Right Now in Housing and Homelessness
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 and 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.
Bills to address the need for better local comprehensive planning for all levels of affordability in housing, for landlord-tenant reform, for provision of housing when possible for employees, and for various forms of financial incentives to create additional affordable housing have emerged and many have progressed through the session.
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.
The House and Senate capital budgets each have an appropriation for the Housing Trust Fund at much lower levels than the governor proposed. The House budget appropriates $149 million and the Senate appropriates $205 million, compared to the governor’s proposed $240 million. There are other differences as well. That said, the Senate’s proposal is higher than what was allocated last year.
Both operating budgets have appropriations for Housing and Essential Needs, shelter capacity, rental assistance, landlord-tenant relations, affordable housing incentives, and much more. The differences are too lengthy to itemize but the likelihood of substantial funding in the final budget for affordable housing and homelessness needs is very good.
There are also several bills that would amend the Growth Management Act to address affordable housing. Those are found on the Climate Change Issue Web Page in the section on Growth Management.
Bills the League Supports
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.
Status This bill passed the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee and is now in the House Rules Committee.
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 This bill passed the Senate on March 5 and passed the House Education Committee on March 25. It is scheduled had a public hearing in the House Finance Committee at 8 a.m. on March 30 but has not been scheduled for executive session.
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.
Status This bill passed the Senate and passed the House on April 8. Amendments made in the House are very controversial, and the reconciliation process for this bill is likely to be lengthy and challenging.
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).
Status This bill passed the Senate and passed the House on April 7. Because there were amendments in the House, the bill will be going through the reconciliation process over the next two weeks.
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.
Status This bill passed the Senate and passed the House Finance Committee on March 31. It is now in the House Rules Committee.
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.
Status This bill passed the House and passed the Senate Housing and Local Government Committee on March 18. It is now in the House Rules Committee for second reading.
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.
Status This bill passed the House and it passed the Senate on April 8. It will now go through the reconciliation process.
Bills the League Supports That Have Passed
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.
Status This bill passed the House of Representatives and passed the Senate on March 30. It was delivered to the governor for signature on April 8.
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 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 This bill passed the House. It passed the Senate and was delivered to the governor for signature on April 8.
Bills the League Is Watching
None identified at this time.
Bills the League Opposes
None identified at this time.
Bills the League Supports That Missed the 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 & 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 & 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.
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