Housing costs in our communities are unaffordable for too many folks. One of our top legislative priorities is growing the housing stock in our state so that families can find more affordable places to live. As we know, our district has the county’s most affordable housing, and we have seen significant growth from people fleeing the high cost of housing in Seattle. This year’s housing legislation focuses on encouraging wealthier cities and suburbs to accommodate more density to address the housing shortage.
Read on below for some highlights.
Here are a few of the major bills this year to increase the supply of quality, affordable housing in our state:
- HB 1110, the “middle housing” bill, has passed both chambers and is waiting on a vote in the House to concur with amendments made in the Senate. The bill would allow more duplexes and fourplexes in cities around the state and help meet the great need for starter homes and more affordable options for families. We see these new townhomes and multi-family units being built in our communities already, so this bill won’t have a big effect in our district.
- HB 1337, which has passed the Legislature, makes it easier for homeowners to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on their property. ADUs include cottages as well as attached living units. This can put small homes within reach for more people who have been priced out of the market—from young families to elders hoping to age in place in their family’s residence. Often local building codes and zoning create barriers to this option, and this bill will help streamline the process.
- SB 5045, which has also passed the Legislature, will help by incentivizing homeowners to rent ADUs to low-income households. The bill allows King County to offer property tax exemptions for ADUs rented to low-income families.
- HB 1181, which has also passed the Legislature, requires that at least 10% of residential land in cities is zoned for multifamily housing. It also requires new environmental standards.
- SB 5290, which we just concurred with in the Senate, would streamline local permit review processes for interior construction projects.
- SB 5198, which has been signed into law by the governor, gives the residents of manufactured home communities more rights when their landlords want to sell the property the community sits on. It requires two years’ notice of sale, with some reasonable exceptions, as well as the opportunity for the community to purchase the land. The companion bill in the House was sponsored by my seatmate Rep. Mia Gregerson.
- We have also included provisions in our budgets to streamline the permitting process so that new construction can be built more quickly and with fewer bureaucratic delays.
In addition to these systemic changes to the laws around housing and many other housing-related bills, our capital construction budget includes significant funding to increase the supply of affordable housing. The Senate proposal invests $400 million in the Housing Trust Fund, which would be the most in state history. In our communities, the Senate’s proposed capital budget would invest:
- $4 million for affordable housing at the African Diaspora Cultural Anchor Village in SeaTac.
- $550,000 for predesign for affordable housing at the Multicultural Village in Kent.
Protecting reproductive freedom
The people of Washington have voted twice to ensure that reproductive freedom is a fundamental right in our state. But that right means nothing without actual access to care.
For 10,000 women a year in our state, the exercise of that fundamental right comes down to having access to mifepristone, a safe, effective medication that has been used in the U.S. for more than 20 years.
Yet an unelected judge in Texas is ignoring more than two decades of evidence and attempting to deny Americans a safe, effective medication for their reproductive choice.
Here in Washington, we will not allow that to happen.
On Friday, the Senate passed my bill SB 5768, which would guarantee uninterrupted access to mifepristone, which is used in nearly 60% of abortions in our state.
At Gov. Jay Inslee’s direction, the state Department of Corrections (DOC) purchased a three-year supply of mifepristone using its existing statutory authority and pharmacy license. My bill would allow DOC to sell and distribute that medication to clinics, providers, and others around the state. This week, the House will take up the bill.
Highlight of the week: Food, Cash, and Medical Assistance
Each week this session, I have been highlighting a state-funded resource that may be of use to you, your family, or your neighbors. I hope you’ll pass the information along to anyone who may be able to take advantage of it. This week, I want to let you know about the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services’ Food, Cash, and Medical Assistance links.
DSHS includes a cornucopia of resources at this website, including how to apply for food assistance, cash and employment services for families with children, and other emergency programs.
One program linked at the DSHS site that doesn’t get enough publicity is the state’s Unclaimed Property program, which has returned more than $1,328,754,317 in lost or misplaced property to Washingtonians — things like customer or patient refunds, uncashed checks, and unclaimed utility deposits. You can fill out a simple online form to see if you have any unclaimed funds available to you.
Previous highlights of the week: Dementia Road Map for Caregivers, Paid Family and Medical Leave, Healthy Starts Act pregnancy accommodations, Working Families Tax Credit, Washington State Quitline, my resource guide, WorkSource WA, ArrayRx Discount Card, Building for the Arts, Child Care Check, Homeowner Assistance Fund, Housing and Rent Assistance.
Please Stay in Touch
Don’t hesitate to contact me via the information below. If you’d like to follow what I’m working on, you can like my official legislative Facebook page here. Stay safe and take care.
Sen. Karen Keiser
Senate President Pro Tempore
Chair, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee