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 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given the size of the homelessness crisis, the need for urgent action, and the fact that even if $300 million were withdrawn from that fund as proposed, a remaining balance of $2.2 billion would remain available for other needs.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, stewdahl@comcast.net.

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

  • SB 6212  Concerning the authority of counties, cities, and towns to exceed statutory property tax limitations for the purpose of financing affordable housing for very low-income households and low-income households would expand use of the affordable housing property tax levy to include affordable homeownership, owner-occupied home repair, and foreclosure prevention programs for low-income households with income at or below 80 percent of AMI. SB 621 passed the Legislature and was signed into law by the Governor on March 31, 2020.
  • SSB 6378 Concerning residential tenant protections would make substantial revisions to landlord-tenant laws that would protect tenants from eviction under certain circumstances. SSB 6378 passed the Legislature and was signed into law by the Governor on April 2, 2020.
  • SB 6617 Concerning accessory dwelling unit regulation allows up to two accessory dwelling units (ADUs) per lot and removes owner-occupancy requirements as well as removing requirements for provision of off-street parking for ADUs close to major transit stops. This bill passed the Legislature and was signed into law by the Governor on March 27, 2020.
  • HB 1590 REVENUE   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. Passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor on March 31, 2020.
  • 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. HB 1694 passed the Legislature and was signed into law by the Governor on March 27, 2020.

  • HB 2343 Concerning urban housing supply encourages jurisdictions subject to the GMA to take certain actions to increase residential capacity.  These include reducing lot sizes for allowing duplexes, triplexes and courtyard apartments; authorizing ADUs and more, within certain circumstances, such as transit availability. Substitute bill for HB 2343 has passed the House and is now in the Senate Rules Committee. SHB 2343 passed the Legislature and was signed into law by the Governor on March 27, 2020.
  • HB 2497  Adding development of permanently affordable housing to the allowable uses of community revitalization financing, the local infrastructure financing tool, and local revitalization financing would expand public improvement eligible for community revitalization financing, local infrastructure financing tool, and local revitalization financing to include permanently affordable housing. This bill passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor on April 2, 2020.

  • HB 2384  /SB 6232   REVENUE   Concerning the property tax exemption for nonprofit organizations providing rental housing or mobile home park spaces to qualifying households would tailor the income level for tenants to 60% of AMI at the area in which the housing is located and would allow tenants to retain their units when they obtain higher income. HB 2384 passed the Legislature and was signed into law by the Governor on April 2, 2020.
  • HB 2535  Would modify dates by which rent must be paid in order to provide more of a grace period for tenants.   It would prohibit late fees if the rent is less than 5 days late and it also allows tenants to request a different rent due date if their income is a fixed, regular source like SSI that doesn't come in on the day that rent is due. This bill passed the Legislature and was signed into law by the Governor on March 27, 2020.
  • HB 2950  Addressing affordable housing needs through the multifamily housing tax exemption by providing an extension of the exemption until January 1, 2022, for certain properties currently receiving a twelve-year exemption and by convening a work group would allow a longer tax exemption period for affordable housing units and would establish a process for reviewing how the multi-family tax exemption process works and its effectiveness in incentivizing affordable housing units. This bill passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor with a partial veto eliminating the section that would require a work group to be convened to study and make recommendations on certain aspects of the multifamily property tax exemption program.

Bills the League Supported That Governor Vetoed

  • HB 2634  REVENUE 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. This bill has passed the House and the Senate.  This bill was vetoed by the Governor on April 3, 2020.
  • HB 2797  Concerning the sales and use tax for affordable and supportive housing would modify the provisions of HB 1406 adopted in 2019 to allow local governments to retain a portion of the state sales tax for affordable housing to extend the timeline and clarify the relationships between cities and counties use of the tax. HB 2797 passed the Legislature but the Governor vetoed this bill on April 3, 2020.

Bills the League Supported That Did Not Pass

  • HB 1168 REVENUE 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 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 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 1679 / SB 5676 REVENUE Authorizing cities planning under the growth management act to impose certain real estate excise taxes by councilmanic action. 
  • HB 1797 / SB 5812 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 REVENUE 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. This bill did not make it out of the House Rules Committee to the floor for action.
  • HB 2004 REVENUE 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. Passed the House is currently in the Senate Rules Committee.

  • HB 2388  Standardizing definitions of homelessness to improve access to services would expand the definition of homelessness in order to increase eligibility for a variety of assistance programs.  

  • HB 2610 Concerning the sale or lease of manufactured/mobile home communities and the property on which they sit would establish notice requirements to mobile home residents when the mobile home park owner has a purchase offer and would require the seller to offer the property to the tenants first. HB 2610 passed the House as a substitute and is currently in the Senate Rules Committee.

  • HB 2746   Concerning affordable housing incentives would increase the minimum affordability requirements of the Multifamily Property Tax Exemption.  This would allow tenants whose income began to exceed the affordable housing limit would not have to move at that point if they were eligible to begin with.  

