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Housing Crisis

The last twenty years, the ‘housing supply business’ failed to keep pace with its growth in Washington.  Our state is the eighth (8th) worst in the U.S. for production of homes. There is a need for us to build about 225,000 homes.  Our governor, per his budget and the legislators passed a statewide policy to allow a variety of middle housing types to be built.  This will supply more multiple housing units but does not address the need to build single housing demand.  I forecast that these middle housing multiple units will be built to be rented rather providing ownership.  Solving this crisis, which also impacts homelessness, requirers a long term commitment and collaboration between private, non-profit, and public organizations/companies.  Our governor needs to be innovative with leadership more by using a portion of the forecasted $15B budget surplus to offer tax credits, land trust low cost housing or in-state funding for private developer’s for home development.  This would offer the possibility to launch a housing transformation within our state and satisfy the ‘living’ needs of our citizens.  

The housing crisis is an urgent issue that our governor has not taken seriously.  His 2023-2025 housing units calls out only 5,000 housing units to be built and only 19,000 units the next six years.  The states Commerce Department estimates we will need between 20,000 and 71,000 housing units per year; just to keep up with future population growth.  Our governor has got to do better than that.  Instead of paying attention to his pet projects, he needs to address the housing crisis.  

We need to put together a council or committee of housing experts, service providers, home developers and other housing industry professionals and begin developing a plan to meet our housing needs.  The following subjects should be discussed:

1.  Sidestepping housing regulations.

2.  Streamlining planning, permitting, inspections and financing process.

3.  Reduce costs and complexity.

4.  Designate a staff member (s) to speed up the process.

5.  Have the state create pre-approved plans for different types of housing; single family homes, cottages, accessory dwelling units, one to four dwelling units to avoid local code reviews.

6.  Mass production of modular and prefab homes.

7.  Prioritize construction work force development.

8.  Review urban growth boundaries.

9.  Look at areas to rezone for building multiple dwelling units.

10. Create ways for renters to purchase homes via a’lease-to-own home’ or ‘rent-to-own’ program.

11  Use land trusts to build homes like they did in Winthrop, Washington.

The Homeless Problem

Homelessness has become a tragic part of our society more than ever.  Cities within our State have had a continuing increase of the homeless the last five years.  It is inhumane to to allow people to live in unsheltered areas around our cities and it is unfair for our city citizens to have to deal with the consequences of this problem.  Local government funding to combat the crisis has continued without showing any real progress.  Many of the reasons people become unhoused are the same factors affecting a broad swath of our population who can’t find affordable housing.  These are people who make the lowest wages within our communities.  Other causes are: disaffiliation,  drug use and mental health problems.  Some cities have helped the homeless by building low cost, barracks-style housing with a zero-tolerance policy about camping or tenting in public spaces.

Society has a responsibility to assist these people but these people have to help themselves out as well.  Alternatives and compassion that are goal- oriented is needed to solve this problem.  These people are not refugees, they are our fellow citizens who are propertyless, and have thus lost some rights for being so.

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