Legislative Update: Poverty reduction, housing progress, and last week of the legislative session.

Friends and neighbors, 

The 2024 legislative session is drawing to a close on Thursday. This year, we have covered a number of important issues, including housing, the fentanyl and opioid crisis, climate change, representation in government, poverty reduction, and transportation. We have had numerous opportunities for people to engage in the process and I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of you for your engagement. 

I also wanted to give you an update on some of my bills and the work of the Housing Committee. 

Poverty reduction and prohibiting octopus farming. 

I was successfully able to send three bills to the governor’s desk this year. I am especially proud of the work I did around poverty reduction and self-sufficiency. 

House Bill 2007 ends the arbitrary 60-month cap on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families when the family has an infant at home. As we work to help people get out of poverty and become self-sufficient, we shouldn’t arbitrarily be taking assistance away when it is still needed. 

House Bill 2230 creates the Economic Security for All program to promote economic inclusion and self-sufficiency for people with low incomes. It allocates grants to families and individuals below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (less than $30,120 for individuals or $62,400 for a family of four). These grants will help families in our communities work toward more self-sufficiency, focusing especially on supporting people of color and rural residents. 

House Bill 1153 outlaws the practice of Octopus farming which leads to environmental destruction and animal cruelty. While there hasn’t yet been an octopus farm in Washington, preemptively prohibiting octopus farming is the right thing to do for octopuses and for the Puget Sound. 

Housing successes and work still to do. 

Affordable and accessible housing is one of the biggest issues facing our state. Increased housing costs, especially escalating rent, lead to homelessness and impact a family’s ability to be self-sufficient. Washington is drastically short on housing units to meet demand. We are also seeing enormous rent hikes that are driving the housing crisis. This session was one of limited successes and missed opportunities. 

We found some success in legislation to increase housing capacity. These efforts included paving the way for co-living (House Bill 1998), a Workforce Housing Accelerator Program (House Bill 1892), and prohibiting common interest communities from arbitrarily limiting how many people can live in a home (House Bill 1054). 

However, we missed some opportunities as well. Bills to stabilize rent (House Bill 2114), build expanded transit-oriented housing options (House Bill 2160) and create a State Department of Housing (House Bill 2270), were all killed in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. The rent stabilization bill was especially disappointing as it struck a reasonable cap on rent increases at 7% annually, with other provisions to help tenants have more predictable rent each year. House Bill 2114 was also endorsed by the Seattle Times and the Everett Herald. I look forward to working on this important legislation in the future. Washington renters need the help. 

As the session wraps, you can expect to hear more on wins in the state’s three budgets and other legislation I am excited to have voted for. In the meantime, please reach out if you have any thoughts, ideas, or concerns. 

Thank you,

Rep. Strom Peterson