• Center for Community Change

Campaign Actions: Breaking out the Hard Hats: Shovel Ready Advocacy in Washington State

Never in the history of Washington State had the legislature not passed a Capital budget within a session.  Yet, in January 2018, the Washington State Capital Budget had been stalled since July 2017.  To raise visibility about the need to pass the Budget, members of the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA) and the Resident Action Project (RAP) flooded the state capital on Jan. 11 wearing bright yellow hard-hats and carrying shovels (key chain size). WLIHA staff and RAP leaders distributed the shovels to every lawmaker in Olympia in an effort to drive home how many shovel-ready projects were threatened if lawmakers did not pass the Capital Budget with a strong investment in the Housing Trust Fund.

RAP and WLIHA members distributed shovels to Republicans and Democrats, and the hard hats and shovels were met with appreciation from both sides of the aisle. “The lawmakers’ aides were thankful that we were there because of all of the hard work we did for affordable housing budgets,” RAP Steering Committee Member Lisa Sawyer said. “All of the aides said that the shovels were a great idea.”

The need to pass the Capital Budget was particularly pressing given that Washington has a tremendous affordable housing crisis. RAP members planned and implemented “8 weeks of action”, culminating with the Shovel & Hard Hat action, that pushed for the Capital Budget passing and funding for the Housing Trust Fund. The following week, in part because of the advocacy by RAP members and WLIHA staff, lawmakers passed the Capital Budget with a $106.7 million investment in the Housing Trust Fund. In fact, the advocacy action led to a direct shift in the legislative conversation, prompting one senator to raise the subject of at-risk Housing Trust Fund projects in committee.

It was a powerful day because the shovels showed how much we needed the Capital Budget for more affordable housing, and we definitely need affordable housing in Washington,” Sawyer said.

To learn more about the Resident Action Project, click here.

By Divya Shiv, Voter Engagement Organizer, Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund