Slaying Houszilla: the two-headed monster of Washington’s housing crisis
January 2, 2024
Meet Houszilla: the two-headed monster attacking housing affordability in Washington. Despite historic success during the 2023 legislative session, homebuilders continue to battle the monster responsible for destroying the American Dream for thousands of Washington residents.
The Cost Cruncher head represents the hidden costs that drive up the prices of homes in Washington, while the Supply Snarler head represents the barriers to basic housing supply.
After years of unrestrained access to our housing market, Houszilla has ensured new homes in Washington are more than $200,000 higher than the rest of the nation. In the 2024 legislative session, BIAW will attack both Houszilla heads head-on (see what we did there?) and work to restrain the threats impacting housing costs and increase access to homeownership for the people of our state.
To slay the Cost Cruncher head, the legislature needs to address the financial strain hidden costs have on residents and builders by:
- Pulling the impact fee fangs. Impact fees are a blackhole of added costs, significantly affecting the price of new homes in Washington, adding up to $40,000 per home.
- Removing the rose-colored energy code glasses. The proposed energy code adds roughly $30,000 to the cost of a new home with gas appliances—and a minimum of $9,200 for homes with electric heat pumps. Let’s remove the rose-colored glasses. Stop pretending these changes will pay off in a reasonable timeframe and don’t price families out of housing access.
- Removing property theft horns. Jobsite theft and lack of accountability for property crime are adding more to the cost of new homes. Property crime is not a victimless crime.
- Smoothing workforce wrinkles. Builders need a workforce to build homes for our neighbors, young workers need better access to meaningful job opportunities in residential construction, and we need to iron out the mess that is Washington’s apprentice program.
- Break the citation delay chains. Delayed safety citations impact safety and job costs. L&I should notify builders of violations more quickly so we can correct them and keep our workers safe.
To take on the Supply Snarler head, the legislature needs to finish the job they started in 2023 by:
- Muzzling the lot-size snout. This can be accomplished by allowing a lot to be split once and up to six units on the new lot.
- Unplugging the ADU restriction ears. Allow detached ADUs in all areas of the state so that all our communities, including our rural neighborhoods, have housing options for workers, families, and others.
- Taming the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) mane. The current WUI denotes mostly urban growth areas as high fire risk, which reduces the amount of buildable land in the exact places we need to build homes.
- Poking other zoning restriction eyes out. Address underlying zoning to allow for transit-oriented development without other onerous requirements. Also, ensure density-first codes at the local level instead of working against the required zoning.
Help slay Houszilla: the two-headed monster
Here are four ways you can join the fight and help slay Houszilla: the two-headed monster:
- Receive calls to action by signing up for our text alerts by texting “BIAW” to 50457.
- Contact Managing Director of External Affairs Jan Himebaugh to receive invitations to our weekly legislative update calls.
- Register to attend our annual Builder Legislative Action Day and Hammers & Highballs Legislative Reception on Jan. 30.
- Watch the weekly Hammer & Nail for more ways to help and be involved!