Working to lower the costs of home ownership

Housing costs aren’t an issue only in urban western Washington, as extremely low vacancy rates also mean a short supply of affordable housing in many eastern Washington cities.

State Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake has introduced legislation to boost affordable housing production east of the Cascade Mountains under a local infrastructure investment program. Senate Bill 6328, which has strong bipartisan support and was approved by the Senate Housing Affordability and Stability Committee, now awaits action by the Senate’s budget committee.

“We need to give local jurisdictions more tools to meet affordable housing needs in their communities,” said Warnick. “My proposal allows for local jurisdictions to create an options infrastructure program, not more taxes or mandates, to help build needed housing.”

A similar bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Steele, R-Chelan. House Bill 1938 would increase home affordability by creating a local infrastructure investment program to help offset some of the initial construction costs.

“We know there’s a problem in many areas of the state because of rising home prices. Even people making a decent wage like teachers, nurses, administrators and others are being priced out of the market,” said Steele. “It’s time to ask the question: What are some ways we can help lower the costs?”

Recently approved by the House Finance Committee, Steele’s bill would allow a 4.37 percent remittance of the state sales and use tax on things like sidewalks, sewer systems, gutters and other items to help lower the initial cost of purchasing a home.

The 12th District legislator says efforts like this—that help make the dream of home ownership a reality for working individuals and their families—need to be stepped up.

“Finding viable solutions to help close the gap between construction costs and what people can afford need to be prioritized. My bill does that,” continued Steele.

Under Warnick’s proposal cities and counties could apply for a remittance of the state portion of sales tax on the construction of affordable housing. The jurisdictions would need to adopt local policies creating the infrastructure program, which would be limited to designated revitalization districts. Localities that choose to move forward with the program could receive a remittance of up to 4.37 percent.

“Cities like Wenatchee have been doing a lot of great work to meet the housing needs of their residents, but there is more we can do at the state level,” Warnick said. “This legislation provides flexibility and incentives for middle-class Washingtonians to access affordable housing.”

The bill approved by the policy committee earlier this week also includes provisions that limit the program to jurisdictions of a certain population and raise the income threshold for families to qualify. Reports on the performance of the innovative program would be due to the Legislature from the Department of Revenue just before the June 2027 end of the application period.