Washington REALTORS® Legislative Update

Capital Building in Olympia, Washington

 


 

For Washington REALTORS® the 2019 Legislative session was focused on our theme of “Unlocking the Door” to affordable homeownership opportunities (visit https://unlockthedoorwa.com/ for more information). Our goal was to have housing policy as the top policy issue that the legislature engaged on. As of this writing and based on the number and scope of bills, that goal is very likely to be achieved. There are nearly 20 pieces of legislation that have to do with housing policy that have made their way through various committees and obstacles and have been passed on either the House or Senate floor.

As those bills start their journey in the opposite house we are optimistic about many of them being signed into law—this is great news for first time homebuyers.

One of the big priorities for REALTORS® and other groups has been condominium liability reform. We believe that reforming condo liability laws in a way that still protects consumers is a big step towards encouraging the development of more condominium units that are in a price range that meets the demand for potential first-time homebuyers—a step on the housing ladder that has gotten more and more out of reach for average households in Washington.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) should be easier to build once this session ends. A bill going through the legislature mandates that all cities over a certain size adopt a model ADU ordinance, and encourages those cities that already have an ADU ordinance to update theirs to match that model. This will allow additional options for homeowners to add an income generating property, give them a spot to allow relatives to live, or age in place—a topic that deserves more discussion in our legislature.

Another bill mandates some avenues for cities who do not achieve their housing targets to add density—especially around transit areas. Also, there are bills that give additional funding and flexibility for cities to build and sustain affordable housing, bills that would expand rural broadband access (this is one interesting way to address our housing affordability crisis), continuing a tax exemption program for affordable rentals, dedicating a certain percentage of the housing trust fund to ownership projects and streamlining permit and development requirements.

Legislators and allies have responded very positively to the “Unlock the Door” campaign. This campaign has given us an opportunity to work with affordable housing and homelessness prevention groups. It has given us a positive, proactive message that every legislator has heard and hopefully, when the dust clears on the 2019 session, the results will speak for themselves.

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