Mid-Year Report on Middle Housing Advocacy
June 16, 2023
June is Homeownership Month, when REALTORS® promote the many benefits of homeownership, including its power to generate wealth through home equity for millions of American families. But in Washington State, homeownership is out of reach for many in middle-income brackets, especially in metro areas, because of a critical housing shortage that raises home prices.
“The median household income in King County is $110,600, but it takes $143,000 a year to afford a mid-priced condo at $430,000. It takes $233,000 a year to afford a mid-priced home at $700,000,” said Michele Hunt, Vice President of Governmental and Public Affairs for Seattle King County REALTORS®. “To rectify the mismatch of median income to median housing prices, we need to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the problem.”
To address the problem, Seattle King County REALTORS® is advocating for “middle housing”—ADUs, duplexes, triplexes, cottages, etc.—which can be an onramp into homeownership for those in the median income bracket. Here is a round-up of the association’s activities so far in 2023.
MIDDLE HOUSING EVENTS
Two events hosted by SKCR invited local elected officials and candidates into the conversation about middle housing.
Missing Middle Housing Bus Tour
On March 30, the Missing Middle Bus Tour showed elected officials examples of middle housing that already exist in our area. Participants visited “ADU Alley” in Kirkland, a stretch of alleyway that features garage apartments and ADUs on nearly every single-family lot; a cottage neighborhood in Redmond featuring 12 small homes built around shared open spaces; and a new development of five small-lot homes on a previously single-family-zoned lot. These examples showed participants that it is possible to increase home density without sacrificing the character of a neighborhood.
29th Annual Housing Issues Briefing
Continuing the effort on middle housing, SKCR invited Jake Fry of Small Housing BC and Smallworks to be the keynote speaker at the 29th Annual Housing Issue Briefing at the Meydenbauer Center on June 7. Fry and his organization have been on the forefront of promoting “gentle density” in the Vancouver metro area, referring to the kinds of housing that can fit into already established neighborhoods—ADUs, DADUs, houseplexes, etc. In Vancouver, 35% of residents live on 81% of residential land, thanks to single-family zoning, but new zoning bylaws are allowing more housing of more types.
Elected officials and candidates for office in King County reported that after hearing Fry talk, middle housing seems more possible and more attractive as a housing solution.
LEGISLATIVE WINS IN WASHINGTON
The Washington Legislature passed at least “a record number” of REALTOR®-backed bills that address a range of housing issues. Two of those bills will allow for more middle housing across the state by removing barriers to new construction of ADUs and houseplexes:
“The Legislature has made historic strides in addressing homelessness and affordability issues while also passing bills to benefit market-rate housing,” said Nathan Gordon, the Governmental Affairs Director at Washington REALTORS®.
Seattle King County REALTORS® will continue to champion thoughtful density and diverse housing options to ensure a functioning housing ladder and make homeownership possible for more people in King County.