Even in a short legislative session where lawmakers must find a way to close a $2.6 billion budget gap, the failure of one House bill isn't stopping affordable housing advocates from pushing to raise new money for the Housing Trust Fund, the state's primary funding source for developers of housing for the homeless and low-income wage earners.
On Wednesday, Feb. 3, one day past the deadline for House bills to be voted out of their respective policy committees, advocates led by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance say a new bill will be introduced that would add a $62 document recording fee to secondary mortgage transactions in order to raise a $100 million bond for the trust fund. The state already collects the fee for affordable housing at the time a home is purchased. It's a loophole, advocates say, that Rep. Mark Miloscia (D-Federal Way) originally planned to close in House Bill 2906, but the legislation failed to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday.
Introducing a new bill, says Rachael Myers, executive director of WLIHA, could buy a few more days. The hope, she says, is that the legislation will be referred directly to one of the House's budget committees, which have until Friday to vote out legislation. A Senate companion bill (6817) put forward late in the game by Sen. Joe McDermott (D-West Seattle) is now expected to come up for a committee vote Wednesday -- its last chance before the Senate's Friday cutoff.
Wednesday will also be the last chance for Senate Bill 6694, a bill sponsored by Sen. Randy Gordon (D-Bellevue) that would require banks to give homeowners who are receiving unemployment benefits a year's forbearance before they can foreclose on a property. Its House companion, H.B. 2623, introduced by Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines), was reduced to six months of forbearance, then to no forbearance at all. However, the final version voted out of committee this week would provide $500,000 for more HUD-certified foreclosure counselors around the state.
Orwall's H.B. 2622, the Fair Tenant Screening Act, did not make it out of committee and is now dead for the session. The bill would have allowed prospective renters to pay one fee and use the same "portable" tenant screening or credit report over and over in a 60-day period, rather than having to pay $25-$35 to each landlord they applied to.