We need housing solutions that will provide renters with immediate and long-lasting relief

The question is not if we have a housing crisis in Washington, but rather 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 and many renters are getting pushed out of their residences because of rent increases.

Washington continues to struggle with an affordable housing crisis, yet the Legislature is not passing smart policy that will make a real difference. The majority party is pushing House Bill 2114, which does not help those who need it the most. Capping rent increases and limiting move-in fees to one month’s rent might sound good on paper, but it ignores the reality of rising property taxes, insurance costs, and maintenance expenses. 

Due to an uncertain future, housing providers will be incentivized to consistently impose the maximum allowed rent increase of 7% each year. Over a three-year period, monthly rent will increase by more than 21%, which is significant. A manufactured home lot with a rent of $800 incurring a consistent 7% annual increase will see their rent increase to $1122 in five years, a 40% increase.

Rent control has a long and checkered history often leading to unintended consequences like black market for apartments, reduced quality of housing, and decreased mobility for tenants. HB-2114 is poised to repeat these mistakes, creating a bureaucratic nightmare, and exacerbating the very problems it aims to solve. 

Rent control discourages investment in affordable housing. HB-2114 sends a chilling message to developers, drying up the very investment we need to create more affordable housing options.  When rent control was enacted in St. Paul MN several years ago, the city saw an 80% reduction in new multi-family housing construction permits. The bill puts the small-scale investor into the same bracket as large corporations, creating the risk that small investors will sell their units, causing a larger housing shortage, and leaving tenants with fewer rental options.

The root causes of our housing crisis lie in limited supply, excessive regulations, and a history of policies that slowed our housing development to a crawl. Throwing a rent cap into the mix might provide temporary relief for some, but it wouldn’t address the underlying issues. We need comprehensive solutions that focus on creating more housing, a more robust workforce, and streamlining regulations, not knee-jerk reactions that ultimately hurt both the tenant and property owners.

If this bill becomes law, history shows that it will:

  • Decrease current housing supply, due to the sale of single-family rental homes.
  • Decrease new multi-family housing development.
  • Increase rents more consistently.

I know many people need help right now. The rental market is getting out of control, and too many people are being forced to choose between paying their rent or putting food on the table. House Bill 2114 would only provide temporary relief. Currently, rents are mostly increased intermittently, but a cap will encourage housing providers to take the increase consistently, which compounded will cause more harm than good in the long term.

Republicans have offered real solutions that would provide immediate relief and long-term stability.

House Bill 2033 would have created a rent relief incentive program through which housing providers would receive state property tax relief. The idea is a dollar-for-dollar match from the state for the income the housing provider would be giving up. It would have helped smaller housing providers struggling to maintain their properties without raising rents. Despite this being effective legislation, we didn’t run it because we were concerned it would be watered down by amendments that would have prevented it from making a real difference.

In the meantime, we introduced House Bill 2453, a solid bill that would have created a housing gap voucher program. This program would reduce the number of people overburdened from high rents by providing financial assistance to eligible individuals and families. It would also create a more equitable and accessible housing market, fostering stability and opportunity for Washington residents. This bill was never given a hearing.

Additionally, my legislation, House Bill 2008, would have created a legislative task force to analyze housing cost drivers, which would help us get to the root of the problem of the housing crisis by determining what factors are truly driving housing costs in Washington. We need to understand all the causes before we can resolve them. This bill had full bipartisan support in the Housing Committee but was not given high priority in the Appropriations Committee and never received a hearing or a vote.

We all know we have a housing crisis in Washington, and everyone wants to fix it. However, House Bill 2114 is not the answer. It will hurt Washington renters for years to come. It will slow new housing construction, force housing providers to put their properties on the market, which will decrease the number of rentals available, and increase the cost of housing, industry wide. I voted no on this bill because we need to pass solutions that will help renters now and in the future.

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

As printed in the Walla Walla Union-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