State Rep. Jessica Bateman, D-Olympia, and Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent introduced legislation to make it easier for Washington families to find safe and affordable homes, especially in areas near transit sites.
The Homes for WA Act will re-legalize familiar housing options in these locations, like duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes, according to a Jan. 6 Washington State Senate Democrats news release. The 2022 legislative session begins Jan. 10 and goes for 60 days.
“Housing costs continue to skyrocket faster than wages can keep up,” Bateman said. “Families frequently spend half or more of their income simply to keep a roof over their heads. These costs are unsustainable and mean a growing number of Washingtonians are at risk of falling into homelessness. This is especially true for members of the Black and indigenous communities, people of color, the LGBTQ community, seniors, people with disabilities, and low-wage workers.”
The legislation (House Bill 1782 and Senate Bill 5670) is intended to expand middle-income housing near transit sites to provide options for residents seeking safer, shorter and more affordable commutes, according to the news release.
“I, like so many of our neighbors, am a renter who’s ready to buy a home but can’t afford what’s available,” Das said. “Here in our state – where so many of our community members want to live, work, go to school, and raise a family – there’s simply not enough affordable housing stock. This problem is hampering our ability to grow stronger as a state, bolster our economy, and help more working families unlock their dream of home ownership.
“I’m so honored to introduce this bill alongside my colleague Rep. Bateman and Gov. Jay Inslee because it’s well past time that we address this problem with the bold action Washingtonians have been advocating for.”
Middle-income families are frequently required to absorb increased commute costs as they are forced further away from their workplaces and transit hubs, according to the news release. Shortening commutes and increasing transit access will also reduce air pollution and help Washington meets its goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“We must restore the full range of housing available in cities throughout our state,” said Inslee, who requested the legislation. “Everyone needs a community, and so we must build communities that are for everyone. I’m not just talking about the homeless, or those living with the threat of homelessness. I’m also talking about future generations of renters, prospective home-owners, and any Washingtonians who will benefit from greater housing security.
“Increasing ‘middle housing’ opportunities will make it easier for most working folks, like teachers and health care workers, to live within the communities they serve. It will also help seniors to age in place and help us address spatial segregation and community equity.”
The bill is headed to the Local Government Committee in the House and Local Government & Housing Committee in the Senate.