  • HB 2948   REVENUE  Granting additional and progressive tax authority for counties with populations exceeding two million and cities therein to impose an excise tax on businesses that addresses the affordable housing crisis and reduces homelessness through evidence-based practices that will save lives and improve public safety, while also ensuring certainty and predictability for businesses would authorize a tax on businesses’ payroll for salaries equal to or exceeding $150,000 per year. The tax would be 1/10 of one percent and would be used for affordable housing, supportive housing, rental assistance, maintenance and operation of affordable and supportive housing units, and related functions.  

  • 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 / HB 1493  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 6231 / HB 2630 REVENUE  Providing a limited property tax exemption for the construction of accessory dwelling units would limit property tax exemptions for home improvements to only construction of ADUs. HB 2630 is currently in the House Rules Committee. SB 6231 passed out of the Senate Ways & Means Committee as a substitute.

  • SB 6618  Establishing housing benefit districts with taxing authority where authorized by a local jurisdiction and specifies how the board will be established for the purpose of constructing affordable housing.  This would be analogous to transportation benefit districts, within which property owners may be taxed to provide specific improvements. 

  • HB 2649 Concerning homeless shelter capacity would require counties and cities to amend their local homeless and housing plans to address at least 50% of the unsheltered homeless in their communities by the end of this year (December 31, 2020). 
  • HB 2907 /SB 6669  Authorizing counties with populations over two million to impose an excise tax on business.  This bill would allow King County to enact an annual payroll tax, which may be graduated based on employees’ compensation, of .1% to .2% of salaries for employees whose compensation exceeds $150,000 annually.  The tax must not be deducted from the employees’ compensation.  Small businesses and certain industries are exempted and there are some other exceptions described in the bill.  Revenue from this tax would be dedicated to affordable housing, including supportive housing and rent assistance, behavioral health and related services as defined in the bill. 
  • SB 5366 REVENUE Expanding the property tax exemption for new and rehabilitated multiple-unit dwellings in urban centers would allow local jurisdictions to provide property tax exemptions for housing at 80% or below of AMI between 2021 and 2025.  The AMI increases to up to 115% upon sale if owner-occupied. 
  • 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 /HB 2522  REVENUE 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. This was the Governor’s request bill.  Although it has not officially died, it has not moved.  Both companion bills are in their respective finance committees. Because these bills pertain to budget expenditures, they remain alive until the budget is adopted but other bills are now being used for these appropriations
  • SB 6271  / HB 2657  Extending the closure notice period for manufactured/mobile home communities to three years for a sale and 120 days to vacate once payment has been received. 
  • SB 6302 Prohibiting local governments from limiting the number of unrelated persons occupying a home would allow more house sharing.  Currently 71 percent of jurisdictions have restrictions on unrelated people living together. This bill passed the Senate and ended in House Rules.
  • SB 6512 Relating to the provision of housing for school district employees would authorize local school boards to provide housing for teachers on school property.  This would allow private non-profit developers of affordable housing to reduce the cost of construction and would allow teachers the opportunity to live in affordable housing near their work. 
  • SB 6536 / HB  2780  Creating more housing options in traditionally single-family zones would allow duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes, in single family zones. Neither bill passed their house of origin by the cutoff and both have died.
  • HB 2570    Managing growth by planning and zoning for accessory dwelling units would require GMA jurisdictions to adopt several among six options for policies related to ADUs.

  • HB 2453 / SB 6379  Providing protections to residential tenants limits the causes for which tenants may be evicted. 

  • SB 2382 Concerning housing for community and technical college faculty and employees, would create a state policy supporting affordable housing for community and technical college faculty and employees, which would also allow a federal tax credit; and would permit a community or technical college to establish, lease, operate, equip, maintain, borrow money, and issue and sell revenue bonds for capital projects related to faculty and employee housing.  

Bills League Watched

  • HB 2452  Reducing the real estate excise tax (REET) for multiple-unit housing.  This bill would reduce the rate of REET for all multiple unit housing regardless of whether it includes affordable housing units or not. This bill died in the House Finance Committee.
  • HB 2620   REVENUE  Expanding the property tax exemption for new and rehabilitated multiple-unit dwellings in urban growth areas would authorize all GMA cities and counties to provide the Multifamily Property Tax Exemption (MFTE). Authorizes 12-year extensions of properties currently exempt under the MFTE. Establishes minimum density requirements for residential targeted areas. Neither bill passed the house of origin by the cutoff date and both bills have died.

Bills League Opposed

  • HB 2606  REVENUE  Providing a business and occupation tax credit for financial institutions issuing loans for affordable housing programs.  League opposes this because there is no basis for it; there is no liability to a financial institution making such loans that would need to be offset by a tax credit. This bill did not pass the House of Representatives by the cutoff and has died.

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