2024 legislative session •
As we pass the midway point of the 2024 legislative session, House Republicans remain focused on addressing our state’s catalog of crises. This includes housing and homelessness.
First, housing. Our state has serious housing availability and affordability problems. Here are some statistics:
So, how did we get here? Washington needed to build more housing units over the last two decades but failed to do so. As a result, we have the fewest number of housing units per household of any state in the country. According to another report, our state will need more than a million new housing units in the next 20 years.
Why hasn’t more housing been built? It’s simple: Policymakers have made it really hard to build in our state. Years of irrational land use policy and costly building regulations passed by Democrats have resulted in a housing supply shortage. A low supply has led to higher housing prices and rents. High property taxes are also pushing people out of their homes or to the brink. And those looking to move find their options limited and expensive. You can learn more about our state’s challenges by visiting this web page:
Last year, this year
There was bipartisan collaboration on housing during the last legislative session, including bills relating to middle housing, accessory dwelling units, and streamlining development regulations being signed into law. However, momentum stalled and there were missed opportunities to do more.
This year, it appears Democrats want to revert to passing bad policies again. They are pushing a new version of rent control, which could be debated on the House floor tomorrow, and considered a proposal that would triple the allowable increase for local property taxes. Washingtonians simply can’t afford it. We can’t go backward on this issue. House Republicans will oppose these measures and any policies that make our housing problems even worse.
Rep. Andrew Barkis recently appeared on TVW’s Inside Olympia to talk about housing. He articulated our House Republican positions well. I encourage you to watch the program.
House Republican solutions for housing
Like the other crises facing our state, we have solutions:
- House Bill 2033, sponsored by Rep. Greg Cheney, would create a new tax credit to incentivize landlords to voluntarily lower or freeze rents.
- House Bill 1245, which passed the House unanimously last month, would authorize lot splitting to create more parcels of land to build. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Andrew Barkis.
- House Bill 1401, sponsored by Rep. Cyndy Jacobsen, would establish a low-cost, expedited permit process for single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes, and ADUs that target low-income and moderate-income households.
- House Bill 1633 would provide down-payment assistance to nurses, doctors, firefighters, police, child care workers, and other critical professionals who need to be able to afford housing in our state. The program, called Homes for Heroes, is sponsored by Rep. April Connors.
House Republicans have also introduced legislation to provide property tax relief and a package of bills focused on making life more affordable in Washington.
Addressing the causes of homelessness
Second, homelessness is a growing problem in communities across our state. Despite major investments at the state and local levels, the situation is getting worse.
We know there are various causes for homelessness. The increasing costs of housing, which I discussed above. Economic despair and affordability, which I have also highlighted.
Many people living on our streets find themselves in the grip of addiction. Drug overdoses and the scourge of fentanyl are intensifying. House Republican efforts last year led to stronger drug-possession reforms passing in the special session. The legislation focused on both compassion and accountability. We must continue to help those struggling with addiction but hold accountable those who refuse treatment. I will talk about the drug crisis in our state and House Republican solutions to address it in a future email update.
Lastly, we also know some in our homeless population face mental health challenges. Most of us know someone facing these challenges, whether it be family or friends. There has been strong, bipartisan support for major investments in our state’s behavioral health facilities and workforce. But both take time to bring online. We must see these commitments through.
Helping cities and counties clean up homeless encampments
I have sponsored legislation, House Bill 1373, that would provide funding to cities and counties to clean up homeless encampments and provide services if they enforce camping bans near schools, child care centers, parks, and courthouses. The measure would also require statewide reporting on illegal encampments and cleanup efforts, so there is accountability with the tax dollars we are spending to address this problem.
No one bill or policy will solve our state’s homelessness crisis. The issue spans many policy areas. Nor will the crisis be fixed in a legislative session. But we must put substantive policies in place and expect results and accountability.
A look ahead
The House worked yesterday and is off today. We will be back on the House floor voting on bills tomorrow. Our next deadline is house of origin cutoff on Tuesday.
Please follow us on social media — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn — to get the latest updates on what’s happening. Our legislative news aggregator, The Ledger, is also a great resource for recent news and views on the Legislature.
Rep. Drew Stokesbary
House Republican Leader