Dear friends and neighbors,
The lack of affordable housing and homelessness are two of the primary challenges facing our state. In the last decade, roughly one million people moved to Washington, but only about 250,000 homes have been built. Our housing crisis wasn’t created overnight and it won’t be solved overnight, but I’m proud that the Legislature passed several significant bills and made historic investments this year that will help increase the supply of housing, protect tenants, prevent homelessness, and lower barriers to housing construction.
It is exciting to see housing investments from past legislative sessions take shape. I took this photo last week of the construction of Pride Place (pictured above), a first-of-its-kind project on Capitol Hill by Community Roots Housing and GenPride. Pride Place will provide affordable housing to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer seniors as well as community space for the LGBTQ+ community.
Building more affordable housing
The passage of HB 1110, the “Middle Housing” bill, will help ensure that city land use policies allow building more homes people can actually afford to rent or buy. More duplexes, fourplexes, and sixplexes provide additional options for family housing to fill in the gap between small apartments and single-family homes. In cities with a population of more than 75,000, the bill allows fourplexes everywhere and sixplexes within a quarter mile of major transit stops. In cities within a population between 25,000 and 75,000, the bill allows duplexes everywhere and fourplexes within a quarter mile of major transit stops. Other major housing bills that passed this session include:
- HB 1474 creates a Covenant Homeownership Program to provide down payment and closing cost assistance to help address the generational wealth gap in marginalized communities. Much of that gap arise from our shameful history of restrictive covenants that prevented racial and religious minorities from purchasing homes in certain neighborhoods.
- HB 1349 will help protect vulnerable homeowners, particularly low-income households and seniors, from predatory foreclosures.
- HB 1337 will reduce barriers to the construction of new accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
- SB 5045 addresses the affordable housing shortage by incentivizing homeowners to rent ADUs to low-income households.
- HB 1695 expands the definition of “public benefit” to include the use of surplus public property to create affordable housing, including rental and homeownership, targeting low-income households.
- HB 1042 will help quickly increase housing supply, by allowing the addition of new dwelling units to existing commercial or mixed-use buildings.
- SB 5058 will make it easier to construct small-scale condominiums.
- HB 1046 increases the income limit for homes financed by public housing authorities to 80% of the area median income, up from 50% for for-profit entities and 60% for governmental or non-profit developers.
- SB 5197 reforms Washington’s eviction process so tenants can use emergency rental assistance funds, allows remote participation in eviction proceedings, and expands judicial discretion around 14-day pay-or-vacate notices.
- HB 1074 will help tenants who are moving out of their current rental by increasing transparency and accountability in the handling of their security deposits.
- SB 5198 will protect vulnerable tenants in manufactured home communities by requiring owners to give two years’ notice of sale and give the tenants a fair chance to come together and make an offer to purchase the park themselves.
Thanks to state funding and the work of two local nonprofits, Blake House on First Hill now has its first tenants and will provide permanent supportive housing for seniors and veterans coming out of homelessness. The state’s next two-year operating and capital construction budgets adopted by the Legislature last month make significant new investments in more projects like Blake House that will increase affordable housing and reduce homelessness. Here are a few highlights:
- $400 million, a record investment, in the Housing Trust Fund for construction and renovation of affordable housing units to serve low-income and special needs populations.
- $150 million to start the Covenant Homeownership Program.
- $141 million increase for emergency housing and shelter funding.
- $60 million for homeless encampment response and rapid rehousing.
- $30 million to address youth homelessness.
- $27 million increase for the Housing and Essential Needs program.
I look forward to seeing these investments pay off with more affordable housing options for people here in the 43rd District and across the state.
I will continue to send updates on key legislation passed during this year’s legislative session. If you missed my previous updates on gun safety, reproductive freedom, or public education, they are available on my website. Please reach out with any questions at Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov.