REALTORS® testify for housing solutions at Growth Hearings Board

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Growth Management Act (GMA). While the law has protected rural and resource lands and helped highly successful urban communities in Central Puget Sound emerge, it has not met the goal of fostering affordable and available housing, according to Seattle King County REALTORS® housing specialist Randy Bannecker.

Bannecker recently testified before an informal hearing to assess the history and effectiveness of the Growth Management Act. His remarks come at a time of historically low housing inventory levels in King County.

“Growth in the urban area has not been adequately accommodated,” said Bannecker. “The lack of supply has led to a spike in housing prices and condemned too many workers to long commutes. Job growth drives housing growth. When we fail to zone for an adequate supply of housing relative to demand, housing prices rise and people travel farther from their job to find a place to live which they can afford.”

In Seattle, homes are selling for $500,000 and prices are rising. For most homebuyers, it’s a struggle. A $500,000 mortgage demands an income well in excess of the area median income. Many buyers continue to rent in Seattle or drive out of Seattle until they qualify.”

Bannecker commented that longer and longer commute times reduce quality of life for workers and impact environmental conditions in our area. He asked members of the Growth Management Hearings Board to recommit to the goals of the GMA.

“The commitment to greater density and affordability was the agreement forged in the GMA to promote and protect our quality of life and rural lands,” he said. “Regional planning needs to play a larger role as communities have grown to each others’ boundaries. Communities with expensive housing markets are pressuring communities with more affordable markets.”

Seattle King County REALTORS® is committed to continuing a regional discussion with political leaders and key stakeholders over the coming year in an effort to bring solutions to the severe shortfall in housing supply.

About the GMA and GMHB

The GMA, passed by the Washington State Legislature in 1990, was a response to a sense that the rapid growth in the state, particularly in King County, was out of control. Growth threatened to suburbanize rural towns as well as forests and farmlands. Many worried that sprawl would destroy our quality of life. The GMA required land use to be planned comprehensively at the city level and coordinated with other cities in the county. An Urban Growth Boundary was established that directed housing and jobs into cities, and placed new constraints on rural development. 

In order to resolve land use disputes and reflect regional diversity, the legislature created three independent Growth Management Hearings Boards (Central Puget Sound, Western Washington and Eastern Washington). Board members serve as administrative law judges.