Our Washington State legislators are currently considering a package of bills aimed at reducing mass evictions and homelessness when the eviction moratorium is lifted (now set for June 30), and …
Our Washington State legislators are currently considering a package of bills aimed at reducing mass evictions and homelessness when the eviction moratorium is lifted (now set for June 30), and advance a more equitable society for all.
These bills respond to immediate challenges while creating long-term improvements to Washington’s code. Now is the time to become informed and get engaged.
One bill aims to keep people housed through legal aid, mediation, and other tenant protections.
SB 5160 provides the right to counsel for tenants facing eviction, addressing the disparity between landlords and tenants’ access to legal assistance. The bill also enacts a statewide tenant-landlord mediation program to divert tenants away from the eviction process altogether, including connecting landlords to rental assistance. The bill does not extend the eviction moratorium.
SB 5160 passed out of the Senate with the support of our Senator, Kevin Van De Wege. As it moves through the House it is time to contact our Representatives, Mike Chapman and Steve Tharinger, about these protections.
Another bill is one housing advocates have been working toward for years. HB 1236 requires landlords to have a business reason to terminate a tenancy.
Aside from the eviction moratorium, landlords can currently issue a 20-day notice to vacate during month-to-month tenancies, without needing to give a reason. This enables discrimination and retaliation, leaving a loophole in Fair Housing laws.
HB 1236 would require a landlord to give a legitimate reason to terminate the tenancy, including non-payment of rent, rule-breaking, or if a landlord wanted to move into the unit. A landlord is still able to give a no-cause termination at the end of an initial lease period.
Many landlords already abide by the guidelines in the bill, and this policy is not meant to hurt them. The goal is to prevent the abuse of rent assistance funds when the moratorium lifts, and to prevent discrimination and retaliation into the future. This bill passed the House with the support of Representative Tharinger, but not Chapman. Now is the time to contact Senator Van De Wege.
These bills, in tandem with rental assistance, will ensure that tenancies are preserved and that tenants and landlords alike are not saddled with debt coming out of this recession. This is the aim of a third bill, HB 1277, which would create a state-funded rental assistance program aimed at eviction prevention throughout the duration of the economic recovery.
Such funds are critical, as OlyCAP reports they are quickly distributing federal rent assistance.
Finally, as house prices skyrocket we must acknowledge the link between the housing crisis and the dramatic rise in income and wealth inequality.
This is indirectly addressed by another bill, SB 5096, which would enact a progressive tax on extraordinary profits from capital gains.
The revenue would fund early learning and child care, something Jefferson County woefully lacks. In addition to supporting all Washington families, SB 5096 would begin to balance Washington’s deeply upside-down tax code. The bill passed out of the Senate with the support of Senator Van De Wege. Now is the time to contact Representatives Chapman and Tharinger.
Each of these bills is accompanied by a report that explains the details of the bill using less technical language than the bill itself. Read them. Make up your own mind. Then, make your voice heard.
(Justine Gonzalez-Berg is the Director of Housing Solutions Network and a trustee for Homeward Bound Community Land Trust.)
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