Ensuring Social Justice
Housing & Homelessness

Ensure affordable housing for all.


Issue Chair: Cynthia Stewart, cstewart@lwvwa.org 
 DOWNLOAD the Housing & Homelessness Issue Paper
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Right Now in Housing and Homelessness

(Interested in the 2020 Session Recap? Click Here)

Introduction

In 2020, the Legislature made strides in addressing the affordable housing and homelessness crisis. The Legislature appropriated more than $200 million to fund supportive housing, shelter, multi-family housing preservation and affordable housing preservation grants; rapid response for potentially homeless individuals; and support for people living in manufactured housing communities at risk of losing their underlying property. This historic funding even surpassed the large investment in the Housing Trust Fund of $175 million in addition to significant increases in the Housing & Essential Needs program and others in 2019.

Additionally, in 2020, the Legislature adopted policies that would allow increased density, modify landlord-tenant statutes to be more favorable to tenants, and a variety of options for local financing of affordable housing were adopted this year.

However, homelessness continues to increase as housing prices continue to rise and particularly as unemployment has burgeoned as a result of COVID. Legislation anticipated in this session to continue to address homelessness and the gap in affordable housing recognizes that more intense measures are needed and includes substantial additional investments in the Housing Trust Fund, including money for preservation of affordable housing; statewide protections against discriminatory and arbitrary evictions (good cause termination requirements); prevention of evictions based on nonpayment of rent due to COVID/unemployment, with improved legal protections and rental assistance; and additional local funding options to address homelessness.

In the first week of session, some of these bills have already been introduced and had public hearings. In addition to the bills listed below, the Governor’s proposed budgets included a historic $758 million investment level among the combined operating and capital budgets and proposed the capital gains tax needed to help fund these programs. These are covered in the newsletter section on Adequate and Fair Revenue and Budget.


    Bills the League Supports

    SB 5043, Relating to the provision of housing for school district employees (Salomon, Rolfes), would authorize local school districts to provide housing on district-owned property for district employees. This would allow some school district employees to afford housing at locations closer to their work.

     STATUS UPDATE: This bill will have a public hearing in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee at 10:30 am on January 20.

    SB 5033, Limiting the property tax exemption for improvements to single-family dwellings to the construction of accessory dwelling units (Kuderer) would modify current property tax exemptions for home renovation to apply only to construction of ADUs.  The current statute allows a partial exemption for other types of home improvements.

     STATUS UPDATE: This bill had a public hearing in the Senate Housing & Local Government Committee on January 13 but has not yet been scheduled for a committee vote.

    SB 5012, providing a local government option for the funding of essential affordable housing programs (Lovelett), would authorize local governments to apply a tax to short-term rentals such as Airbnb units to be used exclusively for the purpose of exclusively for the operating and capital costs of affordable housing programs.

     STATUS UPDATE: This bill had a public hearing in the Senate Housing & Local Government Committee on January 13 but has not yet been scheduled for a committee vote.

    SB 5008, Extending the business and occupation tax exemption for amounts received as credits against contracts with or funds provided by the Bonneville power administration and used for low-income ratepayer assistance and weatherization (Robinson & Short).  This bill would give support to low-income families for utility costs and weatherization (which in turn would reduce their costs) and thereby help to keep families from losing their housing.

     STATUS UPDATE: This bill had a public hearing in the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee on January 13 and is scheduled for a committee vote on January 21.

    SB 5007, Addressing the economic challenges facing Washington citizens from the COVID-19 pandemic through a temporary reduction in compliance and tax burden on electric utilities in order to lower costs and support direct utility assistance to low-income customers (Van de Wege). This bill would give a tax credit to utilities that offer assistance to retail customers in arrears on their utility bills.

     STATUS UPDATE: This bill has not yet been scheduled for public hearing.

    SB 5079Extending the closure notice period for manufactured/mobile home communities would require landlords to provide home owners with three years’ notice that the community was closing, or they planned to change the use of the land. If the landlord did not want to wait the full three years, then they could compensate the home owners for the loss of their largest asset (their home) at fair market value/$5,000 whichever amount was greater.

     STATUS UPDATE: This bill had a public hearing on January 14 in the Senate Housing & Local Government Committee on January 14 but has not yet been scheduled for a committee vote.

    SB 5139Limiting rent increases after expiration of the governor's eviction moratorium, would discourage evictions in order to raise rent immediately.

     STATUS UPDATE: This bill is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Housing & Local Government Committee at 8:00 am on January 21.

    HB 1100Concerning the sale or lease of manufactured/mobile home communities and the property on which they sit, would make it easier for homeowners who have formed a Home Owners’ Association or a co-operative and for non-profit housing providers to purchase and preserve manufactured housing communities, when the landowner is considering selling the land, to ensure the on-going availability of affordable home ownership opportunities for current and future families. The WA Supreme Court issued an opinion in 2019 that calls into question the validity of past decisions that upheld the landlords’ argument around the constitutionality of a previous statute that had similar aims.

     STATUS UPDATE: This bill had a public hearing on January 14 in the House Housing, Human Services & Veterans Committee and is scheduled for a committee vote on January 21.

    HB 1035, Providing local governments with options to grant rent relief and preserve affordable housing in their communities (Kloba) would establish an affordable housing incentive program for cities to preserve affordable housing that meets health and quality standards for low-income households and very low-income households at risk of displacement or that cannot afford market rate housing.

     STATUS UPDATE: This bill has not yet been scheduled for public hearing.

    HB 1069Concerning local government fiscal flexibility, would allow local jurisdictions to have more flexibility in use of a variety of local funding options, including REET, the criminal justice funds and lodging tax, for affordable housing and shelter.

     STATUS UPDATE: This bill had a public hearing on January 13 in the House Local Government Committee and a committee vote was held on January 15 but has not been reported out yet.

    HB 1070Modifying allowed uses of local tax revenue for affordable housing and related services to include the acquisition and construction of affordable housing and facilities, would expand the allowable uses of and population to be served by the 1/10 of one percent tax for affordable housing.

     STATUS UPDATE: This bill has not yet been scheduled for public hearing.


    HB 1083Concerning relocation assistance for tenants of closed or converted manufactured/mobile home parks, would enhance the current relocation assistance program by requiring the Dept. of Commerce to provide relocation assistance as a 100% cash grant, rather than distributing the money as it is currently authorized to do. This would give home owners displaced from closing communities much more flexibility about when and where to move and provide them with funds to help cover expenses related to their new living situation.

     STATUS UPDATE: This bill had a public hearing on January 14 in the House Housing, Human Services & Veterans Committee and is scheduled for a committee vote on January 21.


    Bills the League Is Watching

    None identified at this time.

    Bills the League Opposes

    None identified at this time.

    How You Can Be Involved

    Local League members (and everyone else) can help by:

    • Monitoring their jurisdictions’ comprehensive plans for adequate planning for and provision of affordable housing for low-income families and take action in support of proper planning and allocation.
    • Let their legislators know they support the actions identified under “new issues this year” above, particularly implementation of progressive new revenue.
    • Take actions recommended in Housing/Homelessness section of the weekly Legislative Newsletter.
    • Contact Cynthia Stewart to be included on a group email list for additional information during session.

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