Building industry battles two-headed monster blocking affordable housing as legislative session begins
January 8, 2024
OLYMPIA…The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) battles a two-headed monster blocking affordable housing this session.
The two heads represent hidden costs and constrained supply – both of which hinder the ability for the industry to build homes Washington families can afford.
“Washington has one of the highest median prices for new homes in America–$200,000 higher than the national average,” said BIAW President Jay Roberts of Cascade Custom Homes. “If we want to ensure families across Washington can enjoy the American Dream of owning a home, legislators need to help us identify and eliminate unnecessary and unpredictable hidden costs. They also need to make it easier to find land to build new homes.
“Unnecessary added costs and a lack of buildable lands in Washington combine in a deadly one-two punch that’s killing our housing market,” he said. “If the legislature really cares about housing affordability, they’ll support us in slaying the two-headed monster so more families can afford homes.”
Cutting hidden costs
Impact fee deferral and reform
Impact fees significantly affect the price of new homes in Washington. BIAW recently published a new report, Planning and Development in Washington Cities and Counties. In the report, counties reported charging anywhere from $5,400 to more than $35,000 per home in impact fees. The legislature should explore ways to reform impact fees to reduce the cost of new homes.
Energy code reform
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. BIAW has challenged the new code in court and will continue to fight any legislative efforts to ban natural gas.
Wildlife Urban Interface (WUI) code reform
The current WUI identifies mostly urban growth areas as high fire risk, which reduces the amount of buildable land in the exact places we need to build homes.
Addressing property theft at residential home-building sites
Jobsite theft and lack of accountability for property crime are adding more to the cost of new homes. Recent media reports detail how thieves are pillaging job sites and selling the stolen goods online. Property crime is not a victimless crime.
Expanding training for construction trades in all avenues, including apprenticeship
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. BIAW is supporting HB 2087 to improve the apprenticeship approval process.
Safety citation transparency
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.
Defining electrician/non-electrician allowed work
In some cases, Washington law prohibits contractors from performing some basic electrical work such as replacing light fixtures, switches, outlets, etc. unless they have an electrical contractor license. Homeowners may perform this work but not general contractors. BIAW wants to fix this.
Addressing supply constraints
BIAW supports HB 1245 that increases housing options by allowing property owners to split their lots.
Transit- oriented development
BIAW supports a transit-oriented bill that addresses underlying zoning to allow for such development without other onerous requirements.
Builders support ensuring density-first codes at local governments instead of working against the required zoning.
Allowing accessory dwelling units in all parts of the state
The legislature should 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.
Fighting the two-headed monster blocking affordable housing
BIAW publishes its legislative action list each week on its legislative action center. People can also sign up for text alerts by texting “BIAW” to 50457.
Throughout the year, BIAW regularly publishes new housing research at its Washington Center for Housing Studies, including:
- The Washington Housing Affordability Index
- Washington’s Housing Supply Shortage by County
- Cost of constructing new homes in Washington
- Real cost of regulations
- Cost of permitting delays
Check back frequently for the latest research and data on homebuilding in Washington state.
The Building Industry Association of Washington is the voice of the housing industry. The state’s largest trade association with nearly 8,000 member companies, BIAW promotes and protects the vitality of the building industry so more Washington families can enjoy the American Dream of owning a home. Learn more at: www.biaw.com
For media interviews, contact BIAW Communications Director Janelle Guthrie.