Pass E2SHB 1277 out of Ways & Means
Chair Rolfes and esteemed members of the Senate Ways & Means Committee,

The undersigned organizations and local elected officials from throughout Washington strongly support E2SHB 1277 and urge you to pass the bill out of Ways & Means swiftly.

The bill passed out of the House with bipartisan support. It is not only a win-win for tenants and landlords during this current rental crisis, E2SHB 1277 is a forward-thinking piece of legislation that ensures a long-term approach to housing stability.

Our diverse communities contain stark income inequities which have been exacerbated due to the economic effects of COVID-19. We know from Census data that those currently behind on rent in Washington are disproportionately people of color. The latest data found over 160,000 people in households behind on rent. Because of longstanding racial injustices and the disproportionate impact of the pandemic and the recession, 56% of those were people of color. These inequities are felt in our own communities, and we must ensure that those hardest hit are able to access rental assistance to avoid eviction once the moratorium is lifted.

We also know that Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color and low income tenants are less likely to have a safety net to rely on to weather the economic storm, and are likely to face a slower economic recovery. In addition to the more than 160,000 people in Washington currently behind on rent, nearly 400,000 are using savings or selling assets to pay rent, according to Census Bureau data. This requires us to have a long-term strategy in place so that we have eviction prevention assistance available years down the road for those who are still struggling to get out of the hole. While recently allocated federal rental assistance is sorely needed, it is one-time and will run out before the significant need has been alleviated. Further, our communities were hurting before COVID-19 and HB 1277 will help us address the many unmet and ongoing needs in our community.

E2SHB 1277 also creates a much-needed funding source for operations and maintenance of permanent supportive housing (PSH), the research-backed solution to homelessness. Our state has invested in the capital resources to construct the housing, but in order to bring PSH to the scale needed to end long-term homelessness, Washington needs a sustainable source of operating dollars. PSH uniquely has 24/7 staff and on-site services that are the key to ensuring that the model works. HB 1277 allocates 5% of the total funds to this O&M funding source, which will go a long way toward ending homelessness in our state.

Lastly, the bill also invests in the landlord mitigation fund which is a win-win for landlords and tenants. This fund allows landlords to cover the costs of damages and unpaid rent after a low-income, subsidized tenant vacates the unit. The bill permanently dedicates 2% of the fee to this program and a House amendment at the request of the landlord lobby temporarily increases that to 4%.

We ask you consider the enduring effects that this pandemic will have on our low-income renters and pass E2SHB 1277, which has stability and sustainability built into it – keeping renters safe in their homes so they can continue to deepen their ties in our communities, and funding the necessary services in PSH to break the cycle of homelessness.

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