Warnick bill to study rural housing needs receives Senate hearing

Addressing housing supply and costs continues to be a focal point for the Legislature. Although high-profile policies, such as reforms to housing provider-tenant law have recently been approved, there is still work needed to fix disparities between rural and urban development.

State Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, has sponsored bipartisan legislation that would uncover problems in state investment, Senate Bill 5375. The proposal would require the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) to find gaps and deliver a report to lawmakers by next year. A public hearing on the bill occurred today.

“There are a lot of tools we have at our disposal and this powerful one will show in a data-driven way what I believe are barriers to addressing housing costs in rural Washington,” said Warnick, who sits on the Senate’s housing-related committee. “We need serious reform of our state’s land-use planning laws and must fix where our dollars are being spent.”

Under Warnick’s legislation, JLARC would review:

  • the amount of publicly subsidized low-income housing developed in urban and rural counties between 2010 and 2020 compared to the demographics and populations of such counties;
  • any contributing factors that may impact differences in the amount of development in urban and rural counties; and
  • what funding sources have been provided to low-income housing projects built in urban and rural counties.

“Affordable housing is not just a problem in urban and suburban areas in western Washington. We have a real need in the communities I represent,” Warnick said. “I’m hopeful that this study will highlight those challenges for my colleagues so that we can ensure rural Washington gets the resources it needs when it comes to state investment in housing.”