Legislation to claim RVs as homesteads muddies Seattle’s homeless problem

Jan 24, 2023, 5:32 PM
A houseless individual resides inside an RV camper. (Photo by Adam J. Dewey/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Photo by Adam J. Dewey/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Washington’s Senate Housing Committee examined a bill last week aiming to prevent vehicles that are being used as temporary housing from being towed.

This additional piece of legislation clouds an already foggy situation for RVs in Seattle.

“They’re proposing that if you have an RV and you live in it, that’s your homestead,” Washington State Senator Philip Fortunato (R-Auburn) said on The Jason Rantz Show. “And what that means is, you can’t be evicted, which means you can’t be towed away. If you’re in Seattle, and you hose off the sidewalk because somebody urinated in front of your store or c****** on the sidewalk and you hose it off, the Department of Ecology will give you a ticket for a stormwater violation. However, these guys are parking these RVs and they are literally piping that straight into the storm drain, and nobody does anything about it.”

Last summer, the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) initiated an agreement to create a parking lot for homeless individuals living in RVs. The goal was to have the lot ready by winter, according to Real Change. It’s to be made for large vehicles to be parked semi-permanently.

But with winter here, the lot is still not ready for its inauguration, leaving RVs to park wherever they find space in the city.

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Fortunato cited the status and quality of the RVs being used as temporary homes, stating multiple fires were caused last year by RVs — whether a simple kitchen fire or something more fatal.

KCRHA did not include a deadline for the project, but according to KCRHA spokesperson Anne Martens, this is normal for a project that involves locating a site. She also stated funding for the project won’t be released until work on the parking lot begins.

Are they homeless if an RV is a homestead?

“What’s interesting here with the RV bill, if an RV is then considered a home, how do we call them homeless anymore?” Rantz asked during his conversation with Fortunato.

To qualify for Washington’s homestead exemption, the person’s primary residence must be $27,900 or less in equity if filing alone, and $55,800 or less in equity if filing with a spouse.

“If they are now saying that we’re going to declare them no longer homeless, then the protections and the passes that we give to the homeless should no longer apply,” Rantz said. “That means they’re subject to taxes. It means they’re subject to what you just talked about, not just putting their sewage in the drain, this would open them up to actual consequences for their behaviors.

“But what the Democrats are basically doing here is they’re creating a new category of people who have homes, and it’s a special category in which they don’t have laws applied to them,” Rantz continued.

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“Go to a homeless camp now and ask them how many people want a job,” Fortunato replied. “They are undermining the work ethic of this country.”

Fortunato cited the term “homeless crime,” a phrase that allows unhoused residents in Seattle to get away with petty crime, simply because no one wants to deal with the homelessness issue.

“So it’s not real crime,” Fortunato said. “If you and I go in there, and we walk into a store, we take something off the counter or shelf, and we walk out the front door, they’re going to arrest us. You and I are going to be in jail. We’re going to be prosecuted. But all we got to do is dress up in rags, maybe smear some dirt on our face, walk in, do the exact same thing, and nobody does a damn thing.”

RVs losing parking to concrete blocks

The Georgetown, South Park, Ballard, and SoDo neighborhoods were littered with illegally-placed “ecology blocks” last year to prevent RVs from an extended stay on the curb of a home or business.

Eco blocks are horizontal concrete blocks lined up along the sides of the street to discourage parking.

According to Seattle Municipal Code 15.4, it is unlawful to place objects or structures in a public place without first securing a permit.

But another bill is in the Senate currently, Bill 5138 according to Fortunato, that states if you illegally park your RV, it is no longer a homestead. Rantz and Fortunato both believe it won’t pass in the state’s liberal-leaning Congress.

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“The people of Washington, specifically King County, put the Democrats in charge by a large majority. They know it. They feel that they have a mandate and they can do whatever the heck they want,” Fortunato said. “They got a five-seat majority in the Senate and eight seats in the house, I don’t even need to be here. I could stay home and eat popcorn and watch the show. They don’t need our vote except for the constitutional amendment for abortion. They need four of our members for a two-thirds vote, so we may be able to stop that.”

Washington, known nationally as one of the most liberal states in the country, currently holds the longest streak of Democratic governors in the nation, having last elected a Republican in 1980. When it comes to the presidential election, Washington is part of the “blue wall,” voting for Democratic nominees exclusively since 1988.

“But the [Democrats] can do whatever they want. They control the rules. They control what bills get heard, they control what bills come to the floor for a vote,” Fortunato said. “So if you wonder why a bill that really makes sense doesn’t come to the floor for a vote. All you got to do is ask yourself who you voted for. And that’s your answer.”

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Legislation to claim RVs as homesteads muddies Seattle’s homeless problem