Contributed by Carol McCreary
This year, Washington’s annual Homelessness and Housing Advocacy went from a single day in Olympia to a week-long, online-only meeting of 791 advocates, over a quarter of which had lived experience of homelessness. The week included an intensive introduction to all the housing equity bills in the current legislative session as well as opportunities to connect with other housing advocates in Legislative District 24 (which includes Jefferson County).
Here are the key measures that will help keep people safely housed:
- Improve eviction protections and provide legal representation. SB 5160 / Sen Kuderer. Rental assistance must be coupled with additional protections to keep tenants in their homes during and after the coronavirus pandemic. The Legislature should ensure that tenants cannot be evicted due to rent they were unable to pay during the eviction moratorium, that they are not denied future housing due to inability to pay rent during the pandemic, and that they are offered payment plans to catch up on rent. They should also be provided an attorney to argue their case against their landlord’s trained attorney.
- Create a state rental assistance program to prevent evictions and homelessness. HB 1277 / Rep Ormsby. Approximately 175,000 people live in households behind on rent. Add to them people using credit cards or savings for rent. An estimated $100 million per month is needed to keep all rents paid, yet WA has received just $510 million in federal rental assistance. The Legislature should increase the state’s document recording fee by $100 to expand rental assistance to prevent evictions and homelessness. A home-buyer’s average fee, calculated over a 30-year mortgage, is about $6 a year.
- Require landlords to have a legitimate business reason to evict. HB 1236 / Rep Macri. Most landlords in Washington can evict a tenant with just 20-days notice and without giving a reason. With Washington’s eviction moratorium expiring soon, landlords could circumvent tenant protections and simply evict with a 20-day no-cause notice. The Legislature should protect tenants by requiring landlords to have a legitimate business reason to terminate a tenancy. Without this policy change, rental assistance and other tenant protections won’t keep people safely housed.
- Prioritize Capital Budget investments proposed by Gov. Inslee to increase affordable housing and shelter. $240 million for the Housing Trust Fund. $10 million to preserve affordable housing at risk of loss. $70 million for the rapid acquisition of properties newly for sale due to the economic downturn. $40 million for enhanced shelter capacity grants. Sign your support.
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Track these bills, and more, using the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance Bill Tracker.