September 13, 2018

Work Underway For Successful Implementation Of Surplus Lands Bill For Affordable Housing

By Ana Bonilla, Pacific Northwest State & Local Policy Fellow

Three months ago a bill was signed into law that allows local municipalities in Washington state to discount surplus lands for affordable housing. Municipalities across the state are already eager to use the new authority granted by HB 2382, the surplus lands bill.
 
Cities like Seattle, Spokane and Ellensburg, and even King County, are among a few of the many local jurisdictions that are considering how this new tool can help address their local affordable housing issues. Enterprise Community Partners in Seattle has partnered with several other local leaders to monitor the implementation and collect expertise on how to strengthen the statute. 
 
On August 15, Enterprise co-presented a webinar with the Association of Washington Cities, a policy counsel from the Washington State House of Representatives, and A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH) to a statewide audience. The webinar covered the nuts and bolts of the statute, provided an overview of Enterprise’s mapping tool to help stakeholders search for public and tax-exempt sites throughout King County, and brought in a local expert to talk about their experience developing surplus lands in East King County.
 
To cement this work further, Enterprise hosted on August 30 the first Surplus Lands Implementation work group. This work group, convened and facilitated by Enterprise, brings together diverse state-wide stakeholders and local know-how to identify ways in which the statute can be strengthened and clarified to encourage more cities to adopt this new authority. This group will also examine local cases studies and reach out to cities interested in utilizing this new tool to support them in addressing their affordable housing needs.
 
In the coming weeks, Enterprise will travel to Ellensburg to meet with elected leaders from the across the state to listen and offer support and guidance to cities interested in this new tool. In October, Enterprise will be part of a panel at the Housing Washington conference, sharing how the surplus lands bill advances affordable housing and how our local Home and Hope initiative integrates affordable housing and early learning.
 
The public lands statute presents a tremendous opportunity for municipalities across the state because it can be instrumental in helping to mitigate the increasing costs of producing affordable housing. Municipalities outside urban areas that are experiencing housing shortages but lack a local funding source or subsidy can also stand to substantially benefit. In short, HB 2382 can remove some of the financial barriers to building more affordable housing in the state.
 
At Enterprise we understand that this work is challenging, and that’s why we are helping provide support to municipalities that want to navigate this new and innovative tool as a means to meet their local housing needs. 

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