KING 5: New fee, loans aim to right ‘historic wrong’ of racist covenants in Washington state

“Owning a home is everybody’s dream,” Habitat SKKC homeowner LeChelle Lucas.

Hear more from Lucas during this KING 5 report on the implementation of HB 1474, which was recently signed into law. This law provides funding from the $100 homebuyer fee, establishing a covenant homeownership account and program to provide down payment and closing-costs assistance to first-time homebuyers who have been affected by the state’s discriminatory housing policies.

Visit the link to watch the full interview.

AHW: State Legislative Recap

Habitat SKKC, the Housing Development Consortium, and Tacoma-Pierce County Habitat for Humanity joined forces for a State Legislative Recap! This virtual panel discussion was moderated by Ross Reynolds from KUOW, featuring lawmakers who were essential to passing major housing legislation in this Year of Housing, including:

Representative Emily Alvarado
House Speaker Laurie Jinkins
Senator Yasmin Trudeau
Senator John Lovick

Tyler Town Welcomes New Habitat Homeowners

“For me, it’s about realizing the American Dream,” said Marian Hom as she accepted the keys to her new Habitat home at Tyler Town in North Bend. Along with her partner Tim Martin, and six other families, Marian’s dream came true on Saturday, April 15 at the Tyler Town Dedication ceremony. Just 18 months ago, Habitat for Humanity SKKC Board members, staff, and local North Bend officials broke ground at Tyler Town, which Habitat volunteers and the qualifying families then worked together to complete.

In this region where the median home price is $1.2 million, seven families whose dream of homeownership seemed unattainable, moved into their 1,250 sq. ft., three bedrooms, 1.5 bath homes with the promise of long-term financial stability, independence, and equity-building that homeownership provides. This was made possible through the generosity of the late George J. Krsak whose family who donated Tyler Town’s land to Habitat for Humanity three years ago. 

George J. Krsak grew up in the small town of Tyler, WA, outside Spokane, hence the Tyler Town name for Habitat’s development.  He and his wife Rita Horan raised their family on the values of commitment to community. At the Dedication Ceremony, George Krsak’s daughter Mimi reflected on her father’s life as the sixth of seven children in an immigrant farming family. “The people of the town of Tyler helped each other. They birthed their babies at home. They educated their children. They shared what food they had. They cared for the sick and they buried their dead.”

The bequest of the Krsak land has already infused Tyler Town with that spirit of community. Mimi Krsak went on to say “Our family is proud to share our heritage with these seven families. And we wish you joy and the peace that comes with family and neighborly solidarity. Stay together, love and forgive each other. Believe in the best for all as you have been given. Someday it will be your turn to give. May the circle of kinship ever increase.”

Krsak’s wish for the new homeowners in Tyler Town mirrors the hope Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties places into every home it builds. Habitat CEO Brett D’Antonio put it this way, “Tyler Town exemplifies what is possible with a real estate donation. By donating this land, the Krsak family transformed what was once a single-home property into homes for seven families who can now thrive and contribute to this area of high opportunity. A gift of real estate provides tax benefits to the donor, while helping transform the lives of local families with safe, decent, affordable housing.”

In conveying his deep gratitude to the Krsak family, Brett D’Antonio said, “Tyler Town is one of 14 projects Habitat has under construction or in the permitting stage, totaling more than 260 homes, from North Bend, to Burien, in Seattle, Renton, Ellensburg, Bothell, and Bellevue. The pipeline is a mix of family sized homes as well as one- and two-bedroom condos. Habitat staff members are working on several additional projects that will likely be announced by year’s end.”

At the Dedication, Habitat board member and North Bend resident, Jonathan Pearlstein expressed the reality of the work Habitat does, “We all hear and read a lot about the nationwide crisis of lack of affordable homes. We don’t have to travel anywhere to witness it. The crisis is right here in our town. Well, many of you here today have picked up hammers and struck your blows against the crisis right on this very site.”

Along with Pearlstein, the new homeowners were welcomed by North Bend’s mayor Bob McFarland who expressed pride in his community’s support for their new neighbors. U.S. Representative Kim Schrier praised Habitat for its commitment to providing affordable homeownership as “…the key to stability and safety.”

If you are interested in speaking with Habitat for Humanity SKKC about land donation, please contact Chief Development Officer Amy Farrier at 

WA State 2023 Legislative Session Favored Affordable Housing!

This year’s legislative session in Olympia featured significant activity to address the housing crisis, from both the affordability and supply perspectives. 

Habitat SKKC’s Chief Advocacy Officer, Ryan Donohue, worked closely with legislators throughout the session, and reported progress… with more to be done. Legislation that made its way to the Governor’s desk addressed elements that support Habitat efforts throughout the region by allowing for increased housing density by helping first time homebuyers financially and by providing that climate change be considered as housing access grows.

Legislators allocated over $400 million in affordable housing and affordable homeownership – this is a record level of state dollars invested in affordable housing. Among other areas, this year’s budget allocations support Transit Oriented Development (TOD), a focus for Habitat SKKC in the coming years. It also supported Affordable Homeownership at record levels, allocating $40 million specifically for competitively awarded funds for homeownership. That smashes the previous record of $25 million, set just last year!

There were policy wins too! Legislation that specifically supports affordable housing includes the much-discussed HB 1110 which changed zoning in Urban Growth Areas to allow for increased middle housing.  Middle housing includes townhomes, duplexes and multi-family dwellings, the housing types Habitat is developing region wide. Zoning changes in HB 1110 vary according to a city’s population, but we at Habitat will be able to build a duplex at minimum across King County, and a six-plex throughout almost all of Seattle! It’s a perfect example of how Habitat for Humanity is working on policy change to build more homes in more places all across Washington!

Another huge win was the passage of the Covenant Homeownership Account bill, or HB 1474. This bill, which was a priority agenda item for Habitat, works to address past racial harms that the state enforced using racial covenants on homes, blocking people of color from owning homes across much of Washington. It creates a Special Purpose Credit Program which will provide down payment and closing cost assistance to first time homebuyers who are at or below 100% AMI, descendants of a Washington State resident who resided here on or before the enactment of the FHA on April 11, 1968, and was or would have been excluded from homeownership by a racially restrictive real estate covenant. 

Another bill we at Habitat and other members of the affordable housing coalition focused on passing was HB 1250 which cleaned up the Home Rehab Loan Program (HRLP) by converting it from a loan to a grant program. And it changed eligibility for the program to include applicants at 80% AMI, 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, or 60% of state AMI, whichever is greater. This opens the eligibility for more homeowners to stay in their homes instead of having to start back at the beginning of the housing continuum. The new program takes effect July 1, 2023, and will convert all existing loans to grants.

We supported a wide range of legislation this year and saw much of it cross the finish line!

Other legislation that we supported and helped pass in this session favors housing affordability, development density, and supply. 

SB 5301 – Changes the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) to simplify the application process for first time homebuyers by adjusting the definition and timelines for loan applicants. The bill also requires comparison of the total project and per-unit costs to similar housing projects in the same geographic area. HTF awards must fund projects sufficiently to complete an applicant’s financing package, and the bill provides for no maximum on per-applicant awards.

HB1337 – Requires that cities allow the construction of ADUs . This must be implemented with the upcoming comprehensive plan updates.

SB 5258 – Creates a process for construction defect claims on condos to be addressed before lawsuits occur, making it easier to build more condos and provide more homeownership opportunities for people looking for something other than a traditional single family detached house.

SB 5142 – Exempts all residential projects in an Urban Growth Area from SEPA on the assumption that development regulations are satisfied, and the city/county has prepared an EIS for the proposed use or density in the area. And it includes analysis of multi-modal transportation impacts.

HB 1349 – Allows a referral to mediation on foreclosures until 90 days prior to the date of sale. It also requires that a trustee delay a foreclosure sale for at least 30 days upon receipt of written notice from the Homeowner Assistance Fund Program that a federal relief fund application has been submitted.

HB 1042 – Restricts cities from preventing residential conversions that increase density if they are constructed entirely within an existing building envelope and generally meet health and safety standards. Additionally, cities are prohibited from imposing parking requirements, extraordinary permitting, or design standard requirements beyond those generally applicable to residential development.

HB 1695 – Specifies that one can use surplus property for affordable homeownership. This means that the cost of the mortgage principal, interest, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, homeowner’s association fees, and land lease fees, do not exceed 38% of the household’s monthly income, and total household debt does not exceed 45% of the household’s monthly income.

SB 5290 – Establishes an abbreviation of permit review process times to 45 days for permits not needing public notice, 70 days for permits that need public notice and 120 days for those that need public notice and a public hearing. It does allow modification by local ordinance.

HB 1181 – Adds climate change and resiliency to goals of the Growth Management Act and requires that cities include it in their comprehensive plan. The Department of Commerce is mandated by this bill to create a model climate change and resilience element, and to publish guidelines that specify a set of actions counties and cities can access to reduce Green House Gas emissions and per capita Vehicle Miles Traveled by, among other things, adding density in housing supply.

HB 1326 – Authorizes city water and sewerage systems to establish programs that waive connection charges for properties owned or developed by, or on the behalf of, a nonprofit
organization, public development authority, housing authority, or local agency that provides emergency shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, or affordable housing.

Over the rest of the year, we will focus on the renewal of the Seattle Housing Levy, Comprehensive Plan updates in cities all across King and Kittitas Counties and preparing for the 2024 legislative session!

Be sure to sign up for Habitat Action Alerts by using the link here and stay up to date on all the efforts of the Habitat Advocacy Team as we work to build a world where everyone has a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home.