The Senate Ways & Means Committee held its hearing on the Senate capital budget proposal on Monday, March 20, and members of the public had their opportunity to offer comment on the budget bill, SB 5200.

Over the course of the two-hour hearing, the committee heard praise for the budget from a broad selection of housing advocates, particularly for the $400 million proposed investment in the Housing Trust Fund, which would be the most ever invested in the fund.

The entire committee hearing can be viewed on TVW here, with testimony ordered by issue area – K-12 schools, higher education, housing and human services, natural resources, and closing with all other subjects. While some testifiers support a bond referendum in addition to the underlying budget, testimony on the Senate proposal by housing advocates was very positive, including:

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy with the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance:

“Thank you for investing $400 million directly into affordable housing through the Housing Trust Fund, and thank you for the emphasis on projects by and for BIPOC community-based organizations to ensure more equitable access to capital budget dollars.”

Nick Federici, representing the United Ways of the Pacific Northwest:

“All of the state’s United Way organizations were thrilled with your investments in the Housing Trust Fund, land acquisition program, and other affordable housing and homelessness investments that you’ve made here. It’s the highest level that has ever been achieved, except last year when you had the federal additional funds to boost you.”

Ryan Donohue, Chief Advocacy Officer at Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King and Kittitas Counties:

“I’m here testifying in strong support of SB 5200, and we thank you for your clear commitment to affordable housing and affordable home ownership as is demonstrated here today. We’ve been saying all year that 2023 is the year of housing and to be perfectly frank, your budget goes a long way to helping make that become a reality.”

Michone Preston, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Washington State:

“Thank you all for continuing to raise the bar for affordable home ownership and for the robust affordable housing budget before us.”

Jesse Simpson, Government Relations and Policy Manager with the Housing Development Consortium:

“I’d like to extend my sincere thanks for the substantial investments in affordable housing made in this budget, especially the $400 million allocation for the Housing Trust Fund. A budget is fundamentally a moral document, a statement of government’s priorities, and I applaud the way you prioritized affordable housing in this budget.”

Jennifer Delia-Bereskin, representing the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance:

“I would like to first acknowledge my utmost support for this capital budget and to thank our elected officials for your outstanding leadership this legislative session. This capital budget reflects the dedication and hard work of our legislators. As an indigenous woman living my entire life in poverty, carrying over twenty years of housing instability, being a single mother to a special needs child, these investments, such as in the Housing Trust Fund and other crucial programs, will allow our family and many others to thrive and succeed in Washington state. This springs historical and multigenerational change for the many.”

Sen. Mark Mullet, (D-Issaquah), vice chair of the Ways & Means Committee and prime sponsor of the Senate capital budget proposal, thanked all those who testified.

“Our goal was to make a major investment in affordable housing with this capital budget, and I’m glad that the people who know housing best – our advocates – came out in such strong support for our proposal,” said Mullet. “I’m confident we’re going to be making a record-setting investment in our Housing Trust Fund this year, and that’s great news for Washington state. I’m also confident that by making this housing investment in a sustainable and responsible way, it can be sustained – and built upon – into the future.”

The budget proposal is expected to be passed out of the Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday and voted on by the full Senate this Friday.

The House will present its capital budget proposal in the coming days, and the two chambers will meet and negotiate their differences to reach agreement on a final version before the end of session. The last day of the 2023 session is Sunday, April 23.