Mayor Durkan Applauds Washington State Legislature’s Support of Key City of Seattle Priorities: More Resources for Affordable Housing, Ending Ban on Affirmative Action, Investing in Access to College, and Fighting Climate Change

Mayor Durkan Also Disappointed that Legislature Failed to Pass Capital Gains Tax and ‘Block the Box’ Legislation, Vows to Continue Advocating with Partners in Next Legislative Session

SEATTLE (April 30, 2019) – Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan congratulated the Washington State Legislature for supporting key City of Seattle priorities during the legislative session. The Mayor and the City advocated for more resources to address the crises of homelessness and affordable housing, ending the ban on affirmative action, investments in access to college, and steps to fight climate change. 

“We needed the state to step up and invest in more affordable housing, behavioral health needs, college access, and fighting climate change. We also needed to end the ban on efforts to remedy systemic discrimination. The Legislature made some key strides. While the budget did not go as far as we hoped, it makes important investments in a more affordable, healthier, and inclusive future,” said Mayor Durkan. “I am grateful to our partners in the legislature and Governor Inslee for their leadership in advancing Seattle’s priorities.”   

Investing More in Affordable Housing   

Leaders in Olympia acted on two City of Seattle priorities for more resources for affordable housing: Advancing HB 1406 to allow cities like Seattle to retain more sales tax and bond against it to fund affordable housing, and by increasing funding for the Housing Trust Fund. In addition, the Legislature provided important tax relief for low-income seniors, individuals with disabilities, and veterans (HB 5160).  

“This legislative session, the City’s top priority was to create new tools to build more affordable housing. The critical local option bond bill gives the City the ability to retain more sales tax revenues and new bonding capacity to build and operate hundreds of new affordable homes in Seattle,” said Mayor Durkan. “In the coming months, I will announce a proposal to fully utilize these resources to bring online additional affordable housing and to leverage other local, state and federal resources, including the Housing Trust Fund. Thank you to our legislative partners, including Representative June Robinson, Representative Nicole Macri, Speaker Frank Chopp, and Senator DavidFrockt.”   

HB 1406 authorizes cities and counties to use a local sales tax, credited against their state sales tax, to be used for affordable and/or supportive housing. Speaker Frank Chopp and Reps. June Robinson championed the legislation, with key support from Seattle’s Senate delegation, which will allow the use of $500 million in state funds over 20 years to help with a wide array of housing levels and supports for the most vulnerable residents in Seattle and statewide.    

Due to the work of Senator David Frockt, the budget increased the Housing Trust Fund to $175 million. The Housing Trust Fund makes funds available for affordable housing projects through a competitive process.     

“Even as we celebrate this new tool for Seattle, we have a lot of work to do to make Seattle more affordable and build more affordable housing options. We must listen to community and continue our investments in our housing levy, continue implementing Mandatory Housing Affordability, renew the Multi-Family Tax Exemption program, invest in parks and green spaces, and continue to have critical investment from our state, regional, and federal partners,” continued Mayor Durkan. “Working with community members, business, labor, and the City Council, in 2019 we must increase our commitment to building more affordable housing as quickly as possible.”   

Behavioral Health  

This session also saw significant investments to improve our behavioral health system. HB 1593 creates a behavioral health innovation and integration campus within the University of Washington School of Medicine, which will include 150 beds that are expected to come online within three years. It also directs the University of Washington School of Medicine to submit a development and siting plan to the Office of Financial Management and the Legislature by December 1, 2019. The bill passed unanimously out of both the House and Senate. The Legislature also approved SB 5444, which provides timely competency evaluations and restoration services to persons suffering from behavioral health disorders within the forensic mental health care system. 

Ending the Ban on Affirmative Action   

Legislators also voted to approve I-1000, which ends the decades-old ban on affirmative action, which prohibited governmental efforts to create true opportunity and equity and dismantle barriers created by systemic racism and discrimination.  

“Our state can and must do better to address institutional and structural racism. Reversing this decades-old ban is a long overdue step to help dismantle systemic inequities and provide true opportunity,” said Mayor Durkan. “The passage of Initiative 1000 supports and reinforces the City of Seattle’s longstanding efforts to address the needs of marginalized communities.” 

