Is 2023 the year Housing becomes the Legislature’s top issue?

REALTORS® meet with Rep. Tina Orwall. Photo courtesy of Rep. Tina Orwall.

With Governor Jay Inslee’s budget seeking a $4 billion housing initiative, there is hope that 2023 will be a breakthrough year for housing. The Governor’s proposal requires legislative and voter approval to fund up to 25,000 affordable housing units over the next six years.

It remains to be seen, however, whether throwing more money at our housing shortage is a better solution than adopting reforms to current policies which restrict our capacity to increase home production.

Challenge Seattle and the Boston Consulting group have proposed a series of measures to cure our chronic housing shortage through policy reforms and shifting priorities.

In a recent Seattle Time op-ed, Brad Smith, President of Microsoft and Phyllis Campbell, Chairman of JP Morgan Chase Pacific Northwest, outlined the priorities identified by Challenge Seattle. Foremost is an acknowledgement that one million Washington households are cost burdened, spending over 30% of their income on housing costs. Their study, compiled by Boston Consulting, states the clear cause of the rising cost burden is that housing demand far outstrips available supply. The state is short 120,000 housing units and must produce 82,000 every year to keep pace.

The solution, according to Smith and Campbell, is a series of policy changes to drive solutions. “No single policy will be enough – it will take an “all of the above” approach to address the full magnitude of our state’s affordable housing crisis.”

Washington REALTORS® Legislative Agenda

Enter the Washington REALTORS®, whose 2023 legislative agenda includes five of the needed policy reforms. This combination of both previous and new proposals embraces the “all of the above” approach suggested by Smith and Campbell.

  • A proposal to reduce the risk and cost of building condominiums by allowing the developer “the right to cure” material defects in construction;
  • A proposal allowing more widespread use of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on existing lots;
  • A requirement that land adjacent to transit stations be zoned at higher capacities, commensurate with the significant investment in rail transit;
  • A proposal to require the allowance of varied housing types, such as duplex and townhomes, in areas zoned for single family residences; and
  • A streamlining of the burdensome and duplicative development regulations that delay projects and use subjective criteria.

“The Washington REALTORS® agenda has many practical and needed changes that taken together can make a difference,” said Sharon O’Mahony, 2023 Seattle King County REALTORS® President. “It is a go big or go home approach that policymakers should adopt, and housing advocates can applaud.”

To learn more about the Washington REALTOR® legislative agenda, click here:

Featured image: Legislators were excited to meet with REALTORS® with their blue “Welcome Home” scarves at the State Capitol building.
Featured image courtesy of Sabrina Matson.