Busy Start to Housing Advocacy in Olympia

Last week was a big week for Tech 4 Housing advocacy in Olympia, with work on tax incentives for mixed-income housing, support for tech industry advocacy on eviction reform, and legalizing tiny houses.

Tax incentives for mixed-income housing: On Monday Tech 4 Housing submitted a letter of support for SB 5363, the Multifamily Property Tax Exemption (MFTE) extension. The MFTE program is Washington's most widely used tool for developing mixed-income housing, producing over 1,000 units of rent- and income-restricted housing a year in Seattle alone. Under current law, properties lose the tax incentive and the affordability requirements after 12 years. SB 5363 would give municipalities the option of renegotiating those affordability requirements for another 12 years, preserving thousands of affordable homes that would otherwise revert to market rate.

Support for tech advocacy on eviction reform: On Tuesday a group of 10 executives primarily from the tech industry wrote a letter in support of reforming statewide eviction rules, which currently give tenants a meager 3 days to pay late bills before facing eviction proceedings. This is exactly the kind of engagement we want to see more of from the tech industry, so we reached out to thank each of the signatories, and organized a quick campaign to get tech workers at their companies to do the same.

Legalizing tiny houses: On Wednesday I went down to Olympia in person to testify before the Senate Committee on Housing Stability & Affordability in support of legalizing tiny houses, SB 5382 and 5383. In my testimony I talked about the backwardness of making sustainable and inexpensive housing options like tiny homes illegal while allowing 4,000 square foot McMansions to be built essentially anywhere.

While there I also took the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with staffers for Sen. Palumbo, Sen. Kuderer and Rep. Frame to discuss our housing priorities. Strengthening these relationships is an essential part of building our long term advocacy capacity.

Thank you to Bryce Yadon, State Policy Director at Futurewise, who helped us all week and gave us a nice shout out on Twitter:

There's a lot still to come in Olympia this term, including legalizing backyard cottages statewide, encouraging ownership options in multifamily buildings, and easing restrictions on housing around transit infrastructure. Plus we'll see opportunities for increased funding for affordable housing from the Housing Trust Fund, local sales tax bonding and a progressive Real Estate Excise Tax.

Seattle housing advocacy will heat up again soon as well, with the final public hearing on Mandatory Housing Affordability on February 21 and a public hearing on the affordable housing development at Ft. Lawton on March 4. Tech 4 Housing organizer Calvin Jones published a great intro and call-to-action on these issues at The Urbanist. Finally, save the date for 6pm Monday, February 25, when we’ll be hosting an Affordable Housing 101 event with partners Mercy Housing.

— Ethan Goodman

Ethan P. Goodman