We must work together on good legislation to improve Washington’s housing crisis

The question is not do we have a housing crisis in Washington. The question is how do we resolve it? Too many would-be buyers in the state have been priced out of the market because there are no housing options that fit within their budget.

We all recognize the need for real solutions to this crisis; and it is a crisis. Washington is producing the fewest housing units per household of any state in the country. From 2000 to 2015, the state did not build enough homes to keep up with the demand. According to one report (from Crosscut), builders should have constructed an additional 225,600 homes during that time.

There are several reasons for the housing shortage, including unnecessary regulatory costs and fees, permitting delays, overly restrictive zoning laws, and an antiquated Growth Management Act.

Every member of the state House of Representatives is aware we have a problem; so is the governor. But what are we doing about it? It’s time to move past partisan policies and work together on real solutions that solve problems for everyone involved.

As the top-ranking Republican on the Housing Committee, I assure you House Republicans are trying to eliminate barriers, so more Washingtonians can build and afford homes. House Democrats are also working on viable solutions. In fact, we have already introduced several bipartisan bills that would provide real relief to home buyers and more development opportunities for home builders.

  • House Bill 1293 would streamline regulations and the permitting process for housing development in urban growth areas.
  • House Bill 1401 would simplify 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 1245 would increase housing options through lot splitting.
  • House Bill 1110 would increase middle housing in areas traditionally dedicated to single-family detached housing.

Unfortunately, other bills introduced this session would have unintended negative consequences and continue to make housing more expensive.

  • House Bill 1388 would prohibit predatory residential rent practices and apply the Consumer Protection Act to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.
  • House Bill 1389 would prohibit, with certain exemptions, a landlord from increasing the rent for a tenancy subject to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act or the Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act during the first 12 months after a tenancy begins.

Despite claims these bills would help with our ongoing housing crisis, the truth is this legislation would hurt potential homebuyers and prevent more people from finding affordable housing.

What these bills would do is push many landlords to sell their properties and get out of the rental business altogether. Construction companies, developers, and the entire workforce would also lose because fewer people would be looking to build rental properties.

That would slow housing growth, meaning the shortage of affordable homes would get worse. Without enough homes to meet the demand, low-income Washingtonians would have even fewer options, which would exacerbate our homelessness crisis.

We can’t afford any more slowdowns in the building industry. What we need is to increase housing until we have an overabundance. Rent prices would correct themselves naturally because with more housing than necessary, demand would slow, and rent prices would decrease.

To get to the heart of the housing shortage and create real solutions, we need to reduce burdensome red tape that is stifling development. We need to cut regulations and expedite and streamline the permitting process. We need to empower the private sector because the public sector can’t solve our problems alone. We need to allow local jurisdictions more flexibility in zoning and development to provide new ways to increase more housing opportunities.

In short, we need to come together to find real bipartisan solutions to help everyone in Washington find affordable housing.

Rep. Mark Klicker, R-Walla Walla represents Washington’s 16th Legislative District.

As printed in the Prosser Record-Bulletin

State Representative Mark Klicker, 16th Legislative District
410 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7836 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000