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Bills would help homeless, others find housing

by caprecord

State House and Senate Democrats today introduced bills they say will help remove barriers for the state’s homeless population and others to find housing.

Liz Mills of YWCA Seattle, Sen. David Frockt, Rep. Brady Walkinshaw and Sen. Cyrus Habib discuss housing bills.

Screening costs, evictions, rent hikes and discrimination can make it difficult for many to find a place to live, low-income housing advocates said Tuesday during a press conference to introduce the bills.

Thomas Green, a Seattle man who says he became homeless after returning from military service, told lawmakers high costs of tenant screenings kept him from finding housing. Sometimes, he said, he was turned away because the address he listed on applications was a homeless shelter.

YWCA Seattle’s advocacy and policy director Liz Mills says many people who come to the center for help struggle to afford application costs.

“Housing options are significantly limited by screening costs,” she said.

Senators David Frockt and Jeannie Kohl-Welles, both Seattle Democrats, are prime sponsors of Senate Bill 5123. The Fair Tenant Screening Act creates a standardized screening report for tenants.

Three other bills aimed at offering protections to tenants were filed today and will have short titles this evening, a spokesperson for the Senate Democratic caucus said.

  • So-called Source of Income Discrimination Protections would prevent landlords from discriminating against tenants based on the type of payment they use. Mills said homeless people are often turned away when they present government-issued Section 8 voucher as payment.
  • The Truth in Evictions Reporting Act would restrict consumer reporting agencies from disclosing eviction information in some cases. Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, says sometimes people are unfairly listed on eviction reports and prevented from housing because of it, even it’s cleared up in court. Right now, she says, “if a tenant is served an eviction notice, that is an eviction on their record and it’s there forever.”
  • Another effort requires a 90-day notice for “major” rent increases.