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Published on Thursday, April 28, 2016

Good start but much more needed in homelessness, affordable housing and human services sectors

The start of the 2016 supplemental legislative session saw significant interest and momentum in the homelessness, human services and housing (HHH) arenas, including great attention from the city family. Recent Supreme Court decisions around mental health, and a greater acknowledgement by state officials around issues facing cities on the housing and homelessness front created momentum early on. Adopted as an AWC priority, AWC was actively engaged in conversations around these issues throughout the session and as a result, we forged new partnerships with the HHH community.

Several weeks before the start of session Governor Inslee released his proposed supplemental operating budget where he made significant investments in Western State Hospital, step-down services for the mentally ill, and in the housing and homelessness sectors. His proposed investments were the start of a healthy conversation and debate within the Legislature over the need to increase funding in these arenas.

As a result, the start of session saw a lot of attention paid to these issues. In the first weeks, a slew of policy bills and budget-related solutions were proposed, including several local option bills to promote affordable housing. Later, the Senate and House both unveiled budgets that invested more dollars into the HHH fields. Unfortunately, as is the case in many sessions, few of these bills crossed the finish line and made it to the Governor’s desk, and the final operating budget saw less investment than we originally hoped. Among the casualties were all of the bills around local affordable housing tools.

On the positive front, the final budget includes money for affordable housing and homelessness services, including good initial investments in Western State Hospital, youth homeless programs, and in behavioral health housing support and step-down services. Unfortunately, much of these investments are from existing program funding and do not actually invest new resources into programs.

Bills related to our HHH priority included:

Housing & homelessness:

HB 2395 – Representative Joan McBride (D-Kirkland) proposed a local option condominium conversion fee to promote affordable housing.

HB 2397 – Representative Joan McBride (D-Kirkland) proposed a local option demolition fee to promote affordable housing.

HB 2442 – Representative Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) introduced a bill from the King County Assessor that was similar to the preservation property tax incentive bill above. This bill had a simplified administrative mechanism, but less specificity in other areas. Ultimately the decision was made to focus on the other bill.

SB 6239 and HB 2544 – Senator Joe Fain (R-Auburn) and Representative Noel Frame (D-Seattle) introduced a bill spawned by Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda process. The proposal would have authorized cities to provide a small property tax exemption to building owners who agreed to preserve a portion of their rental portfolio for affordable housing. A bill passed the Senate but died due to concerns from House leadership about giving tax breaks to for-profit landlords.

HB 2843 – Representative Joan McBride (D-Kirkland) introduced a number of local option affordable housing tool bills to see which would get the broadest support. The earlier bills on specific fees for demolition of condo conversion were opposed by the development industry. This proposal ultimately morphed into a creative proposal to provide authority to raise funds via a property tax shift to be put towards affordable housing. It may have been ahead of its time however as it ran into concerns in the House Finance Committee.

HB 2971 – Representative Joan McBride (D-Kirkland) ran an important bill to fix some unintended consequences for cities exercising flexible use of REET that were caused by last year’s bill. This bill ensured that cities remain able to provide important tenant protections while still being authorized to use the REET flexibility. It passed and was signed by the Governor.

SB 6647 – Senator Sharon Nelson (D-Seattle) and most of the Senate Democratic caucus introduced this bill to drive home their view that the homeless situation is in crisis in the state. It dedicated nearly $300 million from the state’s rainy day fund to a variety of housing and homelessness programs. It was not advanced by the majority party in the Senate.  The House budget proposal mirrored this concept in its early stages but ultimately the final budget did not utilize rainy day funds to address homelessness.

SB 6337 and HB 2647 – Senator Jeannie Darneille (D-Tacoma) and Representative Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) introduced bills at the request of the City of Tacoma to require counties disposing of surplus properties within cities to give notice to that city and provide an opportunity to the city to purchase the property for affordable housing purposes. SB 6337 passed and was signed by the Governor.

Human services:

HB 1713 – Representative Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle) integrates the treatment systems for mental health and chemical dependency. Currently, a chemical dependency involuntary commitment system (CD ITA) exists for persons who are incapacitated, present a likelihood of serious harm, or are gravely disabled by a substance use disorder. This system is superficially similar to the mental health involuntary commitment system (MH ITA); however, access to this system is limited, and may be entirely unavailable in some regions of the state. HB 1713 integrates the involuntary treatment provisions and systems for chemical dependency and mental health, and integrates other provisions pertaining to minor-initiated and parent-initiated chemical dependency and mental health treatment for minors, effective April 1, 2018. HB 1713 passed and was signed by the Governor.

SB 6430 – Senator Linda Evans Parlette (R-Wenatchee) comes out of recommendations of the Adult Behavioral Health Task Force and would suspend, rather than terminate, Medicaid medical assistance benefits for persons who are incarcerated by July 1, 2017. AWC was very supportive of this legislation and is pleased to see that it was signed by the Governor.

BillTracker Bill # Descriptive title Final status
  HB 1713 Integrating the treatment systems for mental health and chemical dependency  Law; Effective 6/9/2016
Yes HB 2971 Ensuring cities remain able to provide important tenant protections while still being authorized to use the REET flexibility Law; Effective 6/9/2016
  SB 6211 Providing property tax exemptions for nonprofit homeownership development Law; Effective 6/9/2016
  SB 6337 Requiring counties disposing of surplus properties within cities to give notice to that city and provide an opportunity to the city to purchase the property for affordable housing purposes Law; Effective 6/9/2016
Yes SB 6430 Providing continuing Medicaid coverage during periods of incarceration  Law; Effective 6/9/2016
Yes HB 2395 Local option condominium conversion fee to promote affordable housing Failed
Yes HB 2397 Local option demolition fee to promote affordable housing Failed
Yes HB 2442 Providing a property tax exemption for certain property within an affordable housing incentive zone Failed
Yes HB 2544 Authorizing cities the ability to provide a small property tax exemption to building owners who agreed to preserve a portion of their rental portfolio for affordable housing Failed
  HB 2647 Requiring counties disposing of surplus properties within cities to give notice to that city and provide an opportunity to the city to purchase the property for affordable housing purposes Failed
  HB 2843 Providing local governments the authority to raise funds via a property tax shift to be put towards affordable housing Failed
Yes SB 6239 Authorizing cities the ability to provide a small property tax exemption to building owners who agreed to preserve a portion of their rental portfolio for affordable housing Failed
  SB 6647 Dedicating nearly $300 million of the state's Rainy Day Fund towards housing and homelessness programs Failed
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