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REALTOR® Wins on the Hill: The Covenant Homeowner Account (HB 1474)

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May 16, 2023

This post is the second of a series of reports on the important legislative wins for REALTORS® from the 2023 Washington State congressional session.

Washington REALTORS® scored a huge legislative win on May 8 when Governor Inslee signed HB 1474, a bill that establishes a Covenant Homeownership Account and Program to address historical discrimination and inequities in homeownership.

The Covenant Homeownership Program will manage an account funded with a new $100 fee added to every real estate transaction recorded with county auditors. Beginning in July 2024, qualified first-time home buyers will have access to downpayment and closing cost assistance loans through this account, which would be repaid by the future sale of the home.

To qualify for these loans, home buyers must be 1) buying their first home, 2) a member of a historically marginalized group, particularly those groups named in racial covenants, and 3) a resident or a descendant of a resident of Washington State before 1968.

“We know homeownership builds generational wealth. This bill addresses the inability of many of our neighbors to acquire such wealth because of racially restrictive real estate covenants. HB 1474 will help families of historically marginalized communities to build a legacy of homeownership for current and future generations,” said Eddie Chang, Vice President-Elect of Government Affairs for Washington REALTORS® who attended the signing with SKCR Governmental Affairs Committee members Sol Villarreal and Deidre Hicks.

Washington REALTORS® are committed to upholding the goals and spirit of the Fair Housing Act and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in real estate. HB 1474 will help close the longstanding and widening gap in generational wealth between racial groups by helping more people get started with homeownership.

If you would like to learn more about the practice of restrictive covenants in Washington state, explore the work of the Racial Restrictive Covenants Project at the University of Washington.

UPDATE: In a recent King 5 report, HB 1474 was called “the first state-wide reparations bill in the nation.”

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