary purpose relates to the budget, it will often skip policy committees and go straight to the fiscal committee. The session cutoff calendar sets deadlines for bills to clear all these steps. You can see all the cutoff dates here.

The Senate Ways & Means Committee deals with all fiscal related bills, expect those directly related to the Transportation budget (those go to Senate Transportation). The House has several different fiscal committees. House Finance deals with tax related bills, House Capital Budget considers all Capital Budget related matters, House Appropriations deals with all matters related the state’s Operating Budget and House Transportation deals with the Transportation Budget. 

Bills that are considered “necessary to implement the budget” or NTIB for short, still have to go through the process, but they are exempt from the cutoffs. The state budget bills are the most obvious example of an NTIB bill. But other bills can also be considered NTIB if they are needed in order to finalize the budget. Whether or not the bill is needed is a matter of opinion and there is a fair amount of discretion that leadership can wield with this designation. Declaring something NTIB inherently signals that the bill is important to leadership. Many bills that could impact the budget are not given this designation and it is a status not given lightly. If the other chamber doesn’t also consider a bill NTIB, it may still have to get over there in time to adhere to their deadlines. 

SHB 1570/Macri is considered by House leadership to be NTIB because it impacts the Department of Commerce’s budget. Therefore, if the bill doesn’t move along by the cutoff deadlines, it doesn’t mean that it is dead. It is scheduled for a hearing this week, Thursday February 23rd in the House Appropriations Committee but likely won’t be brought up for a vote until the next week or so. 

We hope this is helpful. If you have questions you’d like us to tackle in our next blog post, please send them in! And don’t forget to take action and to encourage others to join you. 

Thank you for all you do, 
Michele 

 

Housing Advocacy in Action! Week of Feb 13th

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

For the last several weeks in Olympia, affordable housing and homelessness has been top of mind. Many bills impacting these issues have had hearings, and of course, over 650 advocates came to the capitol on February 2nd for Homelessness and Housing Advocacy Day.

The week of February 13 marks the beginning of the 6th week of this legislation session. Scheduled to end in April, we are about 1/3 of the way through and Friday February 17 brings the first cutoff. Successive policy hurdles called “cutoffs” segment the state legislative session. The first one requires that bills clear policy committees by getting a hearing and then a vote by the cutoff date. The next cutoff pertains to fiscal committees. Bills with a fiscal impact have to be heard and voted on by February 24. You can see the whole legislative calendar and all the cutoffs here.

The Olympian recorded Representative Macri addressing Affordable Housing and Homelessness advocates during the rally and you can watch it here.

Especially near policy cutoffs, when so many bills are competing for the limited time and bandwidth of the legislature, your lawmakers need to hear from you. During the rally on the Capitol Steps on Homelessness and Housing Advocacy Day, Representative Marcri (D – 43) and Senator Saldaña (D – 37) both urged advocates to do more to make our voices heard. They both spoke about how many emails and calls they get each day on a wide range of issues. They shared that while affordable housing and homelessness are top-of-mind for them, it isn’t because their constituents are reaching out. They both came to Olympia caring deeply about our issues, but they are not hearing enough from their constituents. This suggests that lawmakers who need to be swayed are unlikely to be hearing from their constituents either. As Representative Macri shared, “We’ve got to amp up the volume. We need more calls, more emails, more demands!” So please TAKE ACTION NOW and ask your lawmakers to support a ban on source of income discrimination. These actions really do work! And don’t stop there. Share this with your boards, with your colleagues, with your friends, your networks, and your families. Tell them why you took action and encourage them to join you.

Update on SB 5407/Frockt and HB 1633/Riccelli – to outlaw discrimination based on a renter’s source of income

On February 7, testifiers braved the snow and ice to come to Olympia to urge lawmakers to vote yes on HB 1633/Riccelli.

Pictured from left to right:
Patricia Abbate, Solid Ground/ Claude DaCorsi, Auburn City Council and the Affordable Housing Advisory Board/ Megan Hyla, King County Housing Authority/ Toya Thomas, Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher tenant/ John Hannaman, Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher tenant/ Michael Mirra, Tacoma Housing Authority/ Dimitri Groce, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and Tamaso Johnson, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. 

