We are now accepting nominations of leaders to join the Resident Action Project Steering Committee!
We’re seeking leaders who have been personally impacted by housing injustice and/or live in affordable housing. Specifically, we’re searching folks who are eager to:
Organize events, actions, trainings, and more in their region
Mobilize and engage new people in our movement, from your building and/or community;
Coordinate actions and/or connect the Housing Alliance to someone who is able to do so when you’re not available;
Use your own experience with housing instability to build skills around organizing and advocating for statewide change.
We value equity, racial justice and representation of people with multiple marginalized identities. We are therefore seeking nominations from populations, including but not limited to youth/young adults, LGBTQ+, disabilities, Communities of Color, veterans, previously incarcerated individuals, and other communities marginalized in the housing system.
Steering Committee members serve for one year, volunteering roughly 10 hours a month depending on availability and needs. RAP holds the core values of fairness, equity, inclusion, justice, and community.
By participating on this committee, all leaders will receive the following support from the Housing Alliance:
Dedicated staff time from the Housing Alliance and Community Change to support the Resident Action Project;
Leadership development and training opportunities;
Support around organizing, anti-oppression, advocacy, and policy work;
A budget for the committee to work with; and
Insider knowledge about policy in Olympia.
For questions or to nominate someone over the phone, please reach out to Kiki Serantes at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, use the button below to complete the online nomination form.
Have you participated with the Resident Action Project in the last year? We want to hear from you! Complete our brief annual survey and you could win a $25 gift card!
This 22-question survey is designed to provide helpful information for RAP as we continue to organize for affordable housing in Washington. It will take approximately 7 minutes to complete. The questions deal with your thoughts regarding resident empowerment and your activities on behalf of affordable housing. Participation in this survey is voluntary and anonymous. The deadline for completion of the survey is Friday, January 31, 2020 at 5 pm. At the end of the survey you will have the option of entering your contact info for a raffle to win a $25 gift card. If you have any questions and/or would like to complete a hard-copy survey instead, please contact community organizer Kiki Serantes at email@example.com.
The Housing Alliance co-sponsored a panel on Monday, welcoming the start of the 2020 legislative session with a call to enact a Housing Justice Bill. This bill would prevent categorical denial of housing to people with criminal records.
“Denying housing based on a criminal record is just another way to discriminate against race and class,” Susan Mason, of What’s Next Washington, said during the panel.
In Washington, having a prior criminal history is one of the most pervasive reasons that people are denied rental housing. Although research shows there is no correlation between having a past criminal record and poor tenant behavior, stereotypes and stigmas still inform landlords’ policies to deny applicants for this reason. This has created a significant loophole in fair housing laws which disproportionately impacts Communities of Color, who are more likely to be impacted by every level of the criminal legal system. As a result, widespread landlord policies of blanket exclusion are increasingly being referred to as “the new redlining.”
Panelists shared their personal and professional experiences navigating this form of housing discrimination and discussed why everyone is safer when no one in our community is left without a place to go at night. The panelists included Carolina Landa (Washington Statewide Re-Entry Council), Duaa-Rahemaah Williams (Housing Justice Advocate), Julian Saucier (Yoga Behind Bars), Kim Gunning (Columbia Legal Services), and Susan Mason (What’s Next Washington). The event was moderated by Chris Poulos of the Washington Statewide Re-entry Council.
First Lady Trudi Inslee was one of 40 political stakeholders, decision-makers and legislative staff who attended the event held at the state capitol, with nearly 1000 Facebook users tuning into the live stream.
According to NPR, one in four Americans has a criminal record. Those records can include arrests that never led to convictions, as well as convictions for a range of crimes that may have happened decades ago.
“Five percent (78,958) of Washington children had at least one parent impacted by incarceration from 2016-2017,” said Carolina Landa. “That’s 5% of children whose families are categorically denied housing because of their record.”
Seattle unanimously passed a similar “Fair Chance Housing” ordinance in 2017 addresing some of the collateral consequences of mass incarceration, including racial discrimination and homelessness, according to Columbia Legal Services. The Rental Housing Association and private landlords sued the city over the law, however the Washington Supreme Court clarified the legal standard, rejecting the landlords’ argument that a heightened standard should apply and upholding the ordinance.
The Washington Statewide Re-entry Council is now leading this effort to “ban the box” on rental applications statewide. RAP and the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance support advocacy and organizing around this topic last year, but the bill did not make it. Still – despite a short legislative session – the fight continues in 2020 to end this form of rental discriminiation.
