Housing is one of the central pillars of the work that YWCA does. Every day we see the disastrous results of our state's dismal housing affordability and the homelessness crises that it causes. These impacts fall disproportionately onto communities of color, and undoing the structural racism that has caused the underfunding of affordable housing for a generation is the first step to solving this statewide issue.
YWCA is proud to endorse three bills to invest in workforce and affordable housing, and protect tenants and their rights.
The Housing Trust Fund
The Housing Trust Fund is one of the most important programs funded in the capital budget and is the state's tool for ensuring that we continue to make strides at meeting the need for safe, healthy, affordable homes in communities across the state. Private market housing is increasingly out of reach for low-income families and individuals.
An average two-bedroom apartment requires a full-time wage of $26.87 per hour to be affordable. The Housing Trust Fund helps fill the gap and creates affordable homes across the state. Affordable housing is a social determinant of health and educational achievement. That's why YWCA is fighting to fully fund the Housing Trust Fund, and keep our families healthy and our kids in their local school.
Communities of color are disproportionately affected by homelessness, and investing in the Housing Trust Fund is a way to bridge the racial housing gap. When Washington State invests in affordable homes, we build homes that are safe, healthy, and affordable for at least 40 years while creating construction jobs and improving the local economy.
Let Communities build supportive housing
Last year, the Washington House of Representatives passed bill 2437, which allowed counties and cities to levy small sales or use taxes to fund affordable and supportive housing. Supportive housing is the most effective kind of housing for folks coming out of homelessness, by preventing them from returning to homelessness. Unfortunately, the State Senate did not pass the bill, and so we're fighting again this year to give communities a say in how housing is built.
Best of all, the tax would not increase the burden on low-income families, because of a provision in the law reducing the state tax by the same amount:
“The tax is credited against the state sales tax collected in the jurisdiction. It is not an increase in sales or use tax for consumers and does not change the overall retail sales or use tax rate. Instead, the amount of sales tax [collected] by the state is reduced.”
Reform the Eviction Process
Everyone deserves the right to a fair process when it comes to life-altering decisions like a landlord evicting them. Unfortunately, in Washington State, it is legal for landlords to evict renters without any cause at all. Black women with children are the most likely to be evicted in this way, despite the fact that discriminating against renters for having children is illegal under fair housing law. By allowing "no cause" evictions in our state, families are in danger of falling into homelessness, and children are forced to move schools.
House Bill 2804 would make no cause evictions illegal, giving renters the right to a hearing in court to determine if there is a legitimate reason for the eviction. It would also lower the court fees and lawyer fees that eviction costs. Finally, it would give renters more time to pay rent if they're late on one payment, which would prevent them from falling into homelessness just because of a one-time financial break.
When families can stay housed and children can stay in school, our communities are safer and more prosperous. Eviction is a cause of homelessness, and reforming the process is one of the easiest and most effective way of preventing homelessness by keeping people in their homes.
Eric Bronson is the Digital Advocacy and Engagement Manager at YWCA. He manages the Firesteel blog in addition to its social media streams and action initiatives. A graduate of Oberlin College, Eric focuses on the intersection of race and gender within the American political economy.
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