The last two weeks have been action-packed. Lawmakers in the House and the Senate in three different committees have heard testimony on the need to pass SB 5407/HB 1633 banning source of income discrimination. Over 25 individuals have come to the Capitol to testify on the harm that this kind of discrimination causes to households and communities. People directly impacted by this discrimination have shared their stories, including Toya Thomas who was told to move from her Renton home this fall when a new property management firm took over her apartment building. All the section 8 families were told to go because they were using vouchers to help pay the rent. Most were single parent headed households with young children and most were African American. You can learn more about Toya’s experience through a recent KCTS 9 feature on the ordeal.

The Housing Alliance and our allies also weighed in last week against a bill that would repeal local fair housing protections. SB 5569/Angel would undo all of the local laws that have outlawed discrimination based on a renter’s source of income and would prevent any city or county from passing any local protections (it would also repeal Seattle’s protections against discrimination based on political ideology). If the bill were to pass, it would leave the state as the sole fair housing protector. Proponents of this bill represent the same organizations working to block passage of state level source of income discrimination protections. And even though the bill begins with the premise that fair housing is so important that it should solely be a state duty, the intent is clearly to prevent such protections by any means possible.

Budgets Coming Soon

As the session moves forward, it will remain critical that advocates from across the state weigh in to push our lawmakers to do more to end and prevent homelessness. As policy bills move through the process, lawmakers are also starting to make decisions about the budgets. Although the first legislative budget proposals won’t be released until mid-March, lawmakers are fine-tuning their priorities and the budget writers are sorting through the many requests. Stay tuned for opportunities soon to take action on the Housing Trust Fund and on other budget priorities like the Housing and Essential Needs program. And stand by for updates on HB 1570/Macri to eliminate the looming sunset on 62.5% of the state’s homelessness dollars. That bill is exempt from the cutoffs because it is considered “necessary to implement the budget”, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t see it moving as quickly as other bills that are subject to the cutoffs. For more updates, please join our upcoming advocate’s call. The next one is scheduled for Friday the 17th at 11:00. All affordable housing and homelessness advocates are welcome to join – so feel free to invite your colleagues and boards. Use this call in number and code: (866) 339-4555 / Access code: 2064674522

Thank you for all you do. Please help us to “ramp it up” so that lawmakers know that their constituents want them to prioritize our issues.

Michele

Why I Advocate

Elimika James, Housing Advocate

 

My name is Elimika James, and this year was my very first time at Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day! As a working single-mother, it can be difficult to find the time to be an advocate while balancing a job, being a parent, and taking care of my own needs, and I appreciated the opportunity to participate.

I recognize that I have a lot of friends and family members who are struggling to keep their homes and some people need to be given a voice. It energizes me to be able to speak up on behalf of people who don’t have the opportunity.

I heard about Advocacy Day through the Tenant’s Union. This fall I was introduced to the world of housing advocacy when I had helped the organizing effort to prevent many households in my community from being evicted because they used a Section 8 voucher to pay their rent. Our organizing pushed the City of Renton to pass a temporary injunction protection for tenants who use Section 8; but it is set to expire this summer, and I don’t want to see anyone else go through this.

At Advocacy Day, I saw that this is just one of many important issues in a larger problem of access to affordable housing. For instance, my rent has increased over $400 this year without warning. More needs to be done to keep rents affordable—landlords should be able to reasonably raise the rent, but I think that there needs to be more limitations on that power, and more resources to keep people from becoming homeless.

The opportunity to meet with my lawmakers really struck me. I remember going to Olympia as a kid, but that was just to learn and spectate. At Advocacy Day we actually sat down with public officials to have a genuine conversation with them.

I spoke with Representatives Hudgins and Bergquist from my district—there were about 5 or 6 of us, so it was really personal. When we talked about banning source of income discrimination, they said they verbally supported it, but there were many challenges to get it through the legislature that made their role tricky. This was a little discouraging because they have the final decision.

But I guess that is why this kind of advocacy is so important. We, as advocates, were able to talk to them about how Section 8 is stigmatized and affects our lives. Seeing people that care enough to come all the way out to Olympia to talk about what it is important to them might motivate lawmakers to change their minds.

Overall, I think the day made me feel like I could make a difference. Standing with people from across the state during the Rally for Homes reminded me of the scene in the movie "Lean on Me" - together we were powerful. I plan to be back next year to learn more and get more information on important issues and how to advocate.

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