FILE – Cyndy Jacobsen

Rep. Cyndy Jacobsen, R-25

(The Center Square) – Rep. Cyndy Jacobsen, R-Puyallup, has introduced a pair of bills into the Washington State House of Representatives addressing the state’s affordable housing shortage.

House Bill 1401 would let cities and counties adopt a simple, low-cost, expedited permit process for the development of single-family, duplex, triplex, or accessory dwelling units with less than 1,801 square feet per unit. The faster process is meant to lower costs and simplify the building of housing units for low- to moderate-income households in urban areas.

“We need legislation that gives more control to local governments and allows them to make permitting decisions based on their own needs and circumstances,” Jacobsen said in a news release. “This simple bill is a real solution to help pave the way for additional affordable housing options for the people of Washington.”

House Bill 1402 gives cities and counties the flexibility to adjust urban boundaries to include different and more land so developers and home builders have additional area to work with.

“There is a lot of usable property throughout our state that is not being developed for housing because of current planning statutes,” Jacobsen said. “The governor often talks about the need to free up more land for housing by removing government barriers, and that's exactly what these bills would do.”

The Growth Management Act, which requires cities and counties to develop comprehensive plans and development regulations for their communities, artificially restricts land use outside of urban boundaries.

“We have a housing shortage in Washington, and we aren't going to fix it all in a day,” Jacobsen stated. “But we can pass commonsense legislation that starts making a difference now. Both bipartisan bills would remove some of the obstacles to affordable housing and give more Washingtonians the opportunity to own a home.”

At least one member of the majority opposition party in the other chamber agrees.

“Housing affordability requires an all-of-the-above strategy,” said Sen. Sharon Shewmake, D-Bellingham, who counts affordable housing as one of her key issues, in an email to The Center Square. “Delays and additional costs from permitting drive up the price of homes and reduce supply.

She continued, “This has to be part of a strategy of opening up more land to housing, reforming zoning to allow for more multi-family housing, condo liability reform and building more subsidized housing for our most vulnerable community members.”

More than 25,000 people are living on the street or in emergency and transitional housing across the state, an 11% increase from 2020, according to the Washington State Department of Commerce.

Commerce says the state will need to construct one million new homes by 2044 to meet demand, with half needing to be subsidized housing that is affordable to low-income residents.

Housing and homelessness are major issues for the Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee during this year’s 105-day session.

In December, Inslee proposed a $70.4 billion 2023-25 operating budget emphasizing housing and homelessness.

Staff Reporter

Brett Davis reports on Washington state government for The Center Square. He previously worked for public policy organizations the Freedom Foundation and Washington Farm Bureau, as well as various community newspapers.