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Published on Monday, August 14, 2017

Some progress made on affordable housing and homelessness

Helping our communities address the challenges of homelessness and affordable housing has been a major focus for AWC in recent years. This year we came in with three major priorities: extending and increasing the state document recording fee that funds local and state homelessness efforts; creating new local option tools for communities to address affordable housing challenges; and securing funding for critical human services programs in the state budget.

On the homelessness front, cities came into the session hopeful that the Legislature would recognize the crisis facing communities across the state and increase the resources to address the challenge. We worked hard to develop a comprehensive approach that addressed challenges around homelessness as well as affordable market-rate housing.

On the market rate side we agreed to some changes to the buildable lands review process if it could be coupled with an increase in the document recording fee to direct more resources to homelessness efforts. Ultimately the connection was partially successful. Interests who have opposed recording fees were supportive of some level of increase if it came with improvements to the buildable lands process. Unfortunately we were unable to gain support for the fee increase from the Senate Majority Caucus and the final deal merely extended the sunset on the current recording fees for another four years.

We also achieved partial success on local option affordable housing tools. We had a very positive bipartisan effort in the House of Representatives where a series of tools were developed with broad support (HB 1797). Unfortunately the proposal got caught up in the legislative calendar. The House held the bill until budget negotiations began. By the time those negotiations started the Legislature was looking to take things off their to-do list and the House bill was one of the casualties. New authority to utilize excess REET 2 dollars at the local level for homelessness housing was provided in SB 5254 for two years, but the rest of the housing tools were deferred for future consideration.

When it came to the state budget, we continued to stay engaged in the debate around funding for mental health, chemical dependency and low-income assistance. Once again the results were mixed, but some of our most critical social services programs remained intact. Notably, early Senate efforts to eliminate the Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program, and to place limits on the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program and Medicaid 1115 waiver were quelled.

There is still a great amount of work to do in this arena. AWC will continue to work towards finding solutions to these incredibly complex problems.

Bill #

Descriptive title

Final status

HB 1427

Concerning opioid treatment programs

Law, Effective 7/23/2017

SB 5252

Addressing the effectiveness of document recording fee surcharge funds that support homeless programs

Law, Effective 10/19/2017

SB 5254

Ensuring adequacy of buildable lands and zoning in urban growth areas and providing funding for low-income housing and homelessness programs

Law, Effective 10/19/2017

HB 1432

Concerning foundational public health services

Did not pass

HB 1570

Concerning access to homeless housing and assistance

Did not pass

HB 1797

Concerning encouraging affordable housing development and preservation

Did not pass

SB 5223

Concerning safe injection sites in Washington State

Did not pass

SB 5656

Concerning the goal of ending homelessness

Did not pass

SB 5657

Concerning the hosting of the homeless by religious organizations

Did not pass

SB 5864

Concerning the goal of ending homelessness

Did not pass