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2024 session brings mixed results for housing costs in Washington

March 11, 2024

While Washington’s housing crisis continues to linger, this session brought mixed results for housing costs in Washington.

Residential home builders, members of the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), spent much of the 2024 session working to stave off costly new taxes, environmental policies, and labor measures—all of which add to the cost of homes in Washington.

“The cost of new homes in Washington runs more than $200,000 higher than the rest of the nation,” said BIAW Executive Vice President Greg Lane.  “Washington still needs to build thousands of new homes to meet the state’s demand. Yet legislators continued to reject opportunities to increase density, expand available land to build or reduce the cost of housing construction.”

Builders and others came together to fight one particularly egregious measure, HB 1589, until the House of Representatives finally approved it in the dark of night on the morning of March 5. The bill allows Puget Sound Energy to pass the costs of its decarbonization efforts onto its natural gas and electric customers through higher energy bills. It also allows them to stop serving natural gas customers, forcing homeowners to make costly conversions from natural gas to all-electric homes.

Mixed results for housing costs

Despite disappointments, the Legislature did approve a handful of BIAW’s priority bills:

  • SB 5792 eased rigorous condominium development rules to allow builders of multi-unit residential buildings/condos that are two stories or less with 12 or fewer units to add one story of above or below-ground parking or retail space. Status: Delivered to Governor.
  • After builders complained about the state Department of Labor and Industries notifying them of safety violations months after the alleged violation occurred, legislators approved SB 5980.  This bill improves the timeline for issuing safety violation citations so builders can fix potential problems sooner. This creates safer workplaces and helps eliminate unnecessary fines. Status: Delivered to Governor.
  • Builders and local planning professionals both voiced concerns over the imprecise and confusing maps used to develop the state’s Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) code. SB 6120 allows local governments more opportunity to weigh in on these maps to help ensure better land management and more opportunities to build. Status: Delivered to Governor.
  • Finally, builders applauded the passage of SB 6291, a measure streamlining the state building code council operating procedures and creating more certainty.

BIAW also worked to help defeat other anti-housing legislation:

  • An onerous property tax increase proposal (SB 5770)
  • Extending unemployment benefits for striking workers (HB 1893)
  • Another measure to increase real estate taxes (HB 2276).
  • Rent control (HB 2114).

Builder bills left on the table

Several bills promoted by the building industry to expand the workforce, create more opportunities for home ownership and reduce costs failed to pass through the Legislature.

These included:

  • HB 2035– Creating more opportunities for 16- and 17-year-olds in training programs to work on job sites.
  • HB2087– Limiting apprenticeship objections to create more opportunities in residential construction.
  • HB 2451– Increasing the consistency and transparency of impact fees.
  • SB 6285– Ensuring the timely and balanced use of impact fees.
  • HB 1468 – Modifying the requirements for impact fee deferrals.
  • HB 1245– Increasing housing options through lot splitting.
  • HB 2126– Authorizing accessory dwelling units in rural areas.
  • SB 6029– Authorizing counties planning under the Growth Management Act to allow detached accessory dwelling units outside of urban growth areas.
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