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Published on Monday, January 29, 2018

Housing and homelessness bill updates

There is progress to report on several bills that fall under housing, homelessness and human services. A floor vote is imminent on the local options bill (HB 1797) that we have worked on for the last few years. We believe there will be solid bipartisan support for this bill when it comes for a vote in the House. If you are tracking this bill, please discuss the issue with your legislators and share any feedback you receive from them with Carl Schroeder.

The Document Recording Fee increase in HB 1570 is also working its way through the House and appears to be in good shape to pass that chamber.

A new proposal from Rep. June Robinson (D-Everett) HB 2347 would allow counties, and if they decline, then cities to opt into receiving a share of state sales taxes to be dedicated to housing with a focus on creating a stable revenue source that could be bonded against for capital construction, but also flexible enough to fund rental vouchers and other operational expenses associated with affordable housing. We are also exploring whether there is receptivity to ensuring these funds could be used to support temporary housing for those facing behavioral health crises.

Finally, we are supporting HB 2667 which fixes a quirk in the law that is unnecessarily creating more homelessness on our streets. In all corners of the state, service providers and counties are working tirelessly to help stabilize people and stretch resources through the Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program. HEN is for folks with temporary disabilities that prevent them from working. Counties are given a block grant with significant flexibility to provide whatever level of support is necessary to house someone, including shared rooms or creative solutions. Periodically individuals are reevaluated and if their disability is determined to be permanent, they graduate to the Aged Blind and Disabled (ABD) program. This program covers them until they become eligible for federal SSI disability support. The ABD program has a limited cash grant of only $197 per month. People who have been stabilized, and in many cases kept out of homelessness by the HEN program, cannot maintain their HEN benefit when on the ABD program - even though the state gets reimbursed by the federal government for costs of the ABD program. This bill would allow a person to maintain both benefits and provide the authority for the county to maintain stability for people in the HEN program as they move to federal support. This bill will have an immediate impact preventing unnecessary homelessness in our communities.

For more information on these bills, see last week’s Legislative Bulletin.

Categories: Housing