OLYMPIA — Whether through easing permitting, zoning or other regulations, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers wants to make it easier to build homes and apartments in Washington.
Lawmakers projected unity on the issue Tuesday, holding a group announcement of support for 13 bills meant to increase Washington’s housing stock.
Proposals include measures to hasten the process of getting permits to build housing and making it easier to develop “mother-in-law” units in a state where insufficient housing has driven up the cost of renting and owning a home.
“We have been saying for years we have a supply shortage here in Washington state,” said state Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia. “We are hundreds of thousands of units short and these policies will start to chip away and have meaningful impact right away at getting at product on the ground and people with keys in their hands to move into their homes.”
Rep. Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac, said Washington currently needs about 150,000 more housing units, in the next 20 years will need 1 million homes.
The announcement room came a few weeks into a legislative session where housing is already front and center.
One of the first bills to pass the House, on Jan. 25, was related to housing. House Bill 1046, if it also passes the Senate, would increase the income limit for renters living in affordable housing financed by a public housing authority.
A key component of Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed budget is borrowing $4 billion to fund a push to build housing, and legislators are also considering measures to limit rent increases and require more notice when significant increases are coming.
Gregerson acknowledged there was disagreement on other proposed policies related to housing.
“We recognize that there are disagreements and even opposition to those other housing related policies,” Gregerson said. “But today we are a united front because of … how big this crisis is, and how badly Washington families are counting on us.”
One proposal would allow lots of more than 1,500 square feet to be split so that new housing could be built, and another would essentially set deadlines for permits to be reviewed and require local governments to refund a percentage of permit fees if they don’t meet that deadline. Another bill would exempt first-time homebuyers from the real estate excise tax when buying a townhouse or condo.
“A lot of people want to move to Washington, which is great,” said Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, chair of the House Housing Committee. “They’re coming whether we build the housing or not, so we need to make sure that we’re building the housing.”