Washington’s legislative session ended on March 8th, and there’s no other way to say this: 2018 has been an incredible year for affordable housing and homelessness advocacy.

Last year, a critical special election resulted in the Washington State Senate having its first progressive majority in half a decade – as long as Jay Inslee has been Governor.

When session started in January, the legislature – led by Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson and Speaker of the House Frank Chopp – hit the ground running to pass legislative priorities that had been blocked for years, many of which had never even received a committee hearing.

After the dust settled 60 days later, it was clear that this legislative session was the most impactful session for homelessness policy in more than 20 years. 

We are so proud of the work that our many grantees did to advocate throughout legislative session, including the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, A Way Home Washington, Housing Development Consortium, Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, Mockingbird Society, YouthCare, and the Washington State Budget and Policy Center.

We are also incredibly thankful to the many legislative champions who wrote, sponsored, and shepherded these bills into law, including Nelson, Chopp, Senators Jeanne Darnielle, David Frockt, Mark Mullet, and Kevin Ranker, and Reps. Steve Tharinger, Nicole Macri, Tana Senn, June Robinson, Jake Fey, Marcus Riccelli, and Christine Kilduff, among many others.  We are also grateful for the decades of service from retiring Rep. Ruth Kagi—an unparalleled champion for youth in our legislature.

Here are some of the bills that were sent to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law:

Affordable Housing

$107 million for the Housing Trust Fund: Our grantees at the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund led a successful campaign early in session to ensure the Capital Budget was passed for housing projects to be eligible for federal tax credits.

Document Recording Fee: One of the most important sources of funding for homelessness in Washington is the fee charged for every real estate documentation filing. A modest increase to this fee adds $26 million in permanent funding to serve an additional 11,500 people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Banning Source of Income Discrimination: Our grantees spent more than a decade advocating for this bill that makes it so landlords will no longer be allowed to refuse to rent to someone just because they use rental or income assistance to help pay the rent.

Expanding Access to the Housing and Essential Needs Program: Allows people with permanent disabilities to retain their housing assistance while they apply for federal disability benefits.

Promoting the Use of Surplus Public Property for Affordable Homes: Makes it easier to transfer underutilized public property so it can be used for affordable homes.

Youth and Young Adult Homelessness

Expanding Extended Foster Care: Youth can now exit and enter back into the foster care system as needed until their 21st birthday.

Decreasing Number of Youths Discharged Into Homelessness: Requires the Office of Homeless Youth to develop a plan to ensure that no youth is discharged from public systems of care (such as foster care, juvenile justice or mental health treatment) into homelessness.

Access to Higher Education for Homeless & Foster Students:  Expands the Passport to College Promise program to serve more foster youth and to include homeless students. This scholarship program has traditionally helped foster youth who aged out of care in Washington to go to college; the expanded program will also include support for apprenticeships for foster and homeless students.

Funding to Study Family in Need of Services: $150,000 to study how our public system response can improve services to families in crisis, a leading cause of youth homelessness.  This proposal will adapt the current Child in Need of Services petition to a Family in Need of Services petition that courts can use to intervene in crisis situations.  In addition, the Department for Children, Youth, and Families and the Office of Homeless Youth are required to develop recommendations that may include revisions to our current Child in Need of Services and At Risk Youth petitions.

These are just some of the thrilling results from the 2018 session, and we are already looking forward to working with our grantees to devise even more great bills for next year.

Thank you to everyone who worked to make this legislative session a success!