Reiny Cohen, Director of Communications
Every year here at the Action Fund, we like to recognize the folks whose work for housing justice in Washington had the greatest impact on expanding access to affordable homes and ending homelessness. We call these folks Housing Heroes, and this year we gave them special recognition at our PAC the House event on June 20.
Let's give it up for these Housing Heroes!
Representatives Riccelli and Frockt, and Senator Mullet:
Passing HB 2578, which outlaws discrimination based on a tenant’s use of rental or income assistance, took a team effort and we are very thankful to the extraordinary leadership of Representative Marcus Riccelli (3rd LD), Senator David Frockt (46thLD) and Senator Mark Mullet (5th LD). All three participated in countless hours of negotiations and strategy meetings that led to this strong bill finally being passed after a decade of advocacy. Outlawing source of income discrimination prevents bias that has a disparate impact on people of color, single parents, veterans, and people with disabilities, while also allowing investments in rental assistance to be more effective.
Representative Macri and Senator Dhingra:
Representative Nicole Macri (43rd LD) and Senator Manka Dhingra (45th LD) worked together to pass HB 2667, which prevents people with permanent disabilities from losing their Housing and Essential Needs rental assistance. Their teamwork to shepherd this bill through both chambers was an inspiring display of legislative organizing and political savvy that isn’t often witnessed. Their hard work to get this bill passed in its first year of introduction has already saved homes and prevented homelessness.
Representative Macri was also the prime sponsor of HB 1570, which eliminated the sunset of over 60% of state homelessness dollars and which also increased state and county resources by $52 million each biennium. HB 1570 also fixed the “45% mandate” which required 45% of all state dollars to be used solely on the for-profit rental market, a compromise from a prior legislative session that proved to be inefficient and expensive. Representative Macri’s relentless determination, coupled with her deep knowledge of homelessness interventions saw this bill through and garnered bipartisan support for an issue that had been deeply partisan in years prior.
Nicholas Arndt is an extraordinary advocate who played a significant role in getting HB 2667 passed this year. He bravely and repeatedly traveled to Olympia to share his experience with lawmakers, to educate them on the devastating impacts that losing HEN rental assistance would have on his life. His story allowed lawmakers to tangibly understand the urgent need to prevent people with permanent disabilities from losing their housing assistance when they are required to transfer to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled program which only provides up to $197 per month. He also helped to educate and train other advocates, sharing his story with them so that they could also educate lawmakers. Because of his tireless work, HB 2667 was passed the first year it was introduced - which is very rare for any bill - and many hundreds of people each year will not be pushed into homelessness.
Resident Action Project Steering Committee:
During the 2018 session, the Resident Action Project conducted an 8 Weeks of Action for Homes Campaign. In addition to door knocking in key districts, making phone calls, and using social media, they held two actions in Olympia. The first week of session they donned hard hats and delivered shovels to legislators to highlight the shovel-ready projects counting on a strong investment in the Housing Trust Fund. Later, they delivered a “prescription for housing” to every legislator in support of the bill to ban source of income discrimination. They reached 4,000 people through social media, made 75 phone calls, and contacted every legislator and the Governor with their message of housing justice.
Paul Benz, FAN:
The Faith Action Network (FAN), and Paul Benz in particular, are long-term and stellar allies to affordable housing and homelessness advocates. For years, FAN has worked alongside the housing community to pass the ban on source of income discrimination and to secure deeper investments in affordable homes. They worked hard this year to create new local resources for affordable homes by supporting HB 2437. The bill ultimately died in the Senate, but their ongoing partnership will greatly help with 2019 efforts on this bill and other important legislation.
Special recognition is also warranted for an amazing slate of housing champions:
Representative Timm Ormsby (3rd LD) and Senator Christine Rolfes (23rd LD) for writing and passing Operating Budgets that not only protected safety-net services, but that also increased the TANF cash grant and funded important housing bills such as HB 2444, HB 1831, HB 2382 and others.
Representative June Robinson (38th LD) for her role in passing the Operating Budget and for sponsoring HB 2437 which would have invested deeply in affordable homes across the state.
Representative Cindy Ryu (32nd LD) for her leadership on HB 2382, which allows state and local government to gift or sell underutilized or surplus properties at a discount for affordable housing.
Representative Vandana Slatter (48th LD) for her leadership on HB 2444, which preserves affordable homes by preventing low income housing tax credit funded properties from being assessed a real estate excise tax when the for-profit tax investor exits the ownership structure after they’ve received their tax benefits.
Senator Hans Zeiger (25th LD) for his leadership on SB 5143, which extends a property tax exemption to community land trusts who are holding the land for the development of affordable homes for first time homeowners.
Representative Eric Pettigrew (37th LD) for his leadership on HB 1831, which updates qualification criteria for state safety net services to allow applicants to retain modest savings and a modestly valued vehicle, which is often essential for employment and day-to-day activities.
Representative Pat Sullivan (47th LD) for his leadership on HB 1239, which allows people appealing a denial of federal social security disability benefits to access a free copy of their own medical records, which is essential for low-income people who otherwise have to pay one of the country’s highest medical record copy fees.
Representative Tana Senn (41st LD) for her leadership on HB 2448, which incentivizes transfers of property for affordable housing for people with developmental disabilities.