Housing Advocacy Day is an annual day when housing advocates from around the state descend upon Olympia to meet with their elected representatives to advocate for bills and policies that will support housing for all. The day also provides an opportunity to put our local housing crisis in the state-wide context, and creates a space to form relationships with housing advocates in neighboring counties. Organized by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, the Housing Advocacy Day is an effective way to reach every state representative with specific policy asks, and provides an accessible entry point for meeting with our elected officials.
This year, Aislinn Palmer, a City Planning Commissioner, and I joined the Housing Advocacy Day to represent the needs of Jefferson County within Legislative District (LD) 24, which includes Clallam and part of Grays Harbor County. We were joined by one other woman from Jefferson County who works with OlyCAP, and about eight people from Clallam County who work or volunteer with Serenity House, Peninsula Housing Authority, and Peninsula Behavioral Health.
The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance convened several panels in the morning to educate participants about the specific bills and opportunities that are being considered this in the state house and senate. One key ask was for the state to invest $10 million into the Housing Trust Fund specifically as funds that housing organizations could use to purchase homes and buildings that are currently affordable housing but are going to age-out of their affordability requirements in the coming years (examples of these types of units in Jefferson County are Bishop Park and Kearney St. Apartments). Other bills they suggested we support included: a Real Estate Excise Tax exemption for selling property to a nonprofit or housing authority that will use it for affordable housing (HB 2634 & SB 6366), allowing for local electeds to introduce a 1/10th of 1% sales tax for affordable housing (HB 1590 & SB 6126), and require landlords to have and express a legitimate reason for evicting a tenant (HB 2453 & SB 6379).
Afterward, the fleet of housing advocates walked over to the capitol buildings for private meetings with their representatives. Our group met with Representative Mike Chapman. Chapman expressed strong reservations about any regulation of landlords, such as requiring landlords have a legitimate reason for evicting tenants, and requiring landlords to accept a payment plan for move-in costs if a tenant requests it (HB 1694). He clarified that he would support these regulations for government housing, but not as regulations on private landlords, citing a fear that regulations would cause landlords to sell or turn homes into short-term rentals. He specifically said, “I need to hear from landlords who would support these bills.” So, if you are a landlord and support such basic tenant protections as these, please let our representative know.
Chapman said he would support the Real Estate Excise Tax Exemption bill, as well as a “trailer bill” to improve bill 1923, which passed in 2019. These trailer bills (HB 2343 & SB 6334) would improve limitations to cost-prohibitive parking requirements, and add more options for cities to increase density. Aislinn was proud to realize that several elements of the trailer bill were already under consideration or had been recommended by the Port Townsend Planning Commission.
Our meeting with representative Steve Tharinger was very positive. He fully supported allocating $10 million to the Housing Trust Fund for preserving currently affordable housing, and he believed that most aspects of the trailer bill would pass. Tharinger was very curious to learn more about how local housing organizations are faring and referenced specific projects to ask for updates, including Homeward Bound’s Cherry Street Project.
Our meeting with senator Kevin Van De Wege was cancelled.
Overall, Housing Advocacy Day was a unique opportunity to engage in our democracy, and it was a helpful experience in understanding how to advance changes at the state level. I hope that next year Jefferson County will have a stronger representation at Housing Advocacy Day both to increase our impact on our legislators, and to bring home the awareness about what ideas are being considered at the state level that we can support.
March 19th UPDATE: Click here to read a report of the 2020 legislative session.