Politics Blog

UPDATE: New homeless-housing bill introduced in Senate

UPDATE 4:15 P.M. MONDAY, MARCH 10: The Seattle Times has reported that a bill has been introduced in the Senate that revives HB 2368, which died in a Senate committee 11 days ago.

Senate Bill 5875 got a hearing in Senate Ways and Means today. The bill extends the sunset dates by one year, so the $40 real-estate document recording fee fee would continue through mid-2016. If no action is taken, the fee drops to $30 in mid-2015. For more details, see the rest of the blog entry, posted this morning: 

Perhaps negative media toward Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, has caused her to change her tune.

According to a report Friday evening, March 7, from King 5, Angel now says she will support some form of HB 2368, which either eliminates the sunset clause (or defers it, depending on the version), which she killed in her committee almost two weeks ago. The bill extends a $40 fee on real estate transactions that goes to programs across the state that house homeless people.

Whatcom County uses the money for rental assistance and case managers. If the bill were to die this legislative session, 60 percent of Whatcom's funding for this purpose would be in jeopardy.

If no action is taken, the fee would drop to $30 in 2015 and $10 in 2017.

Earlier in the same day King 5 interviewed her, Angel asked Gov. Jay Inslee to form a task force to study funding for homeless housing.

Angel and other Republicans said they didn't like the bill because it didn't do enough to assess how effective the funding was. Rep. Vincent Buys, R-Lynden, said he voted against it when it passed the House because it fell short of its goal of reducing homelessness by 50 percent. Homelessness in Whatcom County has dropped 34 percent since 2008, three years after the recording fee was initiated. 

More evidence that the prospects for HB 2368 are much improved: The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance shared a letter it had from legislative leaders, saying they would pass the bill in some form before the session closed. That is scheduled to happen this Thursday, March 13. The letter's signatories included top senators Rodney Tom and Mark Schoesler, House Speaker Frank Chopp, and House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan.

We'll stay abreast of this and report if and when the recording fee bill passes.