Speaking to the affordable housing and visiting Olympia

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We went through some of the topics this quarter talking about the issue of affordable housing and gentrification. As a landscape architecture major student, we also discussed these topics when we operated the design project. Yet, after this class, I realized that it was not enough to talk about this issue only from the theoretical framework according to other courses. We could also touch this practical issue from the policies and political perspective. As a result, I drove down to Olympia to meet Penka Jane Culevski who is the legislative assistant to Senator Jamie Pedersen and express my support of SB 5182 on March 5th.

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Before I went to Olympia, I went through all the bills on the legislator webpage which sponsored by our 43rd district senator, Jamie Pedersen and I was really interested about the SB5182 “Providing local governments with options of affordable housing in their communities.” So, I prepared some of the questions about the affordable housing to ask the legislative assistant and she told me she would try her best to answer these questions.

The language, which I am interested in the bill, reads that it is the purpose of this chapter to give communities a local option to preserve and increase healthy, high quality affordable rental housing opportunities for very low-income households for which the governing authority has found that there are insufficient healthy affordable housing opportunities. I was really curious about how practical about this option would be accepted or operated in every community in the state. Besides, it was hard for me to think about the “high quality affordable rental housing” won’t cause the house rent increase in the future if there was no other supplementary measure of rules or polices to prohibit or mitigate this situation.

In the bill, it also reads that upon adoption of a property tax exemption program, the governing authority must establish standards for very low-income household rental housing under this chapter, to assist very low-income households that cannot afford market-rate housing. I assumed that even the government could help people waived the tax expense and financial supported to find a house. The options for the affordable house were actually getting less annually in most of the communities. How to achieve the balance between the desire of housing and the increasingly unaffordable rental market was one of my concerns.

The legislator’s assistant commented that although she personally agrees with this bill and my questions, she felt there was still a long way to go for this bill to be passed. Especially when the average house rent in Seattle or neighbor cities such as Bellevue were going higher and higher, it was not difficult to imagine that some of the residents in their neighborhood probably don’t want to support this bill. Eventually, I told her the idea of the house sharing which we had discussed during the class could also be a realistic option rather than “creating” the affordable housing resources in the inherent communities and she said she would put the note for the senator.

Unfortunately, the legislative assistant also told me this bill didn’t get the full vote on the bill report on January 16th this year which means it didn’t go through deems. And she said based on the result from this year and last year, this bill has a high chance can’t pass in 2018, either. After she gave me the information about the progress of this bill, she also mentioned, Mr. Pedersen is actually the second sponsor of SB 5182, as she was his assistant, she also not familiar with the specific detail of this bill, all she could tell me is the situation and how far this bill goes in the legislature. She said Mr. Pedersen was the primary sponsor for most of the educational and learning related bills. At the end of the talk, she felt sorry and told me that she was not the profession at this field associated with the rental and housing-related bills. However, she still kindly offered me the information about another senator who was the primary sponsor of the bills in this category and told me if I needed she could help me schedule the meeting with her or her assistant next month.

Therefore, I mentioned that I was also curious about the detail of SB 5553 “Preventing suicide by permitting the voluntary waiver of firearm rights” which Mr. Pedersen is one of the primary sponsors. She told me the intention of this bill is to prevent the firearm suicide. People who had the suicide intention may file a revocation of the voluntary waiver of firearm rights and can’t purchase the firearm at any dealers. Accordingly, when they go to the store, the system will automatically pop up the record and prohibit them to purchase, and the dealers also can’t sell the firearm to them as well. Since I never and probably won’t have the experience to purchase the firearm, I asked her is that difficult to buy the firearm in the state? She said no, and that’s why they want to support this bill. Then, I asked her was it really helpful to postpone the right for only couple days of a person who has the strong suicide intention to purchase the firearm and prevent the suicide? She said she didn’t know, but at least, it could be the gap for them to get the firearm to hurt themselves or others. Besides, we also briefly talked about the bill SB 5598 which for the granting relatives, including grandparents, had the right to seek visitation with a child through the courts. She told me these two bills will go the governor and wait to sign on March 9th, then they will officially become Laws. I could tell how excited she was when she told me all the detail of these two bills.

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To sum up, I think this is a really good opportunity for me to know about the progress of how the bills became a law and also expressed my support of the bill. The legislative assistant patiently spent almost forty minutes to talk with me about not only SB 5182 but also SB 5553. Although most of the time was me listening to her, I was still appreciated of her efforts and time to help me figure out some of the unclear ideas. It is also interesting to hear about the detail and situation of a bill which almost became a law and another bill still work hard in the legislature!

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