The ranking Republicans on two key committees in the Washington state Senate are calling for new legislation and an audit following the KING 5 Investigator’s reports on one of the largest publicly funded affordable housing programs in Washington State.
KING 5 reported last week that an Olympia couple who work for the office of Governor Jay Inslee owned a Bellevue condo through a publicly funded affordable housing program.
The program, called ARCH, allowed John Aultman and his wife, Nona Snell-Aultman, to purchase the Bellevue condo in 2009 even though they already owned a waterfront home in Olympia.
“Single moms and other families are living in cars, in shelters, and in tents. An undeserving insider taking this housing from the poor is unacceptable and needs immediate action,” Senator Steve O’Ban (R-University Place) wrote in a press release.
O’Ban is the ranking Republican of the Senate’s Human Services Committee.
The longest-serving Republican on the Senate State Government Committee, which legislates government ethics, is also calling for action.
“I also intend to pursue an audit of our affordable housing programs to make sure the units supported with any sort of direct state taxpayer funds or zoning assistance, are only being used by the neediest amongst us for whom the housing is intended,” Senator Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way) said in the same press release.
“Clearly, taxpayers should not be subsidizing well-to-do government insiders’ second homes,” the press release said.
In emails last week, Governor Inslee’s office defended the Aultman’s and criticized KING 5’s methods for reporting the story.
In addition to his party affiliation, Miloscia is also locked in a heated battle for the 30th Senate District in south King County. He faces Democratic challenger Claire Wilson in next week’s election.
O’Ban said he hopes to “enact legislation this next year which would prevent wealthy government employees from using the insider knowledge they gain to benefit themselves by taking affordable housing out of the hands of needy families.”
Earlier, Snell-Aultman denied that her position in government, including as a staff member on affordable housing law, had any influence on the couple’s purchase of the Bellevue condo.
You can read the full press release from Senators Miloscia and O’Ban below:
“It is illegal. So should be state government insiders with special inside knowledge of affordable housing programs intended for low income Washingtonians who cannot afford housing for themselves and their families. Recent excellent reporting exposed the fiscal scandal of a married couple making a combined $268,000 per year, who work in state government on affordable housing policy, own housing set aside for low income in Bellevue, but reside principally in Olympia. Neighbors of the Bellevue residence, report that it has been vacant for a long time, and only used occasionally.
Sen. Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way) stated, “We have an affordable housing crises. Now we learn from the excellent work of KING 5 news that staffers in the Washington state House of Representatives and the Governor’s office took advantage of insider knowledge to purchase scarce Bellevue affordable housing for apparent use as a vacation home.”
Miloscia was joined by Sen. Steve O’Ban (R-University Place. O’Ban concurred: “Legislators — Republican and Democrat — are working in a bipartisan fashion to change laws and free up taxpayer funds to add to the scarce supply of affordable housing we currently have. This reported misuse of affordable housing undermines the taxpayer trust in creating more housing for the truly working poor who need it.”
Miloscia continued, “At the same time these government insiders have taken housing out of the hands of a deserving family so they can apparently use it for occasional shopping sprees to Bellevue Square.”
“Single moms and other families are living in cars, in shelters and in tents,” O’Ban said. “An undeserving insider taking this housing from the poor is unacceptable and needs immediate action by the Governor, as well as a legislative response.”
“Senator Miloscia and I plan to enact legislation this next year which would prevent wealthy government employees from using the insider knowledge they gain to benefit themselves by taking affordable housing out of the hands of needy families.”
Miloscia agreed: “Clearly, taxpayers should not be subsidizing well-to-do government insiders’ second homes. I know Speaker Chopp and Governor Inslee have also voiced support for affordable housing. I call on them to denounce this outrageous abuse of the affordable housing system by their staffers.”
Senator Miloscia concluded, “I also intend to pursue an audit of our affordable housing programs to make sure the units supported with any sort of direct state taxpayer funds or zoning assistance, are only being used by the neediest amongst us for whom the housing is intended.”
Senator Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way) is a leader in the area of affordable housing and homelessness and is the ranking member on the Committee, which oversees State Government.
Senator Steve O’Ban (R-University Place) is the ranking member on the committee, which oversees human services and low-income housing.”