Legislators offer solutions to housing inventory crisis

“Housing is going to be a very big issue in both chambers of the legislature next session.” That was the message from Senator Guy Palumbo (D-1st District) at the recent REALTOR® Housing Issues Briefing at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue. Senator Palumbo was joined by Representative Tana Senn (D-41st District) and Senator Joe Fain (R-47th District) as they addressed the audience regarding current and upcoming efforts to fix our housing shortage.

“Cities under the Growth Management Act are supposed to be absorbing more density, and they’re not doing that essentially because of NIMBY-ism. Although I support local control, it’s clear that we cannot rely on city councils on this. Two-thirds of the land mass in Seattle is zoned single-family, and the reason that Tacoma and Federal Way and others are busting at the seams is because Seattle’s not taking their share of the growth,” he said.

In the last legislative session, Senator Palumbo sponsored Senate Bill 6077 that would have required minimum densities of 6-units per acre within cities governed by the Growth Management Act (GMA). That bill did not pass, but Senator Palumbo said the bill will be back in 2019. “Unfortunately, GMA is breaking. It was a great idea 28 years ago, and now it’s not working the way we need it to,” said Senator Palumbo.

Representative Senn also sponsored a bill aimed at getting more inventory on the market. House Bill 2831 offered some condominium liability reform to encourage developers to build more condos. The bill did not make it to the House floor for a vote, but like Senator Palumbo, Representative Senn is working in the interim to make the bill work for Washington and garner support in the legislature.

Senator Fain sponsored SB 5254 that passed in 2017 and requires changes to the GMA to reduce the difference between assumptions about how much housing can be built and the land actually available for such development. The bill was necessary, said Senator Fain, because the GMA has not been a useful document for most of the central Puget Sound region in terms of identifying these buildable lands. SB 5254 overcomes some of the discrepancies between planning and the reality of bringing more housing to the market.

The state legislature has these working solutions and people who are ready to get it done. Said Senator Palumbo, “Everybody is saying the same thing: we have to build more housing.”

For more information about what Seattle King County REALTORS® is doing to help solve our housing crisis, visit HousingTranslator.com.