Renew homelessness fee or convene task force?

Staff reportsMarch 6, 2014 

An effort to extend expiring fees on real estate documents that fund housing for the homeless stalled last week when Republican state Sen. Jan Angel bottled up a bill in committee.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday called the blocking of the bill "a move that will decimate our support system for these vulnerable people, including these tens of thousands of homeless kids that we want to do well in school."

As advocates for the proposal rallied outside the Legislative Building, Inslee called for reviving it before the end of the legislative session next week. "This is a high priority," he said.

But Angel sent a letter to Inslee asking him to set up a task force and hold a summit to sort out how to fund homelessness programs in light of the flaws she sees in the current program.

The co-chairwoman of the Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance committee, Angel is a former Realtor from Port Orchard who owns rental property. The proposal affects both the real-estate industry and landlords who receive some of the money in the form of rental vouchers.

Angel said the bulk of homelessness funding shouldn't come from one industry, real estate. The increase to $30 and then $40 per recorded document "was always intended to be temporary, not permanent," she said.

What's more, she said, "the state Department of Commerce has failed to reach out to landlords and I am being told (Commerce officials are) not doing their part in producing and providing data and information required in previous legislation.

"I agree that if a program is working it should be supported, but a number of unanswered questions regarding the program remain and we need to take the appropriate amount of time and apply an appropriate amount of energy  to look deeper into the current program before we rubber stamp it once again."

Inslee showed no interest in waiting.

"Sixty percent of the funds in this system go to counties which are starting their financial planning now," he said, "and we need to be able to tell these counties whether they can count on this funding."  

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