RAP believes that our communities are stronger and safer when everyone has an affordable place to go at night – even if someone has a record. Changing this law might not solve all of homelessness, but homelessness will not be solved so long as there are still people being denied housing because of their record with the court.
In only a few short weeks, we’ll be ushering in a new year and a new decade. After the ball has dropped, the confetti have settled and the 20/20 vision jokes have been overdone, the work of the Census will begin in earnest. While it might seem to be irrelevant to the work of housing advocates on the surface, the Census is central to the work that we do and its results will go on to impact funding and representation for the next 10 years.
The countrywide census effort will be between March 2020 and December 2020. It is constitutionally mandated to count every resident of the United States every ten years, happening in years that end in zero. This is the first article in a series we’ll be doing to unpack the census: what it is, how it will be used, its importance to housing work, and how those experiencing homelessness are going to be counted.
Why is the Census so crucial? For starters, the electoral college votes are allocated among the states based on the Census. That means that the more people from our state are counted, the more electoral votes will be available to our state in deciding future presidential elections. Each state has a number assigned to it based on its population, determined by the Census. For example, the results of the 2010 Census is the reason why Washington currently has 12 electoral votes and Florida has 29. State, local and tribal governments use census information for planning and allocating funds for new school construction, libraries, highway safety and public transportation systems, new roads and bridges, location of police and fire departments and many other projects. Yes, this includes funding for projects around building affordable housing, providing services and ending homelessness. According to the New York Times, the Census determines how congressional seats are apportioned, how state and federal dollars are distributed, where businesses choose to ship products and where they build new stores. The Census is used at the state level to redraw congressional districts and legislative districts, which has powerful implications for elections and representation. For example, the state of Minnesota may potentially lose some electoral college votes, whereas the state of Texas may gain votes.
This Census, there are multiple ways to get counted. The primary way to participate is online, which will be made available in March. Door-knockers and Census workers will still be used as a way to get folks counted who haven’t completed a form online. This is because it is constitutionally mandated to get as complete of a count as possible. Even though it’s law to get as accurate as a count as possible, marginalized populations have been historically and often intentionally left out of the count. Some changes coming to the Census in 2020 seek to change that pattern. For those that are unhoused, The U.S. Census Bureau will work with service providers to ensure that people who are unhoused also are counted. Because folks have the option to complete a Census count online, this means thousands of people who were not counted in the past due to their housing status can now be included.
This decade’s Census count will also be the first to include a count of those who are undocumented. There was an attempt early in the Census planning to include a question about one’s citizenship status. Luckily, this was blocked in the courts. One important thing to note in all of this is that it’s against the law for the Census Bureau and anyone who represents it to share your identity and information with anyone, including ICE. If they do, the perpetrator faces the possibility of five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000. The Census is meant to get an accurate understanding of everyone who’s in the United States, no matter their citizenship status.
Stay tuned for future RAP Newsletters to dive into the Census more, learn about work happening across the state on it, and how you can help organize for an accurate Census 2020. For more about the Census and its importance in the meantime, listen to Jonathan Van Ness’s podcast (particularly to gain more insight on how unhoused people will be counted) and watch this clip from a Last Week Tonight with John Oliver episode.
-This article was contributed to by Kiki Serantes.
In the fight for housing justice, it’s impossible to isolate housing and homelessness from the oppressive structures that impact our society and our people. In even trying to do so, it negates the experiences of those who have suffered at the hands of institutionalized oppression. That’s why here at the Resident Action Project and Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, we are committed to rooting ourselves firmly in equity and anti-oppression work – because that’s the only way we will truly end homelessness.
Fundamentally, housing is about land. It’s about land use rights and how land is developed. There are a lot of words used to describe housing, but in the end, it breaks down to who gets that right to use land. From the United States’ founding, theft by Europeans from Native Americans has been the root. The city of Seattle currently sits on land that was taken from the Duwamish tribe by the European settlers. The city of Spokane currently sits on land that was taken from the Spokane tribe, also by European settlers. This can be said for every city, town, village, county, state in the entire United States, just with different thieves.
Housing justice can’t be isolated from these histories, because these histories are why housing justice is necessary. Racism, sexism, classism, ableism, heterosexism and other forms of oppression were and continue to be central in the development of this country, and in the creation of the housing crisis that we find ourselves in. It took work to develop these unjust systems, and it’s going to take work in order to dismantle them and rebuild new ones.
