Housing Policy Preview: A look ahead to the 2022 legislative session
Last year, when Washington state lawmakers convened for a historic 2021 legislative session, much of the focus centered on the financial impacts of COVID-19 and rental housing stability.
In 2022, Olympia must make COVID relief for residents and housing providers more efficient and accessible. Additionally, legislators should prioritize policies that help lead to preservation and creation of stable, affordable housing and avoid new laws that are causing housing providers to leave the rental market; increasing costs to renters and decreasing their housing opportunities.
Policies that Support Housing Stability and Affordability
Expanding the Landlord Mitigation Program and Support for Survivors of Domestic Violence
The Landlord Mitigation Program provides landlords with an incentive and added security to work with tenants receiving rental assistance. The program offers up to $1,000 to the housing provider in paying for some potentially required move-in upgrades, up to fourteen days’ rent loss and up to $5,000 in qualifying damages caused by a tenant during tenancy. The program has been expanded to prevent evictions and assist in the long-term rental housing recovery for Washington state’s renters.
Unfortunately, the Program is underfunded. Policymakers should focus on meeting the immediate needs of the program to fully fund its opportunity to maintain stable housing Doing so supports Washington state’s most vulnerable residents while providing security and stability for housing providers.
Additionally, we support expanding access to the Landlord Mitigation Program with proposed bill (HB 1593). This bill removes liability to a survivor of domestic violence when their abuser damages their shared rental home. It provides funds from the Landlord Mitigation Program to compensate the housing provider for these damages and permits the survivor to secure new housing with their previous security deposit.
Enhancing the State’s Rental Assistance Program
Rental assistance is a proven way to help keep families in their homes while ensuring that housing providers can meet their increasing obligations. We can continue to keep families in their homes and avoid the eviction process altogether when we invest in efficient, accessible and permanent rental assistance.
Evictions are always a last resort and rental assistance remains the most cost effective and quickest way to resolve these situations.
Last year, policymakers passed HB 1277 which creates a dedicated funding source for ongoing rental assistance through a $100 surcharge on recorded document. This is a strong step in the right direction.
In 2022, policymakers should use remaining ARPA funding, including dedicated rental assistance funding to stand up a statewide rental assistance program that is accessible to any renter and housing provider in the State.
Continued COVID-19 Support
The impacts of COVID are still a threat to residents and housing providers alike. Many families and small housing providers continue to struggle financially. Policymakers must continue to prioritize swift access to federal rental assistance funds. More than half the allocated rental assistance continues to be available in Washington state.
A streamlined statewide process to access rental assistance will increase access to much-needed support, not create more hurdles for renters and housing providers.
We cannot afford to deprioritize rental relief distribution for residents and housing providers that need it most. As these challenges continue, we face the risk of smaller housing providers selling their properties, taking naturally occurring affordable homes off the market.
Policies that can Increase Housing Costs and Reduce Housing Certainty
Eliminating Criminal Record Screening from Rental Applications
A ban on criminal records prevents housing providers from reviewing criminal convictions as part of a wholistic rental application process. Housing providers have an obligation to make a risk assessment of each applicant entering a residential community or neighborhood to provide the best opportunity for a safe community.
The erosion of uniform screening criteria ultimately increases the cost of housing because insurance costs increase with the inability to adequately determine risk of neighbors.
If a policy like this is passed, it effectively means that housing providers have no say over who occupies their rental property and puts neighboring residents at risk.
Statewide Rental Registry
On top of skyrocketing costs to operate rental housing and skyrocketing inflation for all goods, the State should not enact a tax on housing providers to fund programs that do not solve the underlying crises that exist. A statewide rental registry does not solve the underlying housing stock imbalance and creates more impediments to maintaining the existing housing stock for Washingtonians.
We need policies that will help stabilize a battered industry instead of enacting policies that continue to drive housing providers out of the market worsening Washington state’s housing crisis. We are committed to working closely with policymakers and all stakeholders to advocate for policies that are in the best interest of our shared goals to preserve and expand Washington’s rental housing options.