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WA Legislature Passes Major Wins in Fight Against Homelessness

The Legislature passed a plethora of affordable housing solutions this session, including $100 million in the Biennial Capital Budget for Housing Trust Fund. (fumigene/Flickr)
The Legislature passed a plethora of affordable housing solutions this session, including $100 million in the Biennial Capital Budget for Housing Trust Fund. (fumigene/Flickr)
March 12, 2018

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Advocates fighting homelessness are notching some major wins from the Washington state Legislature.

With the session now over, groups are tallying their victories over the affordable housing and homelessness crisis gripping the state. Michele Thomas, director of policy and advocacy at the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, said the biggest accomplishment is a bill banning landlords from turning away renters based on their source of income, specifically rental assistance through programs such as Section 8.

"This bill says that landlords cannot deny somebody simply because of how they pay their rent,” Thomas said. “It's going to open up a lot of opportunities for housing for low-income people across the state."

Thomas has been working on this policy for more than a decade. It also comes in the wake of an investigation by the Washington state Attorney General's office that found discrimination against veterans using federal housing vouchers was rampant.

Thomas touts another bill that will generate abut $26 million a year to help people who are homeless with housing services. The assistance is funded through an increase to a fee paid for real estate documents.

Thomas said people with disabilities will be getting help with housing as well. The bill ensures people with permanent disabilities and those whose primary disability is substance abuse disorder will continue to be eligible for the Housing and Essential Needs rental assistance.

"This fixes a really ridiculous policy that the state had that said once you are determined to have a permanent disability, you were no longer eligible for rental assistance,” she said; “which just flies in the face of common sense and was causing a lot of people with long-term, permanent disabilities to experience homelessness."

More victories came out of the session on affordable housing too. The Legislature included more than $100 million in the Biennial Capital Budget for the Housing Trust Fund, which builds and preserves affordable homes. It also passed a bill that makes it easier to turn underused buildings into affordable housing.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA