From the Field: Washington Advocates Urge Lawmakers to Address the State’s Housing and Homelessness Crisis

More than 600 advocates across the state of Washington gathered at the capitol in Olympia on February 3, urging lawmakers to take bold action to expand access to affordable homes and end homelessness during Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day. Advocates rallied on the state capitol steps and attended meetings with their lawmakers to discuss solutions to the housing challenges in their communities. The event was organized by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, an NLIHC state partner, and supported by the Resident Action Project, which coordinates and elevates the advocacy roles of people with lived experience. Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day included advocacy workshops, pre-scheduled meetings with state legislators, and panel discussions on policy solutions to the affordable housing and homelessness crisis.

At the start of the short, two-month legislative session, hundreds of Washington residents came together on Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day to urge their legislators to pass bills that would invest in affordable, accessible homes for low-income households, reduce barriers to building affordable homes, increase housing stability, and take essential steps to prevent and end homelessness. Participants received an advocacy packet that included fact sheets on state and federal policy priorities, legislative agenda talking points, and social media resources to strengthen their advocacy efforts.

Advocates across Washington expressed support for bills that would: invest an additional $10 million in the Housing Trust Fund to preserve affordable homes; permit local government approval of a 0.1% sales tax for affordable housing (H.B. 1590/S.B. 6126); create a Real Estate Excise tax exemption for those selling a property to a nonprofit that acquires it for affordable housing (H.B. 2634/S.B. 6366); and ensure that nonprofit affordable housing providers can continue to serve very low-income households at 60% of AMI and below without triggering unforeseen tax liability (H.B. 2384/S.B. 6232). Additional policy priorities include: prohibiting “no cause” evictions (H.B. 2453/S.B. 6379); requiring landlords to accept a payment plan for move-in costs (H.B. 1694); eliminating the Aged, Blind, or Disabled Shelter Penalty; and establishing a pilot program to provide rental assistance to seniors and adults with disabilities.

The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund collaborated with their member organizations and incorporated feedback from community members across the state to develop a 2020 legislative agenda. Discussions with service providers, low-income housing developers, local advocates, and people experiencing homelessness and housing instability revealed the urgent need for policies that would address the lack of affordable housing, protect tenants, fund homelessness interventions, and reduce barriers to building affordable housing. The coalitions’ state-level policy priorities would increase access to decent, accessible, and affordable homes across Washington and address the racial and systemic inequities that created and maintain the disproportionate impact of homelessness on communities of color.

Information about the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance is at: