2023 Legislative Agenda

The lack of affordable housing and affordable homeownership opportunities continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing Washington today. We’re working to make sure that housing choices are a priority in the 2023 legislature.

Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties strongly believes in a world where EVERYBODY has access to a safe, affordable and decent place to live — and with our agendas, we’re working tirelessly to make that a reality.

End Exclusionary Zoning

Washington State has a long and sordid history with exclusionary zoning. The use of race-based restrictions and redlining maps keeps Black, Indigenous, and people of color out of neighborhoods that were predominantly White, limits the affordability of housing and restricts the amount of homes available to these marginalized groups. Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties calls on the legislature to look to the examples of Oregon and Walla Walla and end the practice of exclusionary zoning in Washington State.

Increase Black Homeownership

The lowest homeownership rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States is that of Black people – currently, the average Black family in Seattle is 33% less likely to own their own home than a white family. The policies in place at the local, state, and federal governments have prohibited households of color from having equal access to homeownership, mortgage financing, neighborhood development, and many other possibilities, all of which are made easily available to White households. Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties urges the state legislature to eliminate the systematic bias that pervades American home financing, home buying, and exclusionary zoning regulations, which has kept generations of Black families from becoming homeowners.

Support Permanently Affordable Homeownership

While we drastically need more investment in affordable housing across the board, we also need to make deliberate investments in permanently affordable homeownership here in Washington State. The reality is the disparity between Washington State’s support for rental, shelter, and supportive services housing and Washington’s support for homeownership is roughly 20 to 1 in favor of rentals, shelter, and supportive services. That is a massive racial and economic equity issue, because it ensures developers build only rentals in communities of color, denying families opportunities to become homeowners and build equity. We at Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties strongly support the creation of new avenues of support for permanently affordable homeownership, because we need long term solutions to address this crisis.

Cost of Home Program Celebrates Three Years of Home Affordability Focusing Now on Black Homeownership Gap

On June 12, 2022, Habitat for Humanity International marked the third anniversary of its global Cost of Home (COH) campaign, a collaboration among more than 400 Habitat affiliates worldwide working to increase access to home affordability and stability through policy and system changes at all levels of government. In three short years, 6.1 million people’s lives have already been transformed.

Thanks to a grant from HFH International, Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas County’s COH has contributed to helping 1.6 million people who have or will benefit from the nearly $1.3 billion assessed for affordable housing across the housing spectrum in our region.

Habitat SKC’s Cost of Home program has generated nearly 10,000 letters to lawmakers from homeowners and advocates, published news stories and Op-Eds in local papers to support their work, hosted Governor Jay Inslee at a Seattle build site for a press event focused on funding for “missing middle” housing and homeownership policy, and worked diligently to extend state and city eviction moratoriums, as well as a range of other tenant protection provisions.

This year, Habitat for Humanity International will amplify the Cost of Home program by launching its Advancing Black Homeownership initiative.  Thanks to a recent, beyond generous donation from MacKenzie Scott, Habitat will apply COH tools to engage in policy and systems change for Black families. Currently, only 43.1% of Black Americans own homes, compared to 74.4% of white Americans – an historic 30% gap.

Habitat International will initially invest more than $25 million over the next three to five years — with a goal of raising $100 million or more — to develop and launch a slate of new programs, including an equitable commercial lending strategy and property acquisition fund through Habitat Mortgage Solutions, HFHs community development financial institution. These are substantive answers to some of the racial and systemic biases that have stymied Black access to homeownership for generations. The initiative’s programs will help end the social and economic disparity many Black people and communities of color continue to face. 

Habitat SKC has embraced and will continue to support efforts to grow homeownership opportunities for our Black communities. On the legislative front, Habitat SKC’s COH program succeeded in ending exclusionary neighborhood councils during the 2022 session. We are working to alter the Seattle land use code designation, increase city level growth targets and it has advanced conversation on exclusionary zoning statewide.

While Cost of Homes aims to tackle the unprecedented record shortage of affordable homes overall, the addition of the Advancing Black Homeownership initiative is a natural during June as National Homeownership Month and as we mark our country’s second Independence Day with Juneteenth. This advocacy work allows Habitat for Humanity to expand its work locally and internationally.

It’s more important than ever to celebrate the value that owning a home brings to families, communities, and neighborhoods. There is no better example than the families with whom Habitat partners. For these individuals, homeownership means safety, security, and a sense of belonging. On a grand scale, affordable homeownership creates a diverse and inclusive community and helps keep our workforce strong.

With inflation skyrocketing to a 40-year high, everyday Americans are struggling even more to balance the cost of housing and other necessities. Habitat’s Cost of Home program becomes even more critical in advocating to ensure that everyonehas a safe, decent, and affordable place to live.

Please thank your legislative leaders for doing so much so far by following this link: https://p2a.co/bBrgW6F

MacKenzie Scott Gifts $15M to Four Puget Sound Habitat for Humanity Affiliates, Part of a $436M Investment in Housing

Puget Sound, Washington (March 22, 2022) —American author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott gifted $436 million in unrestricted giving to Habitat for Humanity International and 83 U.S. Habitat affiliate organizations, including four in the Pacific Northwest. The Washington State investment totals $15M and will impact communities in Clallam, Pierce, King, Kittitas and Thurston Counties.

Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties CEO Brett D’Antonio says, “We’re extremely grateful for this investment in Habitat. This historic and generous donation will have an immeasurable, multi-generational impact for families in our communities and our region for many years to come. The gift will expand our resources to maintain housing affordability when building and restoring homes and help fund land acquisition and home construction.”

In a region where the home affordability gap continues to widen—where, according to the National Association of Home Builders, 75% of residents are priced out of homeownership at the current median home sale price—this transformational donation will substantially further Habitat’s vision of a world where everyone has equitable access to a safe, decent and affordable place to call home. 

South Puget Sound CEO Carly Colgan says, “We are honored and humbled by this unprecedented donation to our organization. This investment will help us increase our capacity and sustainability while growing our commitment to providing climate resilient affordable housing solutions. Ultimately, we will be able to serve more families in Thurston County, changing lives and bettering our community.”

In Washington State, 1 in 7 households are cost-burdened by housing, paying more than 50% of their income for a roof overhead and making it challenging to provide other essentials like groceries and medical care. Philanthropic gifts help Habitat affiliates keep entry-level homeownership a reality in our communities.  

Tacoma/Pierce County CEO Maureen Fife says, “To be recognized with a donation from Ms. Scott is truly humbling. Our organization’s staff and board have continually refined and elevated the work, led by vision and strategy, hard labor, and boundless compassion for our community. Our top priorities will be to increase our capacity to effectively provide lasting housing solutions and increased stability for local families and individuals.”

According to the Federal Reserve, the net worth of a homeowner is over 44 times greater than that of a renter; the median net worth of a homeowner is over $230K while the median net worth of a renter is $5,200. Habitat’s mission was founded on homeownership, knowing it is a critical driver to build generational wealth and a leading indicator of strong health and education outcomes.

Clallam County CEO Colleen Robinson says, “As a rural Habitat Affiliate to be recognized with this gift is incredible.  The impact of Ms. Scott’s donation to our community will be immediate and the investment will aid in our ongoing work to provide affordable housing to families across our rural communities. Our commitment to meaningful solutions to generational housing issues will be aided immeasurably by this significant gift, and we will use this funding to continue our mandate to build relationships and community through building and repairing homes for the people of Clallam County.” 

With the help of volunteers, donors and supporters, Habitat homeowners achieve the strength, stability, and independence they need to build a better life for themselves and for their families. This investment in affordable housing from Ms. Scott will greatly impact our region, as the Habitat affiliates in Clallam, Pierce, King, Kittitas, and Thurston Counties work to expand capacity, bringing people together and building a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

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About Habitat for HumanitySeattle-King and Kittitas Counties

Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King and Kittitas Counties is committed to building the region’s quality of life, health, and economic prosperity by producing, preserving, and advocating for affordable homeownership – because homes and families are the foundation of thriving communities. Habitat for Humanity brings people together as volunteers, homeowners, and community members to create strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter. To learn more visit www.habitatskc.org.

About Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity  
A neighborhood builder since 1985, Habitat for Humanity builds homes in Pierce County, partnering with families in need. As active participants in building a better future for themselves and their families, Habitat homebuyers make a minimal down payment and contribute sweat equity in building their home, then pay an affordable mortgage. To learn more, visit tpc-habitat.org.  

About South Puget Sound Habitat for Humanity (Thurston County)

South Puget Sound Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope. Founded in 1989, the organization works throughout Thurston County building affordable homes, providing critical home repairs and neighborhood revitalization. Habitat for Humanity provides families with the opportunity to transform their lives, gaining the strength, stability, and self-reliance they need to build a better future. To learn more, visit www.spshabitat.org.

About Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County

Housing is health care!  HFH Clallam County has built 36 homes since 1991 partnering with families so their dream of homeownership becomes a reality. We continue to seek opportunities to collaborate with local businesses, churches and other non-profits to serve our community in multiple ways; such as work-force training, home repair program to preserve our aging housing stock and aging in place to assist seniors to stay in their homes safely.  Habitat Clallam knows through shelter we empower. To learn more, go to www.habitatclallam.org.   

About Habitat for Humanity International
Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity found its earliest inspirations as a grassroots movement on an interracial community farm in south Georgia. Since its founding in 1976, the Christian housing organization has grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org.

Wrapping Up the 2022 Legislative Session: Wins and Next Steps

The 2022 legislative session has concluded and it’s time to take a moment to look at what we’ve accomplished. While this year’s session was short in length, it was long in activity. We helped to push more than 12 bills across the finish line and secured historic investments in affordable housing and homeownership.

Our volunteers sent more than 8,000 messages to lawmakers throughout the 60-day session – which is incredible! None of this would have happened without your support, so thank you for all you did this year to help advance affordable housing.

Some of the highlights from this session include:

  • Secured over $400 million in new affordable housing funding – bringing the full biennial budget to $700 million, including $25 million for affordable homeownership for the very first time.
  • Passed HB 1643 creating a REET exemption for the sale of property to nonprofits building affordable housing.
  • Passed HB 1738 raising the bond cap for the Washington State Housing Finance Commission – allowing them to continue their great work funding affordable housing projects across the state.
  • Passed HB 1769 ending Community Municipal Corporations – eliminating a barrier to the construction of affordable housing in some east side cities.
  • Passed SB 5755 creating a sales and use tax break for affordable housing construction in some mid-sized cities.

Yet, there is still much more to do and we look forward to working with you to continue to build momentum for important agenda items, such as:

  • Passing a bill to end exclusionary zoning across Washington State.
  • Reforming the Washington State Housing Trust Fund to deliver funds more efficiently and effectively for affordable housing of all types.
  • Expanding the work from SB 5755 to more cities across Washington – lowering the cost of affordable housing that we can pass along to the families we serve.
  • Reforming the rural Home Repair Loan Program to help families across rural Washington to stay in their homes.

Again, we couldn’t have done it without you or our champions in Olympia. Please join us by taking a moment to send a Thank You note to our friends in the state legislature via this link.

Thank you for making the victories from the 2022 session a reality and your commitment to standing with us at Habitat for Humanity SKC in our mission to build a world where everyone has an affordable place to call home.

If you have any questions on the upcoming legislative session or how to get involved in our advocacy work, please contact our Advocacy and Policy Director Ryan Donohue at ryan.donohue@habitatskc.org. To receive Advocacy text alerts sign up here.

How does housing affect children’s education? | Evidence Brief by Habitat International

The location and condition of a child’s house plays a significant role in their physical, cognitive and emotional development and well-being, which impacts their education through improved attendance, better cognitive and behavioral health, and improved academic achievement. Making direct connections between housing and its impact on children’s education is challenging. However, studies have drawn a pathway between owning a decent, affordable and stable home and experiencing positive educational outcomes.

Key factors for education-promoting housing​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

  • Stable home environments raise young children’s math and reading test scores, and affordable homeownership is a conduit for greater residential stability.
  • Removing hazards and providing homes that eliminate overcrowding leads to better physical and mental health, development and higher educational achievement for children.
  • Studies have demonstrated that families whose housing costs are subsidized and can choose which neighborhood to live in have children who attend schools with higher attendance rates, graduation rates, and reading and math proficiency rates, along with lower dropout and violence rates.

Key place-based barriers to improving racial disparities in education

  • Black and Hispanic/Latino populations are twice as likely to live in substandard housing as white populations. Substandard housing conditions, such as exposure to dampness, mold, toxic gases and lead hazards, increase the risk of adverse respiratory outcomes and lead poisoning, which can lead to more missed instructional days and lower academic performance.
  • Children of color are more likely to experience housing disruptions and changes in school attendance fueled by unsustainable housing costs when compared with their white peers.
  • Black and Hispanic/Latino students are disproportionately concentrated in low-performing school districts when compared with white and Asian-majority populations.