Wednesday was the deadline for bills to get voted out of their original house in the state legislature. Nine bills dealing with affordable housing made it through, including one pushed by Mayor Ed Murray. Murray has been heavily pushing Senate Bill 6239 (sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain, R – Auburn) as enabling some of the 65 recommendations of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. Marc Stiles at the Puget Sound Business Journal reported on how the bill would work, and why Mayor Murray is pushing it.
Fain’s bill is just one of several awesome Republican-sponsored bills on the topic.
The next deadline these bills face is next Friday, February 26 to get voted out of a policy committee in their second house, unless the bill got referred straight to a fiscal committee, as happened with Substitute House Bill 2971. After that, the bills have through Monday, February 29 to get out of a fiscal committee, if they have to go that route, and then Friday, March 4 to get voted out of their second house.
2nd Substitute Senate Bill 6239, originally by Sen. Fain, would allow a city or county to create a local property tax exemption program to promote the preservation of affordable housing available for very low-income households. The tax exemption could apply for up to 15 consecutive years, but could be extended for an additional three years if the project meets certain energy standards.
The exemption would apply to certain multi-family properties if at least 25 percent of their units are rented at rates that are affordable to households with an income up to 50 percent of the median family income of the area. The threshold household income level could be lowered to serve severely low-income households, or raised up to 60 percent of the median family income in high-property-value areas. The multi family property would have to be part of a residential or mixed-use project and have a 90 percent occupancy rate. It would have to provide at least half of its space for permanent residents.
The city or county would be allowed to establish its own additional requirements, including a limit on the number of units eligible for the exemption, and designate target areas for affordable housing.
The tax exemption would be cancelled if the owner fails to meet the affordable housing requirements or intends to discontinue compliance, fails to complete a rehabilitation plan, or fails to substantially comply with any applicable building, safety, or health regulations.
The Senate Committee on Human Services, Mental Health & Housing amended the bill to allow local governments to require construction work on affected properties to pay at least the prevailing wage.
The bill was amended again in the Senate Ways & Means Committee to remove that prevailing wage amendment, remove the waiver for temporarily having too many “over-income” tenants, and to keep tenant income information used to process the property tax exemption private.
2SSB 6239 passed in the Senate 36 (yeas) – 13 (nays) – 0 (absent) – 0 (excused) on Tuesday, with the Republican Caucus split down the middle.
Given the unanimous Democratic support for Republican Senator Joe Fain’s bill in the Senate, one would normally expect smooth sailing in the Democrat-controlled House. However, Rep. Gerry Pollett (D – North Seattle) put up some resistance to 6239’s companion bill in the House, House Bill 2544, as reported by Josh Feit at Publicola. HB 2544 failed to get out of the House Finance Committee.
2SSB 6239 is scheduled for a hearing in the House Committee on Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs at 1:30 pm on Monday, February 22.
The other eight housing bills are detailed after the jump.
House Bill 1565, by Rep. Timm Ormsby (D – Spokane), would prohibit discrimination by landlords against tenant or applicants based on their legal source(s) of income, including Section 8 vouchers. Representatives from the Washington Multifamily Housing Association and the Rental Housing Association oppose the bill due to the inclusion of Section 8 vouchers, but King County already prohibits this kind of discrimination.
HB 1565 barely escaped 50-47-0-0 in the House Tuesday. It heads next to the Senate Committee on Human Services, Mental Health & Housing.
Substitute House Bill 2585, originally by Rep. June Robinson (D – Everett), and requested by the state’s Housing Finance Corporation, would shift a portion of the state’s allowed private activity bond sales each year from student loans to the state’s Housing Finance Corporation. The student loan share would drop from 15% to 5% of the state’s annual private activity bonding capacity. The HFC’s share would increase from 32% to 42%. The House Committee on Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs amended the bill to make minor technical corrections.
SHB 2585 passed 91-5-0-1 in the House on February 10, and heads next to the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions & Insurance.
Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2647, originally by Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D – Tacoma), would allow cities to buy properties foreclosed on by the county for tax nonpayment, so long as the city agrees to do so within 30 days of a notice of public auction, and the city then sells the property to a local housing authority or nonprofit for the same price, for the purpose of building affordable housing.
The House Committee on Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs amended the bill to specify the price the city has to pay to the county: the minimum bid for that property at auction, set by state law.
A floor amendment clarifies that a public agency that buys land for a public purpose would get priority over a city buying it for affordable housing.
ESHB 2647 limped out of the House on a 56-41-0-0 vote Monday, and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Human Services, Mental Health & Housing.
HB 2929, by Rep. Kevin Parker (R – Spokane), would require a liberal and non-retroactive interpretation of the State Building Code and the Washington State Energy Code, in the case of religious institutions housing homeless people, to err on the side of providing shelter. It would also ban cities and counties from retroactively requiring sprinkler system or other structural modification requirements in buildings that complied with the laws at the time they were built, or rescinding a building’s certificate of occupancy. All of these are in response to various efforts to block homeless encampments on, and shelters in, church properties.
HB 2929 passed 96-0-0-1 in the House on February 11. It heads next to the Senate Committee on Human Services, Mental Health & Housing.
SHB 2971, originally by Rep. Joan McBride (D – Kirkland), and amended on the House floor, would adjust the list of actions a city or county could take that would disqualify it from using Real Estate Excise Taxes. The Low Income Housing Institute is watching the bill closely to see that tenant protections are not added to the list of proscribed local ordinances.
SHB 2971 passed 96-2-0-0 in the House Tuesday. It is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Ways & Means Committee at 3:30 pm next Tuesday, February 23.
Subsitute Senate Bill 6211, originally by Sen. Bruce Dammeier (R – Puyallup), would exempt properties owned by non-profits from property taxes for the purpose of building and selling affordable housing (for households less than 80% of the median household income in that county), provided that the nonprofit entity sold at least one residence to a low-income household within ten years preceding the submission of an application for this exemption.
The exemption would expire after seven years, or when the property is transferred. If the nonprofit believes that the title will not be transferred by the end of the sixth consecutive property tax year, the entity could claim a three-year extension by filing a notice with the Department of Revenue and providing a filing fee.
If the title has not been transferred within seven years and an extension has not been granted, the property would be disqualified from exemption, and back taxes would be collected.
The Senate Ways & Means Committee made some clarifying and technical changes.
SSB 6211 passed in the Senate 46-3-0-0 on February 10. It is scheduled for a hearing in the House Committee on Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs at 1:30 pm on February 22.
SSB 6337, by Sen. Jeannie Darneille (D – Tacoma), is the companion to HB 2647. The bill was amended by the Senate Committee on Human Services, Mental Health & Housing to match SHB 2647.
SSB 6337 passed 34-14-0-0 in the Senate Tuesday. It is scheduled for a hearing in the House Committee on Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs at 1:30 pm on Monday, February 22.
SSB 6342, originally by Sen. Mark Miloscia (R – Federal Way), and requested by the state’s Housing Finance Corporation, is the companion to HB 2585.
The bill was amended by the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions & Insurance to make technical fixes.
SSB 6342 passed in the Senate 48-0-0-1 on February 11. It is scheduled for a hearing in the House Committee on Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs at 1:30 pm on Monday, February 22.