Investing in Access to Training, Apprenticeships, and Colleges   

The Legislature also acted to expand access to college with the passage of HB 2158, the Workforce Education Investment Act. This legislation will make public colleges and apprenticeships in Washington State tuition-free for families earning less than $50,000 annually, with partial tuition scholarships for families earning up to the state’s median income through the Washington College Grant. The legislation also expands the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship program to include municipal matches. The City will work with its partners to leverage these assets to compliment the Seattle Promise program. We extend our thanks to Representative Drew Hansen for his tireless efforts on these important issues. 

“Here in Seattle, we’ve acted to close the opportunity gap by making the promise of free college real through our Seattle Promise program. This historic investment in financial aid by our leaders in Olympia will help knock down barriers to opportunity in Seattle and around our state, and expand pathways to good-paying jobs of the future,” said Mayor Durkan. “Investing in college and apprenticeships for our young people is one of the smartest investments we can make.”   

Protecting the Rights of Renters   

Mayor Durkan also praised the passage of SB 5600, which helps prevent displacement and housing insecurity by providing protections to renters statewide. It extends the three-day notice to pay and vacate for default in rent payment to 14 days notice for tenancies under the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. It also creates a uniform 14-day notice to pay and vacate that includes information on how tenants can access legal and advocacy resources. It also allows eviction court judges to use discretion and consider extenuating circumstances such as job loss or hospitalization, expands a mitigation fund to ensure landlords receive judgement payments promptly while giving tenants more time to pay, and limits the attorney fees tenants can be required to pay. An additional bill (HB 1440) provides greater notice of rent increases by requiring 60 days’ notice of rent increases instead of 30.  

“As we work to address our housing and affordability crisis, this law is an important step in protecting the rights of renters. Renters make up a growing number of households in Seattle, and it’s crucial that we protect their rights and that property owners understand their obligations under the law.”   

Fighting Climate Change   

The final state budget also included provisions to help Seattle and Washington State remain climate leaders. HB 1512 provides clear authority to utilities like Seattle City Light to invest in the electrification of transportation infrastructure.   

In addition, SB 5116 requires all electric utilities to gradually transition away from any fossil-fuel generate electricity. It requires each electric utility to make all retail sales of electricity greenhouse gas neutral by January 1, 2030 and sets a standard for each electric utility to meet 100 percent of its retail electric load using non-emitting and renewable resources by January 1, 2045.   

“We can lead the world by taking bold action to reduce our carbon footprint while protecting our communities from the worst impacts of climate change. We are already seeing these impacts – from wildfires that choke our air to extreme rain events flooding our streets – and they are being disproportionately felt most in communities that are already disadvantaged,” said Mayor Durkan. “Our actions to reduce emissions from transportation and buildings will help create a healthier and more just state, with a stronger economy,” said Mayor Durkan. “I am grateful to Rep. Gael Tarleton, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, and Sen. Reuven Carlyle for their continued leadership in this area.”    

Missed Opportunities: Capital Gains Tax and Automated Traffic Enforcement Cameras    

Mayor Durkan also expressed her disappointment that legislators failed to pass a capital gains tax and failed to pass ‘block the box’ legislation, ESHB 1793, that would help reduce the number of vehicles blocking critical intersections and transit lanes through automated traffic enforcement cameras.  

“I am disappointed that leaders in the Legislature missed this opportunity to expand access to transportation for all users, improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, ensure more reliable transit, and manage congestion. It also would have freed up resources to allow Seattle Police Department officers to address other public safety needs in our city, and reduce the significant risks they face when enforcing our traffic laws,” said Mayor Durkan. “I am grateful to the broad coalition of transportation, disability rights – specifically, Rooted in Rights – and safety advocates as well as business community members who came together to make their voices heard in support of this legislation. Rebecca Saldaña, Joe Nguyen, and Joe Fitzgibbon resurrected the bill multiple times and worked it down to the wire. We will continue working with community and our partners in the legislature to advance this critical plan in the next legislative session.”