Ensuring Social Justice
Housing and Homelessness

Ensure affordable housing for all.

Issue Chair: Cynthia Stewart, cstewart@lwvwa.org 
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Right Now in Housing and Homelessness

The 2021 legislature accomplished a great deal for people who need affordable housing or are homeless. Thank you to each and every reader who contributed to this success by responding to action alerts, contacting legislators or signing in on bills. Some of the highlights include:

  • New funding for housing with a $100 surcharge on document recording fees dedicated to eviction prevention rental assistance, supportive housing and tenant education and legal assistance.
  • New, high levels of funding for the Housing Trust Fund ($350 million) that can be used for construction, purchase or preservation purposes.
  • Large increase in the rental assistance funding, foreclosure prevention and Housing and Essential Needs programs.
  • Right to counsel for low-income tenants in eviction court who cannot afford an attorney, plus opportunity for mediation and protection for tenants who fell behind on payments during the COVID crisis.
  • Just cause for eviction, requiring a business reason to ask a tenant to move.
  • New land use planning requirements that mandate planning for a full range of housing options, including shelter, and prohibit banning shelters in many of the areas that are currently zoned in a way that prevents shelter development.

In addition to the budget, here are some of the key bills the League supported that passed.

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. 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. This bill has been sent to the governor for signature.

SB 5160 Addressing landlord-tenant relations by providing certain tenant protections during and after public health emergencies, providing for legal representation in eviction cases, and authorizing landlord access to state rental assistance programs. After extensive negotiations between the House and Senate, it ultimately passed both chambers and was sent to the governor for signature. The governor exercised a partial veto upon signing the bill.

SB 5235 Increasing housing unit inventory by removing arbitrary limits on housing options, would remove restrictions on accessory dwelling units and unrelated occupants living together (such as in a boarding house). This bill has been sent to the governor for signature.

SB 5287 Concerning affordable housing incentives, would create tax incentives for multiple-unit housing that creating additional affordable housing, developing permanently affordable housing opportunities, and more. This bill has been sent to the governor for signature.

HB 1069 Concerning 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. This bill has been sent to the governor for signature.

GMA Bill HB 1220 Supporting emergency shelters and housing through local planning and development regulations, would modify the Growth Management Act to specify that special consideration for low, very low, extremely low, and moderate-income households must be incorporated in the housing element of comprehensive plans. This bill has been sent to the governor for signature.

HB 1236 Protecting residential tenants from the beginning to end of their tenancies by penalizing the inclusion of unlawful lease provisions and limiting the reasons for eviction, refusal to continue, and termination. This bill has been sent to the governor for signature.

HB 1070 Modifying 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. This bill was signed by the governor on April 14.

HB 1083 Concerning 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 homeowners 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. This bill was signed by the governor on April 14.

Bills the League Supported That Missed a Cutoff

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. This bill never received a public hearing.

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. The bill did not pass out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee by the cutoff on Feb. 22.

SB 5012 Providing a local government option for the funding of essential affordable housing programs 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. The bill did not pass out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee by the cutoff on Feb. 22.

SB 5079 Extending the closure notice period for manufactured/mobile home communities would require landlords to provide homeowners 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 homeowners for the loss of their largest asset (their home) at fair market value/$5,000 whichever amount was greater. This bill was put in the “X” file in the Senate Rules Committee.

SB 5139 Limiting rent increases after expiration of the governor's eviction moratorium, would discourage evictions in order to raise rent immediately. The bill did not pass out of the Senate Housing and Local Government Committee by the cut-off date.

HB 1100 Concerning 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 homeowner's 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 ongoing availability of affordable home ownership opportunities for current and future families. The Washington State 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. This bill passed the House Housing, Human Services and Veterans Committee as a substitute and was referred to the Appropriations Committee did not pass out of that committee by the cut-off date.

HB 1128 Concerning housing benefit districts, would authorizes the establishment of housing benefit districts and set out requirements and authorities related to their governance, powers, and finances. This would be analogous to transportation benefit districts and other special taxing districts in which limited functions are performed and funded per a vote of the public within the district. This passed the House Local Government Committee as a substitute on Jan. 29 and was referred to the Finance Committee but did not pass out of that committee by the cut-off.

HB 1035 Providing local governments with options to grant rent relief and preserve affordable housing in their communities 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. This bill had a public hearing on Feb. 8 in the Finance Committee, but no action was taken by the cut-off date.

HB 1228 Addressing residential landlord-tenant requirements in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.  This bill would establish an early resolution program to support renters who as a result of COVID have not been able to make rent payments and their landlords who would otherwise forego rent. This bill did not pass the Housing, Human Services and Veterans Committee by the cut-off date.

HB 1300 Addressing documentation and processes governing landlords' claims for damage to residential premises. This bill would address a longstanding problem with inflated and/or unsubstantiated damage claims against a tenant that can affect their credit and tenant screening report for years. This bill did not pass out of the House Rules Committee by the cut-off.

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. This bill passed the Senate and several committees in the House but did not make it to the House floor before the end of session.

For further information contact Cynthia Stewart, Housing and Homelessness Issue Chair, cstewart@lwvwa.org.

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