Washington Legislature’s Short Session Sweet for Affordable Housing

Washington’s short 2024 legislative session flew by and closed with some significant wins for affordable housing. As Advocacy Organizer Ethan Robinson suggests, “This session has been characterized by significant victories and promising developments, but it has also underscored the pressing need for bolder action to tackle housing insecurity in our communities.”

  • Habitat’s Advocacy team worked with legislators to pass a bill that added $18.25M to the Federal Housing Trust Fund (HTF) for Washington State.  That additional HUD funding – formerly at zero in the Governor’s budget – will provide  grants to produce and preserve affordable housing for extremely low- and very low-income households. 
  • In a direct allocation to Habitat for Humanity SKKC, legislators added $6M to the State’s budget for Habitat’s 5022 MLK development, the world’s largest single-building Habitat for Humanity project.
  • Legislators added funding to the budget that will implement the Black Home Initiative’s (BHI) top priority, funding the implementation of the Covenant Homeownership Account Program. Habitat advocates partnered with BHI to promote passage of this funding proviso that will work to address generations of discrimination that continues to have  long-lasting impacts on Black families to this very day.
  • With the passage of HB 2071, Habitat and other housing developers will be freed from stringent commercial zoning to add housing density with multiplex projects. The bill allows 6-plexes and below to be built to international residential code. This makes multiplex construction less costly because residential code is cheaper and easier to meet than commercial code.
  • HB 1998 legalized what is dubbed “Co-Living.” This is an opening to build micro unit apartments, another step toward providing shelter for very low-income people. 
  • Legislators exempted developers from a sales and use tax when they  want to convert commercial properties to residential properties. While SB 6175 doesn’t directly affect Habitat construction, it does set a precedent for a future comprehensive sales and use tax exemption that will reduce Habitat’s construction costs.  
  • In smaller moves, legislators opened new local funding paths for affordable housing like SB 6173, which allows counties to increase their tax exemptions on affordable housing projects from those serving homeowners below 60% of AMI to those below 80% of AMI.  And HB 1987 allows rural counties to use existing “public facilities sales and use taxes” to fund affordable housing projects up to 120% AMI.

Habitat’s Advocacy Team is already planning for the 2025 legislative session when they’ll take aim again at a comprehensive sales and use tax exemption for affordable housing.  And they will lobby for a revolving construction loan to help fund the production of affordable homeownership projects. 

This year’s legislative victories demonstrated lawmakers’ increasing sense of urgency for solving the housing crisis in our State.  And, as Ethan Robinson says, “We must keep pressure on our cities and counties, who are still in their comprehensive planning phases, to prioritize housing solutions and support increased capacity across the housing continuum.”

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