REALTORS® unify to ramp up incentives and increase housing supply

REALTORS® are back in person at Hill Day in Olympia. Front row: (left to right): Tamara Paul, Michele Hunt, Shane Davies, Shannon Morey, Desiree Abercrombie. Back row: Lisa Holle, Krista Bates, Joanna Duran. Photo courtesy of Michele Hunt.

Washington State ranks last in the country for the number of housing units per family, according to a recent report by Washington’s Department of Commerce.

Crippling effects include rental prices continuing to increase and qualified buyers still having little to no ownership opportunities. This reinforces the need for additional types of housing and ramp up incentives for local jurisdictions to provide more and diverse housing types such as duplexes, triplexes, and cottage housing. The need was emphasized in Washington REALTORS®’ recent TV ads under their “Welcome Home” Legislation.

More than 500 REALTORS® from across the state – about 75 from Seattle King County REALTORS® – came together in their blue “Welcome Home” scarves at the State Capitol building for Washington REALTORS®’s Hill Day on January 19. The purpose: to advocate in one voice and make clear our 2023 legislative priorities clear, including our state’s urgent need for more housing supply at every price point.

“It was a great experience meeting with our elected officials in our state’s capitol discussing Missing Middle Housing, Condo liability fixes, and Rural DADUs,” said Michele Hunt, 2023 VP Governmental & Public Affairs. “Housing is very much their priority this session!”

Middle Housing in Cities

“Middle Housing” types are duplex to sixplex units, townhouses, cottage houses, and other smaller housing types that fit within existing residential neighborhoods. The lack of housing supply is caused by lack of available land, and antiquated city zoning that locks up over 70% of residential land solely for single-family housing. Allowing middle housing in all residential areas would still allow single-family housing, but provide more options to increase housing supply and affordable homeownership.

Increasing Supply & Affordability of Condominiums

Condominiums are the most affordable type of homeownership, but the supply of new condominiums in Washington is among the worst in the country. This bill improves the condominium market by revising the process to repair condominium defects (“Right to Cure”), streamlines the process for construction of smaller condominium projects, ensures reasonable impact fees for condominiums, and provides a condominium tax incentive for certain qualified first-time homebuyers.

Widespread use of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on existing lots

The housing supply crisis is not just an urban problem. While some counties have enacted ordinances allowing detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in rural areas, other county ADU ordinances have been rejected by the Growth Hearings Boards. In these counties, large attached ADUs could be built, but smaller more affordable ADUs are prohibited. This legislation is based on a recent detached ADU ordinance adopted in Snohomish County with bipartisan and unanimous support. The bill allows detached ADUs, but regulates the size, appearance, and location of detached ADUs in rural areas.

DADUs and ADUs continue to be much-needed affordable housing options. They require fewer resources to build and maintain. It simply doesn’t make sense that in rural areas, you could add a 3,000 square foot attached accessory dwelling unit but couldn’t add a 1,000 sq. ft. detached accessory dwelling unit.

“Accessory Dwelling Units, whether attached or detached, are just another affordable rung on the housing ladder: a great option for aging in place, offsetting housing cost by adding an additional unit for rental income, or cohabitating with family,” said Brenda Nunes, ADU Specialist and Instructor at Seattle King County REALTORS®.

Thank you to Seattle King County REALTOR® Members and Affiliates for joining us for a productive day on the Hill during Legislative Days.

View all of Washington REALTORS’ 2023 Legislative Priorities here:

Featured image courtesy of Washington REALTORS®.