The RAP Steering Committee met on Monday and affirmed their commitment to equity and anti-oppression work. We learned about powerful and traumatic moments of US history and discussed the importance of anti-racism work.
The RAP steering committee team discussed two elements on how racism can show up/cause barriers in our work, colorblindness and this misconception of reverse racism. Color blindness, commonly associated with the phrase “I don’t see color,” often has positive intent, with one meaning to send the message that they see people of color as their equal. The issue with this line of thought is that is negates the real experiences that people have based on their race. By saying that one doesn’t see color, the message they are sending is that they don’t honor the different life experiences that someone else may have had based off their non-dominant culture or heritage, that the beauty of their differences are erased or co-opted, and ignores the privileges that come with whiteness in US society.
Reverse racism is an idea that has come to the forefront in the modern-day United States. It’s the concept there is a whole system that has formed to oppress white people from those of color. One definition of racism is prejudice plus power. This means that there’s systematic power to back up your prejudices. Ever since the first European settlers arrived on this land, up until now, those who have had the power are white. This can be seen today when looking at the United States congress and even the Washington State legislature. In current US society, it is impossible for reverse racism to exist, for the power structures are firmly in the hands of white people.
RAP and the Housing Alliance understand that in order to grow and build a strong movement, it needs to not just be inclusive, it must actively work to dismantle these unjust institutions. Because in the end, that’s what we’re doing in housing justice: Working to pull one specific, housing shaped thread in the tapestry of systemic oppression, armed with the knowledge that with our growing community effort it will unravel.
-Written by Emily Strange, Organizing Fellow with the Housing Alliance
Washington’s 2020 Legislative Session is just two months away. In that time, we’ll be previewing and unpacking the WA Low Income Housing Alliance agenda and discuss what exactly we’re organizing for the next session. In this issue of the RAP Newsletter, we are exploring SHB 1656: Ending No-Cause Evictions.
Advocating for Stable Homes & Ending No Cause Evictions
In Washington State, landlords do not have to provide or describe a “cause” when kicking someone out of the home. The notice to vacate must be in writing and be served at least 20-days before the last day of the rental period. Although landlords aren’t legally allowed to evict a tenant for a discriminatory or retaliatory reasons, this “hidden” practice still happens all over the state because landlords are not required to describe a legitimate business reason for displacing the tenant.
Some Washington cities have already created laws to end no cause evictions, including Seattle, Burien and Federal Way. And there’s precedent for entire states to pass similar laws as well, with both New Jersey and New Hampshire already having variations of a no-cause eviction law on the books. Federal housing programs often provide “good cause” protection, which prohibits arbitrary termination of tenancy or refusal to renew a lease. Programs with good cause protection include: Project-Based Section 8 buildings and Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties.
No-cause evictions are a serious problem statewide because they:
A) Directly force people out of their community and into housing instability and homelessness;
B) Restrict renters’ access to justice, bypassing the court system in which the renter could otherwise make an argument to keep their home;
C) Makes tenants more fearful to organize or raise concerns with issues happening on the property; and
D) Often hide underlying discrimination or retaliation by the landlord.
Simple: Ban the practice of displacing people from their homes without cause! The details of the proposed bill will continue to be worked out leading up to and during the session. But at its roots, we’re calling on our elected officials to pass a law that requires a landlord to describe a legitimate business reason before forcing a tenant to vacate their home.
Did this happen to you?
Have you ever received a 20-day “no cause” notice to vacate your home? Do you know someone who has? The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance would love to connect with you and anyone who has experienced this loophole in our renter protections firsthand.
With your help, we can make 2020 the year our decision-makers outlaw no-cause evictions in Washington.
If you have received a no-cause eviction, we are asking for your help to go towww.evictedwithoutcause.com and complete the form on the page. We will follow up with you to learn more and discuss how we can build power to outlaw no-cause evictions! Please share the link widely, and if you have any questions or would like to learn more about our efforts, please contact John Stovall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join the WA Low Income Housing Alliance, Resident Action Project, and more than 600 advocates from across the state for our annual Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day! Registration will be open shortly, but it’s not too early to start planning and coordinating with your network. Here’s what you need to know to make that calendar reminder:
When: Monday, February 3, 2020
Where: Olympia WA (starting location is to be determined)
Who: All Washington residents passionate about organizing for housing justice in our state.