Washington’s housing availability and affordability crisis

For years, majority party Democrats have talked about the lack of affordable housing in Washington state. However, they have supported policies and passed bills that have directly contributed to our state’s housing availability and affordability crisis. Most of these harmful measures passed in the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions, despite Republican opposition. You can find a list of the bills below.

Statement on housing from Democratic Lt. Gov. Denny Heck on March 10, 2022: “My candor compels me to admit I am disappointed the Legislature did not make more significant progress on one of the most urgent and widespread issues facing Washingtonians: the rapidly rising cost of housing and the lack of housing supply. Washington has the fewest number of housing units per household of any state in the country. This is an embarrassment and an enormous restraint on equitable economic growth in our state.” Read full statement here.

House Republican solutions:

  • House Bill 1245 would increase housing options through lot splitting.
  • House Bill 1401 would streamline the permitting process for building a variety of home types.
  • House Bill 1402 would provide new ways for local governments to welcome more housing development.
  • House Bill 1633 would provide down payment assistance for heroic professions Washington state needs more of, including police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and nurses.
  • House Bill 2023 would create a new tax credit to incentivize landlords to voluntarily lower or freeze rents and produce more stable and affordable housing.

More House Republican perspectives on housing:

Learn more:

Bills passed by Democrats contributing to housing crisis
Increased the fees that the county auditor charges on the first page of each document recorded. At that time, it was $42. Multiple bills have added layers. As of July 1, 2021, the recording fee is $203.50.
Authorized a local board of health in 12 counties bordering Puget Sound to adopt and manage onsite sewage programs and to impose reasonable charges in an amount sufficient to pay for the actual costs of implementation of the program.
Imposed mandatory wildfire ignition resistant construction requirements when that code was previously an optional local code adoption.
Focused primarily with commercial buildings, which can include apartment buildings, directed the SBCC to require electric vehicle infrastructure in all new buildings.
Increased complexity by supplanting existing federal appliance standards with state-specific standards. For example: showerheads and toilets.
Prevented landlords from evicting or giving notice of eviction to tenants, regardless of payment status, with very limited exceptions. Prohibited landlords from assessing any fees related to non-payment of rent. Required landlords to engage in repayment plan negotiations with indigent tenants post-moratorium (later codified in Senate Bill 5160 in 2021). Resulted in mass landlord exodus from rental market and quickly resulted in spikes in rent prices to recover lost income by landlords due to the moratorium (and other) regulatory burdens. Ended October 31, 2021, but cost impacts persist.
Expanded the local government’s mandatory obligations towards identifying and addressing racially disparate impacts and displacement with proposed adoption of a variety of market controlling factors, including inclusionary zoning, community planning requirements, tenant protections, land disposition policies, and equitable development initiatives.
Set very limited parameters by which a landlord can evict a tenant. Discourages potential landlords from entering the market and adds additional risk and expense for current landlords.
Required county auditors to collect an additional $100 document recording surcharge fee for each document recorded. Fees will be used to fund various housing programs administered by Commerce, with very limited amounts (4% currently, down to 2% by July of 2023) being directed toward the Landlord Mitigation Program.
Required the SBCC to implement rules for residential R-3 occupancies by July 1, 2024, to require electric vehicle charging capability at all new buildings that provide on-site parking, in an amount that is the greater of at least one parking space, or 10% of parking spaces.
The Departments of Commerce, Ecology, Transportation, Health, Natural Resources, and Agriculture must adopt environmental justice implementation plans to engage with overburdened communities and vulnerable populations. Their policies must assist with the equitable distribution of environmental benefits, the reduction of environmental harms, and the identification and reduction of environmental and health disparities. These additional costs/considerations will appear in all contracts, grant awards, guidance manuals, and statutory implementation materials which will trickle down into planning, permitting, and infrastructure development requirements.
Modified requirements related to owner occupancy of property with accessory dwelling units. Allowed cities and counties to impose fees, impact fees, or taxes, or to waive such fees, to encourage the use of accessory dwelling units for long-term housing. Incentives can be offered that are linked to property owners agreeing to binding covenants that prevent usage as short-term rentals, among other less controversial changes. The governor’s partial veto removed some of the objectionable provisions.
Changed the vesting law so that now builders don’t know what law will apply when they go to build in specific situations. It can change from the time of site plan to the time of building.
Required Commerce to adopt energy management and benchmarking requirements for multifamily residential buildings more than 20,000 square feet by December 1, 2023, and required building owners to report compliance with the requirements by July 1, 2027. The penalty for noncompliance can be up to 30 cents per square foot.