Ensuring Social Justice
Housing & Homelessness

Achieve policies and funding necessary to address the homelessness crisis and assure an adequate supply of affordable housing for middle-to-low income people.

Issue Team Chair: Cynthia Stewart, cstewart@lwvwa.org 
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2020 Legislative Session Expectations

(Interested in the 2019 Session Recap? Click Here)

Homelessness is a Big Issue this Session

During the 2019 legislative session, two tracks of work on housing were pursued. One was a series of briefings for legislators to inform them of the factors associated with homelessness. The other was a wide-ranging set of measures to address affordable housing and homelessness. Bills were passed in 2019 that increased funding and funding options for affordable housing; changed the framework of regulations to increase affordable housing; increased protection for tenants, provided financial support to avoid evictions, and changed eviction rules to further protect tenants; and provided support specifically for youth experiencing homelessness. Additionally, the Housing and Essential Needs program received substantial additional funding.

One of the most significant measures in 2019 was a record infusion of funding to the Housing Trust Fund, from which private non-profit housing organizations may draw to increase affordable housing stock. What did not pass in 2019 was the capital gains tax proposal, which was critical for action to address the income inequality causation of homelessness for many people.

This year, the Governor has proposed intensive work and funding to dramatically reduce homelessness within the next two years.  This package relies on reappropriating funds from the current reserves called the “rainy day” fund and would require a 2/3 vote to make those fund transfers.  This is not considered to survive at the scale he has proposed, but League testified in favor of it.  The account is currently at $2.5 billion, so the proposed $300 million withdrawal would not substantially affect the ability to respond to an economic downturn or other emergencies for which the fund was established.

However, a recent Elway poll with open-ended questions elicited public feedback that homelessness is the biggest issue in Washington this year for at least 30% of the respondents.  That public feedback is generating more interest among legislators to take action this year. 

There is a very long list of bills under consideration, many of which League supports.  Most of them were introduced in the first session of this biennium, but there are some new bills introduced this year that will likely be considered and hopefully adopted.  In addition, there are a number of budget proposals that do not appear as legislation but will be budget provisos or other forms of funding in the operating and capital budgets.  There will be more information about these in next week’s newsletter.

Click on Bill # for detailed information.  See UPDATES below.

