We are now more than midway through the 2016 Legislative Session, and there are a few important housing issues making progress.
First, the bill that would establish an additional option for a multifamily tax exemption (MFTE) for housing preservation has passed the Senate! This option would not change the existing MFTE option for new construction, but would add a second tool that would work in a similar fashion. In this case, owners of existing housing would receive a property tax exemption in exchange for keeping a portion of their units at affordable rent levels. While jurisdictions can go further in their own application as desired, the legislation would require a minimum of 25% of units preserved at rent levels affordable to households earning no more than 50% area median income. (Those considered “very low income” and lower) The property must meet all code requirements at time of application (and on an ongoing basis), with a three year grace period for properties to be rehabilitated. Its companion bill, HB 2544, has gone on to the House.
Updates on this session’s other potential housing legislation, including the Housing Trust Fund, prohibiting source of income discrimination, tenant screening reforms, and more can be found on the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance Blog.
In recent months, there has been a growing discussion in our region around how to address homelessness. We hope that, moving forward, the Alliance for Housing Affordability can serve as a venue for jurisdictions to collaborate on meeting this challenge. To that end, the section of the Housing Planning Guide on “Expanding Assisted Housing Supply” now includes addressing homelessness, plus a new page dedicated to the “Housing First” approach. Expect more to come soon.
On February 1st, the City of Everett held a community forum to follow up the November event featuring Lloyd Pendleton. The forum, which can be viewed here, featured experienced housing practitioners from around the state who operate successful low-barrier housing developments. These developments house homeless individuals with significant barriers to traditional housing options – typically multiple mental health diagnoses, perhaps criminal history, and more. These practitioners identify the individuals with the greatest needs, and place them in stable housing. Individuals are provided with the services they need to move forward in their lives, but compliance is not mandatory. They will not be asked to stop drinking completely, for example, but will be asked to stop drinking just enough to comply with minimal obligations. From that point, the pieces typically start to come together, with better success and less negative community impact than if they were still homeless. The discussion from the event was especially useful for those less familiar with low-barrier housing, as the practitioners discussed a lot of common community concerns with these housing projects and dispelled a number of common misconceptions about the chronic homeless population. Expect much more on these topics over the coming weeks on our blog!