Fee That Fights Homelessness Scheduled For Steep Cut

Jul 13, 2017

A fee that funds services for homeless people in Washington state is scheduled for a large cut in 2023. 

Washington residents pay the $58 document recording fee when they buy a home or perform other real-estate transactions.

In five years, it's scheduled to shrink by more than half, to $28. That means a cut of tens of millions of dollars statewide for anti-homelessness programs. 

Housing advocates pressed state lawmakers this year to extend the full fee indefinitely, but the bill failed to pass during this year's legislative session. 

The 2023 cut means continued uncertainty for organizations that rely on the fee's revenues, said Michele Thomas, director of policy and advocacy for the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.

"Service providers do a good job in providing these services, but they also need to plan for contracts and be able to make commitments," she said.

She said the fee pays for "the bulk" of state and county programs that fight homelessness.

"It funds everything from domestic violence shelters to homeless youth programs to adult homelessness programs," she said.

The document recording fee is projected to raise $120 million for homelessness programs from 2017 through 2019. 

A bill introduced this year that would have made the fee permanent, and allowed individual counties to raise it by up to $50, passed in the House but wasn't taken up in the Senate. 

Some lawmakers questioned whether the funds are used effectively. The bill also faced opposition from representatives of the real-estate industry.

A separate bill pushed the date of the cuts from 2019 to 2023.