OLYMPIA — A bill passed in the Senate today would prevent landlords from discriminating against tenants based on the source of their income. The bill is sponsored by Sen. David Frockt, and passed with the strong support of Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, chair of the Senate Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee.

“I can think of no more urgent issue in our state than making sure that people have access to affordable housing,” Frockt said. “We want people to be able to live in their homes and not be forced into housing distress and the myriad consequences of that.”

“We’re proud to be the first state to partner with private landlords to expand access to housing for people with Section 8 vouchers,” Mullet said.

Senate Bill 5407 would prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants whose income includes housing subsidies, veterans’ assistance, or other forms of public assistance. It would prevent landlords from refusing to rent property, expelling tenants, or discouraging rental to a tenant based on their income source.

State law already prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their sex, race, sexual orientation and other factors.

“Homelessness is a crisis in Washington state, and we have limited tools to solve this problem,” Frockt said. “One of those tools is housing assistance. But that only works if people are able to rent homes using that source of income.”

A one-night count in 2017 identified more than 11,600 people experiencing homelessness in King County alone. About 45 percent of state funding set aside for ending homelessness is intended to be used in the private, for-profit rental market.

Frockt’s bill also offers protections to landlords, in the form of a mitigation fund. The fund would provide landlords who rent to tenants with qualifying sources of income the following: up to 14 days of lost rental income, up to $1,000 for eligible repairs, and reimbursements for damages reflected in a judgement obtained against a tenant. This innovation – the first of its kind in the country – is designed to address landlord concerns and was developed in close consultation with landlord groups. As a result of this work, the measure received strong bipartisan support, passing with a 33 to 14 vote.

Twelve states already prohibit source-of-income discrimination against tenants.

SB 5407 now moves to the House for consideration.

This bill is one of three bill passed Friday intended to improve access to affordable housing and emergency shelters. Senate Bill 6371 regards the Housing Finance Commission, and Senate Bill 6294 exempts certain shelters from impact fees.