June 3, 2024
This Issues Topics:
2024 • Business Connections • Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce • Housing Market • June • Peter Abbarno

By Peter Abbarno
20th District Rep. R. Centralia

The month of June is National Homeownership Month and has historically highlighted the joys and benefits of owning a home. National Homeownership Month kicked off as a week-long celebration back in 1995 under President Bill Clinton. President Clinton wanted more Americans to feel the pride of owning a home. By 2002, President George W. Bush stretched it to a full month every June.

Homeownership is an essential part of building retirement equity, raising a family, and maintaining stability. Sadly, too many Washingtonians are finding this part of the American Dream to be unattainable. Washington state is more than 250,000 housing units below current need. Lewis County is approximately 2,700 housing units below its need based on population growth and building permit data.

According to the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), eighty-five percent (85%) of Lewis County families are unable to afford the median priced home in their community. The cost of site preparation and acquisition, delays in permitting, and over-regulation have contributed to a problem that has been getting worse for generations. For instance, the cost of regulations imposed by the Building Code Council have more than doubled in the past decade. Plus, every weekly permitting delay adds approximately $1,100 to the building cost of a new home. These costs all contribute to increasing home prices.

Additional layers of land use and building regulations continue to make homeownership difficult for many Washington families. For example, House Bill 1589 begins the phase-out of the use of natural gas for over 800,000 natural gas customers around the Puget Sound. This policy increases the cost of energy for all natural gas customers. BIAW estimates that it could cost homeowners upwards of $40,000 to convert from natural gas to electric. This policy is the wrong direction for new and existing homeowners.

Representative Peter Abbarno

This past legislative session, the Washington state Legislature passed some policies that could deliver relief to the housing crisis. Recent steps forward towards a healthier housing market include Substitute House Bill 1892, which created a Workforce Housing Accelerator Revolving Loan Fund Program (HLFP) to help develop housing for working families. House Bill 1987 provided for financing affordable workforce housing infrastructure or facilities, and land for such purposes, as an authorized use of revenue from the local sales and use tax for public facilities in rural counties. House Bill 2375 allows for a detached accessory dwelling unit (ADU), in addition to a primary residence, to qualify for the Senior Property Tax Exemption (SPTE).

There were other bills that would have streamlined the permitting process, reduced regulatory burdens, and incentivized home building at all levels. Unfortunately, many of those common-sense policies were ignored by the majority. For instance, House Bill 1401 would establish a low-cost, expedited permit process for single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes, and ADUs for low-income to moderate-income households. House Bill 1633 would provide down payment assistance for heroic professions Washington state needs more of, including police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and nurses. Service members and veterans of the armed forces are also eligible. The House majority refused to vote on these policies that would have a positive impact on housing construction and homeownership.

Despite past government-based failures to address housing needs, Washington has opportunities to turn this crisis around; but the state can’t do it alone. Public–private cooperation moving forward is essential to successfully address the housing crisis with our partners in the building industry. I will continue supporting policies that reduce barriers to residential construction and help create opportunities for every Washingtonian to achieve the American Dream of homeownership.

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Rep. Peter Abbarno represents the 20th Legislative District and is an attorney with Althauser Rayan Abbarno, LLP.

 

 

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