March 23, 2018

Affordable Housing Wins Big in Washington State’s 2018 Legislative Session

Less than three months into 2018, the Washington Legislature has already had an incredibly productive year. Like most states, Washington is experiencing an affordable housing crisis, but this year affordable housing advocates achieved some significant victories that would spur the production of new units, provide more tenant protections, and improve services for the homeless. In the short 60-day session that just concluded, the Washington legislature sent a package of bills to Governor Inslee’s desk that together will have a substantial impact on housing. Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest wins:

  • $106.8 million included in the Biennial Capital Budget for the Housing Trust Fund, which is expected to create 3,000 additional units of affordable housing.  The budget also includes $112.5 million for affordable housing and brownfields redevelopment, weatherization, community behavioral health facilities and predevelopment and feasibility work on innovative housing projects that use alternative materials, structures or parcels.
  • Legislation banning source of Income discrimination, which would prevent landlords from turning away prospective tenants based on their source of rent payment including federal vouchers and other subsidies. The bill includes funds for landlord risk mitigation (HB 2578).
  • An increase to the real estate document recording fee that funds homeless services, which is expected to generate $26 million in new funds (HB 1570).
  • Public lands legislation that requires the state to inventory underutilized and surplus property, creates a first-right-of-refusal for public agencies seeking to secure state land for affordable housing and related facilities that provide economic and social stability for low-income persons, and authorizes state and local entities to discount the price of land if it will be developed for a public benefit. This legislation will be instrumental in helping to mitigate the increasing costs of producing affordable housing throughout the State and will particularly help less-urban areas that are experiencing extreme housing shortages, but have no local source of subsidy (HB 2382).

Other Critical Wins from the 2018 Legislative Session
Thanks in large part to the momentum created by affordable housing advocates including Enterprise’s Pacific NW office, and with critical support from the legislature, there were many more housing victories:

  • HB 2444 codifies the real estate excise tax exemption for “year 15” transfers of LIHTC projects.
  • HB 2015 expands the tax on lodging to lodging premises with 59 or fewer units, including short-term rentals, and would generate $3-6 million per year for housing programs in King County.
  • HB 2667 removes barriers to housing assistance for seniors and people with disabilities.
  • Opposed SB 5955, which would have cut funding for the Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Act. The Act funds critical educational services and outcomes in early learning, K-12, and higher education for youths that are low-income, homeless, or in foster care, or other vulnerable populations. The bill ultimately failed and funding was successfully protected. 
  • SB 6560 makes it illegal to discharge a youth from a juvenile facility or foster care into homelessness and requires issuance of an identicard to facilitate access to public services and housing. 
  • HB 6371 increases the housing finance agency’s debt capacity and makes a broader range of public entities eligible for Housing Finance Commission loans.
  • HB 2538 exempts homeless and domestic violence shelter from impact fees.
  • HB 1085 provides local government the authority to modify minimum floor-space requirements to accommodate innovative forms of affordable housing.

The Work Continues in 2019
The work is only just getting started, and there is still much to be done in preparation for 2019. Enterprise’s Pacific Northwest market will continue to pursue unfinished work on a variety of efforts, such as: directing more funds to including innovation to use publicly-owned assets to provide affordable housing, expanding the options to link affordable housing and education services to increase economic mobility of residents, increasing permanent source for affordable housing to address the huge and widening affordability gap, reform of condo legislation to promote home-ownership for first-time and low income buyers housing, increasing bonding capacity, providing more incentives for affordable housing and creating flexibility for existing programs, including local options to address the unique needs of communities around the State. 

It has been a momentous year for Washingtonians, which was sorely needed given the severe housing shortages and affordability challenges in the State. 2018 is proving to be an exciting time for the affordable housing industry, setting the stage for another outstanding year in state and local policy. 

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