OLYMPIA– On Wednesday, Rep. Jessica Bateman and Sen. Mona Das, introduced legislation to make it easier for Washington families to find safe and affordable homes, especially in areas near transit sites. The Homes for WA Act will re-legalize familiar housing options in these locations, like duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes.
“Housing costs continue to skyrocket faster than wages can keep up. Families frequently spend half or more of their income simply to keep a roof over their heads,” said Bateman, D-Olympia. “These costs are unsustainable and mean a growing number of Washingtonians are at risk of falling into homelessness. This is especially true for members of the Black and Indigenous communities, people of color, the LGBTQ community, seniors, people with disabilities, and low-wage workers.”
The legislation is intended to expand middle-income housing near transit sites to provide options for residents seeking safer, shorter, and more affordable commutes.
“I, like so many of our neighbors, am a renter who’s ready to buy a home but can’t afford what’s available,” said Das, D-Kent. “Here in our state – where so many of our community members want to live, work, go to school, and raise a family – there’s simply not enough affordable housing stock. This problem is hampering our ability to grow stronger as a state, bolster our economy, and help more working families unlock their dream of homeownership,” continued Das. “I’m so honored to introduce this bill alongside my colleague Rep. Bateman and Gov. Inslee because it’s well past time that we address this problem with the bold action Washingtonians have been advocating for.”
Middle-income families are frequently required to absorb increased commute costs as they are forced further away from their workplaces and transit hubs. Shortening commutes and increasing transit access will also reduce air pollution and help Washington meets its goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“We must restore the full range of housing available in cities throughout our state. Everyone needs a community, and so we must build communities that are for everyone. I’m not just talking about the homeless, or those living with the threat of homelessness. I’m also talking about future generations of renters, prospective home-owners, and any Washingtonians who will benefit from greater housing security,” added Governor Jay Inslee, who requested the legislation. “Increasing ‘middle housing’ opportunities will make it easier for most working folks, like teachers and health care workers, to live within the communities they serve. It will also help seniors to age in place and help us address spatial segregation and community equity.”
“Families in both large cities and rural communities are hurting because of this crisis,” Bateman added. “We can choose to fix the problem, but to do so we must re-legalize modest, affordable housing options like duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes. Our neighbors deserve better options.”
This bill is headed to the Local Government Committee in the House and Local Government & Housing Committee in the Senate. The 2022 Washington legislative session starts on January 10 and will last for 60 days.