As RHAWA’s Grassroots Organizer, I am consistently interacting with our membership to get a better idea of how RHAWA can assist them in running their rental business. In some instances, this involved answering members' questions and passing along suggestions to our leadership, and in other cases, I advise our members on how to make the most out of their RHAWA membership. One question that frequently comes up, especially during legislative session, is “what is RHAWA doing about new regulations” and “what can members do to combat restrictive legislation.”
In this article I will answer these questions and provide an overview of RHAWA’s advocacy efforts.
To provide a brief overview of the advocacy work RHAWA engages in on behalf of its membership, lets first address the advocacy that all of our members can easily participate in. Many city councils in Washington allow public testimony on nearly all policy proposals that are presented to them. If there are pieces of legislation that are proposed that RHAWA finds particularly concerning, we will send out a “Call to Action” to our members that would be impacted by the policy. A Call to Action will include a brief summary of the legislation, a breakdown of how this will impact small housing providers and resources to direct our members to public testimony sign up. RHAWA will often have a member of our advocacy team testify on behalf of the association and our membership. If you are unsure of what to say during public testimony, it might be a good idea to observe the testimony given directly by RHAWA and take note of the talking points and tone of the speaker. Public testimony provides an opportunity to not only witness RHAWA’s advocacy in action, but is also a great way for our members to get involved. The links provided in a Call to Action will give you easy access to view a given city council meeting even if you aren’t interested in testifying, However, one representative on behalf of RHAWA is not always enough to adequately communicate to city councils the harmful effects of rental housing regulation. We need our members to get involved as well. When there are a significant number of small housing providers speaking out against a piece of legislation it sends a clear message to local governments that these policies will harm the rental housing industry. Lastly, it is important to note that testimony can sometimes be provided in a written format. Written testimony can be a great way to contribute to RHAWA’s advocacy efforts if you are not comfortable or are unable to provide live public testimony.
Another great way for our members to get involved in RHAWA’s advocacy efforts is to share your story with our government affairs staff. If you have experienced particular hardship, and would like help sharing your story to combat the increasing number of regulations on housing providers, send me a message via email. Reach out to dbannon@RHAwa.org to share your story with RHAWA. When a member reaches out, I will gather details about their experience and create a summary of this experience that can be easily shared with news outlets or lawmakers (with permission from the member). We often receive requests from media outlets asking for a small housing provider's perspective on the rental housing market and it is incredibly helpful to have a variety of experiences that we can share with these outlets. These stories may be shared with the public as well, which will communicate the struggles of small housing providers to a wider group of politically inclined individuals. Many individuals outside of the rental housing industry do not understand how rising costs and administrative burdens can cause rental prices to increase and it is important to educate the general population on these situations. Sharing your story with RHAWA also bolsters our advocacy efforts by providing our staff with a deeper understanding of the ways in which these regulations impact our membership and can help inform our approach to advocacy going forward.
Moving on from testimonies and member stories, I would like to highlight RHAWA’s advocacy efforts that may go unnoticed by some of our membership. RHAWA’s PAC works around the clock to identify key candidates in political races as well as support lawmakers currently in office who understand the issues of small housing providers. We also meet with lawmakers on a consistent basis to communicate the needs of small housing providers. If you would like to meet lawmakers and speak to them about your issues in person, I would encourage all of our members to attend our fundraisers. Fundraisers provide an opportunity to get to know lawmakers on a more personal level than any other events such as conferences or political rallies. At a fundraiser you will get a better understanding of the priorities of a candidate while also having the opportunity to ask questions to gain a better understanding of how they will approach certain issues. RHAWA hosts several fundraisers throughout spring and summer, and we will typically send out an invite to members that reside in the district of the candidate we are raising funds for. It is not a requirement to donate if you attend a fundraiser, but it is certainly encouraged and is a great way to show your support for candidates that you are enthusiastic about. Fundraisers are also an amazing opportunity to meet other members and our team where you can learn more about RHAWA.
The last way our members can get involved is to come to other RHAWA events such as Link Meetings and our Legislative Session Kick Off. In my last CURRENT article, I highlighted the importance of link meetings and I wanted to briefly reiterate the value that these meetings can provide to members. Link Meetings are a great way to engage with other members in your area and occasionally meet face to face with local lawmakers. RHAWA events such as the Legislative Session Kick Off will provide our members with the tools to be ready for the 2023 Legislative Session. The Kickoff will include an overview of legislation to watch out for during session and could also provide an opportunity to communicate with lawmakers and our staff before session begins. I encourage all of our members to attend our Legislative Session Kick Off if they are interested in rental housing legislation and want to make a difference in our current political landscape. The Legislative Session Kick Off will be held in late December or early January, keep an eye out for the event emails as we get closer to that time.
We need your help to defend the rights of Washington housing providers! Reach out to me at dbannon@RHAwa.org if you have any questions about how to get involved.