Dear friends and neighbors,
The housing and homelessness crisis is among the most urgent challenges our region faces. In the past year, we’ve again learned valuable lessons about how essential affordable housing is, since during the pandemic your home became the only safe place for you to be. When the 2021 legislative session wrapped up a few weeks ago, I was proud to vote for several measures that will help increase affordable housing and prevent people from being evicted, becoming homeless, and having their lives put in jeopardy as the pandemic continues.
Protecting tenants & supporting landlords
- Senate Bill 5160 will help tenants who have been adversely affected by the public health crisis pay their rent and also help landlords pay their bills so they don’t lose their investments. It creates a first-in-the-nation statewide right to counsel, ensuring that low-income tenants have access to a free court-appointed attorney to help them navigate the complex legal process.
- House Bill 1236, sponsored by my seatmate Rep. Nicole Macri, requires landlords to provide a good cause for evicting a tenant. We know that evictions disproportionately affect families of color in our state, many of whom rely on rental housing to keep a roof over their heads. While one-third of white households rent, more than two-thirds of black households and well over half of Latino households are renters. I was proud to vote for Rep. Macri’s measure to repair an unfair system in which renters could easily be forced from their homes through no fault of their own.
- Senate Bill 5408 helps people hit by financial catastrophe have a greater chance to stay in their own homes by raising Washington state’s homestead exemption, the rule that determines the value of a home that is protected in personal bankruptcy proceedings, to protect an average family home. The homestead exemption was set to a maximum of $125,000; this bill raises the exemption to the median home price in the county (currently about $750,000 in King County), with a minimum of $125,000.
- House Bill 1277 establishes a dedicated funding source for housing and eviction prevention services to strengthen Washington’s housing safety net.
The state’s next two-year operating and capital construction budgets adopted by the Legislature last month make significant investments in affordable housing. Here are a few highlights:
- $850 million from the American Rescue Plan to support affordable housing and reduce homelessness, including rental assistance, shelter capacity grants, and homeowner assistance.
- $175 million to the Housing Trust Fund to fund construction and renovation of affordable housing units to serve low-income and special needs populations.
- $120 million for rapid housing, including funding to buy and convert existing properties into homeless or emergency shelters, permanent supportive housing, or affordable housing for low-income people, and funding for youth and young adult housing projects.
- $44 million to address landlord-tenant relations by providing tenant protections and providing for legal representation in eviction cases.
- $42 million to connect utilities to affordable housing.
- $10 million to preserve multi-family housing at risk of becoming unaffordable.
- $2.5 million to increase housing inventory.
I look forward to seeing these projects take shape as we continue to work toward housing solutions that keep everyone in our community healthy and safe.
I will continue to send updates on key legislation passed during this year’s 105-day legislative session. Click here if you missed my previous updates on police accountability, access to childcare, and climate action.