As the Washington state legislative session begins, the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, an NLIHC state partner, is advocating for robust investments in affordable housing and in prevention and ending homelessness. The Alliance’s priorities include $240 million for the Washington Housing Trust Fund, $10 million for affordable housing preservation, $110 million for shelter acquisition and capacity building, and an increase in the state’s real estate document recording fee to create a state funded rental assistance program.
Governor Jay Inslee released his proposed biennial capital and operations budget in December 2020 which closely reflects these priorities. The governor’s plan aims to:
- Keep individuals from falling into homelessness by preventing evictions and foreclosure and by mitigating efforts to ease shelter crowding.
- Preserve the existing stock of affordable housing units.
- Continue to build upon recent housing and homelessness investments.
To keep individuals from falling into homelessness, Governor Inslee proposed $164 million for rental assistance through the end of June 2021 and an additional $164 million of assistance for 2021-2023. The governor’s office estimates that the first $164 million will go to serving nearly 28,000 households. The governor’s operating budget also includes $17 million in foreclosure relief.
To address homelessness, Governor Inslee’s budget proposals include approximately $37 million for permanent supportive housing operations; $2 million for homelessness diversion; and $8 million in assistance for The Anchor Community Initiative, a public-private partnership aiming to reduce youth and young adult homelessness to “functional zero” by 2022.
The governor’s capital and operating budget includes:
- $220 million to build approximately 3,390 affordable housing units
- $30 million to preserve approximately 1,500 aging affordable housing units
- $20 million in low-interest home repair loans for low-income households in rural communities
- $5 million transfer to the Landlord Mitigation Account which will help return at least 1,000 units to the market at an affordable price by offering grants of up to $1,000 to landlords for move-in upgrades or cover up to 14 days of rent loss and reimburse up to $5,000 for damages caused by a tenant during tenancy
- $40 million to create ‘enhanced shelters’ for those experiencing homelessness
- $10 million in grants to local governments to develop affordable housing
- $10 million to expand the footprint of land where affordable housing can be built by cleaning up environmental contamination at hazardous sites
- $70 million for Housing Trust Fund-eligible entities to acquire properties such as hotels or motels to convert into shelters, permanent supportive housing, or transitional housing units
Washington enacts budgets on a two-year cycle which begins July 1 of each odd-numbered year. The governor’s proposed budget can then be modified in any legislative session.
According to Housing Alliance Executive Director Rachael Myers, “I don’t think we’ve ever seen a state budget proposal this robust in meeting the housing needs of Washington residents. We applaud the governor leading with such significant investments. His proposal helps meet immediate needs and invests in long-term solutions to the housing crisis that existed well before the pandemic. Legislators should follow his lead and make sure these priorities are included in the final budget.”
As with many other states, Washington experienced a decline in its revenue growth rate and projects a deficit of over $2.5 billion through June 2023. Simultaneously, the state’s homelessness crisis has intensified with an almost 13% increase in the number of unsheltered homeless individuals in 2020. The pandemic has created greater financial insecurity for the estimated 250,000 households that were already struggling to pay rent. It is estimated that there are as many as 175,000 renters who are behind on rent and providing rental assistance to meet the full need would cost approximately $100 million per month.
The governor’s budget helps address these needs in part by including a tax on capital gains. Currently, Washington has the most regressive tax structure of any state in the United States. The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance is part of a coalition effort to fix the state’s tax code to ensure that the wealthiest people and corporations pay their fair share and that the state has the revenue necessary to meet the needs of all its residents.
For more information about Governor Inslee’s 2021-2023 proposed budget, visit: https://bit.ly/3oXFy3i