Ensuring Social Justice
Achieve policies and funding necessary to address the homelessness crisis and assure an adequate supply of affordable housing for middle-to-low income people.
2020 Legislative Session Wrap Up
(Interested in the 2019 Session Recap? Click Here)
Homelessness Was a Big Issue this Session
For affordable housing and homelessness, the 2020 session - the second half of the biennium - started with an ambitious proposal by Governor Inslee to use a portion of the state’s emergency fund to finance solutions to homelessness. The Governor focused on a goal of reducing homelessness by 50% within two years. He proposed that the Budget Stabilization Account (the “rainy day” emergency fund) was an appropriate source of revenue given the size of the homelessness crisis, the need for urgent action, and the fact that even if $300 million were withdrawn from that fund as proposed, a remaining balance of $2.2 billion would remain available for other needs.
Normally the League would not support use of this Fund for operating purposes. But given the extent of the crisis, and the size of the remaining fund balance, we did support this proposal. However, it takes a 2/3 vote of each chamber to withdraw money from this fund, and the proposal never got any traction. [It should be noted that at the very end of the session, when the need for emergency response to the COVID 19 virus became clear, the Legislature did pass a $200 million appropriation from the Budget Stabilization Account with the necessary 2/3 majority. The appropriation will allow a state response to needs associated with containing spread of the virus. Part of this response will be to assist agencies providing services to people experiencing homelessness, because the ability for them to sustain the necessary social distancing within their overcrowded facilities is a challenge.]
The other ambitious proposal that never got traction, which League supported, was to create a King County taxing district in which a payroll tax that employers would pay - on salaries within their companies of $150,000 per year or more - would be used to help fund homelessness services in King County. King County has the greatest income inequality in the state and consequently the greatest affordable housing shortfall and homelessness crisis.
However, many other proposals were made and approved by the Legislature in this session, which will make a big difference for people with housing insecurity in Washington State. Most impressively, 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 surpasses last year’s amazing investment in the Housing Trust Fund of $175 million in addition to significant increases in the Housing & Essential Needs program and others.
Additionally, 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.
The League was only a small part of a much larger coalition that mobilized to get this legislation passed. Most of the credit goes to the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance for working directly with legislators and coordinating testimony and action among the rest of the very large group of supporters working on this legislation, including League.
Key legislators who worked through both halves of the biennium to get so much accomplished, and who deserve huge thanks, include these, who played a leadership role: Representatives Nicole Macri, Tina Ormsby, June Robinson, Beth Doglio, Steve Tharinger and Noel Frame; and Senator Patty Kuderer, who led Senate committee action and garnered a broad base of Senate support for these bills. Please reach out to these legislators as well as your own to thank them for their hard work throughout this biennium.
On April 3, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee signed the budget and announced a number of partial vetoes in it. In all, the governor vetoed 147 separate expenditure items, which will reduce state spending by nearly $445 million over the next three years — $235 million in the current budget and $210 million in the next biennium. The vetoes recognized the terrible impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having – and will continue to have – on the state’s economy. However, in recognition of the parallel crisis of homelessness, and the likelihood of increased homelessness from unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, none of the budget vetoes appear to be related to the historic investment made by the Legislature in programs for people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. The Governor did, however, veto several bills that would have exacerbated the fiscal impact to the State.
For details of the budget appropriations, please contact Cynthia Stewart, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on Bill # for detailed information. See UPDATES below.
Note: some bills are marked as REVENUE because of the overlap with the revenue page and are of interest to the people watching housing.
Bills League Supported That Have Been Signed Into Law
Bills the League Supported That Governor Vetoed
Bills the League Supported That Did Not Pass
Bills League Watched
Bills League Opposed