Bills the League Supports

  • HB 1033 Concerning relocation assistance for manufactured/mobile home park tenants would authorize manufactured/mobile home park tenants seeking relocation assistance from the Mobile and Manufactured Home Relocation Assistance Program to receive other funding for relocation purposes without reducing their eligibility for Relocation Assistance Funds and to use the Program Funds to secure housing that is not a manufactured home.
  • HB 1044 would modify income qualifying thresholds for the property tax exemption for low income senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and disabled veterans by creating a range, rather than a single income level. It is expected to increase eligibility for the tax exemption.
  • HB 1168 Creating sales and use and excise tax exemptions for self-help housing development would provide a sales and use tax exemption for qualifying purchases of labor, services, and tangible personal property related to self-help housing and a REET exemption on the sale of self-help housing by an affordable homeownership facilitator to a low-income household.
  • HB 1181 Providing property tax relief for senior citizens and qualifying veterans Income thresholds for the senior citizen, individuals with disabilities, and veterans would modify the property tax exemption by creating income ceilings based on a percentage of county median household incomes.
  • HB 1206 Concerning park models, tiny homes, and manufactured homes and modifying the Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act (MHLTA), removing references to "park models" and adding a definition of "tiny home" to the MHLTA.
  • HB 1278 Concerning room and board for college bound scholarship students would require public institutions of higher education that offer on-campus housing options to provide a one-year waiver for on-campus housing to eligible students (those who upon graduation from high school, are considered homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act) on a space available basis.
  • HB 1453 Relating to residential tenant protections would extend notice to tenants from three days to 21 days before eviction proceedings for non-payment of rent may commence. It would extend the pay-or-vacate period to at least two weeks before an eviction process can be started, and prevent tenants from falling back into the eviction process via late fees and court fees. It would require the notice be written in plain language and include information on civil legal aid resources available to the tenant.
  • HB 1581 Funding local housing trust fund programs in certain cities would authorize certain cities to create a local housing trust fund for affordable housing and to impose a local sales tax, credited against the state sales tax on construction activities, with the added tax to be deposited in a local housing trust fund. The certain cities that would be authorized are Tacoma and Spokane.
  • HB 1590 Allowing the local sales and use tax for affordable housing to be imposed by a councilmanic authority would authorize county or city legislative authorities to impose the local sales and use tax for housing and related services and eliminate the requirement that the imposition of the tax be subject to the approval of a majority of county or city voters at a general or special election.  
  • HB 1694 Allowing tenants to pay certain sums in installments would require landlords to permit tenants to pay deposits, nonrefundable fees, and last month's rent in installments, subject to one exception and some general parameters regarding the number and timing of the installments.  UPDATE:  This bill may be amended to provide six months, rather than the originally proposed six months, of installments.
  • HB 1797 Concerning local governments planning and zoning for accessory dwelling units would require cities and counties to adopt or amend by ordinance and incorporate into their development regulations, zoning regulations, and other official controls, an authorization for the creation of accessory dwelling units. 
  • HB 1938 Creating a local infrastructure investment program to support the development of affordable housing, workforce housing, and revitalization efforts would allow cities and counties to apply for a remittance of 4.37 percent of the state sales and use tax on construction of local infrastructure to support the development of affordable housing, workforce housing, and revitalization efforts. According to the fiscal note, this could his could generate $34.9 million in sales tax remittances to local governments.
  • HB 2004 Concerning the property tax exemption for nonprofit organizations providing rental housing or mobile home park spaces to very low-income households would add mobile home parks to the current exemption.
  • HB 2110 Modifying the definition of affordable workforce housing for the purposes of permitted lodging tax revenu expenditures would redefine the eligibility threshold from between 30% and 80% of AMI to below 80% AMI.  
  • HB 1656 / SB 5733 Protecting tenants in residential tenancies, would require a landlord to have a legitimate business reason to terminate a tenancy. Currently a 20-day notice is required, which is insufficient for the tenant to find replacement housing. This bill would replace that notice requirement with a requirement that the landlord have a legitimate reason to terminate the lease, even if on a month-to-month basis,
  • HB 2453 / SB 6359 Providing protections to residential tenants limits the causes for which tenants may be evicted
  • HB 2634 / SB 6366 Exempting a sale or transfer of real property for affordable housing to a nonprofit entity, housing authority, or public corporation from the real estate excise tax (REET) would achieve a cost savings when property is purchased to create affordable housing.
  • SB 5261 Creating a pilot program for certain cities to hire homeless persons for local beautification projects, would create a three-year pilot program for three cities to provide job opportunities at minimum wage or greater in conjunction with other wrap-around services.
  • SSB 5357 Authorizing cities and counties to impose additional taxes for affordable housing, would allow cities and counties to approve an additional .5% REET within their respective jurisdictions with proceeds to be used exclusively for development of affordable housing. This bill was substituted with one that would allow an additional .25 (lower) increase.
  • SB 5363 Extending the property tax exemption for new and rehabilitated multiple-unit dwellings in urban centers for 12 years.
  • SB 6126 Allowing the local sales and use tax for affordable housing to be imposed by a councilmanic authority would allow cities and counties to enact the 1/10 of one percent local sales tax for supportive housing and related costs without a public vote.  Only three jurisdictions have enacted the authority under existing statutes, and this bill, if adopted, would make it easier to raise the revenue for these purposes.
  • SB 6167 Making expenditures from the budget stabilization account to alleviate the issue of homelessness.  This bill would require a 60% vote to pass.  It would appropriate $300 million from the “rainy day fund” to support addressing homelessness, including massive expansion of shelter capacity.

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