The Washington Legislature is considering a bill to increase a fee on real estate document filings. The fees collected would pay for housing for low-income and homeless people.
New legislator Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, sponsored the bill, preserving this funding source of the last 15 years for affordable housing in a state that’s desperately short. The change would prevent a portion of the fees from sunsetting in 2019.
Under current law, the state charges $40 to people filing real estate documents. The funding pays for housing and homeless services. That fee is set to decrease to $10 in June of 2019.
The proposed change would increase the fee from $40 to $90 permanently. It also requires that a percentage be reserved for private rental housing payments, landlord education and landlord liaison programs, which help mediate between private market landlords and clients.
Document recording fees, originally passed for this purpose in 2002, are often at the top of the legislative agenda for organizations such as the Washington Low Income Housing Authority (WLIHA). These agencies repeatedly find themselves in the position of either fighting to defend the law from people trying to eliminate the fees or lobbying to excise sunset clauses that would result in fewer dollars for affordable housing, said Reiny Cohen, a spokesperson for WLIHA.
The bill comes at a fraught time for Seattle and other communities have declared themselves sanctuary cities, unwilling to aid federal agents in the enforcement of immigration laws against undocumented workers. That position could put federal funding at risk, including funds for housing delivered by the McKinney-Vento Act, which funds housing and homeless services.
The bill also calls for a 10-year plan to reduce homelessness by 50 percent, and requires that local government also create such a plan.