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Housing Justice Strides in 2021

In the Washington State legislative session just concluded, a session that many have judged to be historic in its progressive accomplishments, several enactments combine to enable major strides in housing justice.  Chief among housing-related accomplishments is likely avoidance of a feared tsunami of evictions at the end of the statewide eviction moratorium.  Other major accomplishments are a statewide “just cause” eviction law that stipulates specific grounds for eviction, and a permanent statewide housing sustainability program that features ongoing rental assistance and homelessness prevention.

Here are some of the major pieces of housing legislation that came out of the 2020-2021 State Legislature:

Glide-path back to normalSB 5160 is clearly the centerpiece in this year’s slew of housing-related legislation.  With this enactment, Washington becomes the first state to provide legal representation for tenants facing eviction.  It also requires good-faith repayment planning and working through a state regional dispute resolution center before entering into legal proceedings.  Another important provision is prohibition of future discrimination against tenants who fell behind in rent during the pandemic.

Say goodbye to no-cause, 20-day eviction noticesHB 1236 makes statewide what some cities accomplished individually in recent years – elimination of no-cause evictions on short notice.  Now all landlords must have a legitimate busines reason for an eviction, which in turn strengthens existing fair housing laws

Mitigate housing injustice and lessen impact of next economic downturn.  HB 1277, funded by a $100 increase in document fees for certain real estate transactions, brings new resources (up to $300 million over the next two years) to ongoing rent assistance and other homelessness prevention programs like permanent supportive housing

Reduce racial disparities and expand involvement in housing solutions.   HB 1220 prohibits municipalities from blocking transitional housing, shelters, and other supportive housing while requiring identification of policies that contribute to racially disparate housing patterns (e.g., exclusion, displacement).  Also requires creation and implementation of new policies to eliminate the disparities.

And $1 billion for housing in the new state operating and capital budgets:

  • $175 million for Housing Trust Fund
  • $120 million for acquisition of properties easily converted to shelters or other housing
  • $10 million to reduce loss of affordable housing
  • $658 million for rental assistance
  • $187 million for foreclosure prevention
  • $72 million for housing people experiencing homelessness
  • $27 million to the Housing and Essential Needs rental assistance program

— Chris Ferguson, Tacoma Friends Meeting

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