WA’s housing crisis requires bold reform. This bill would be transformative

Everyone needs a home. Washingtonians deserve an affordable place to live, work and raise a family — yet that dream is out of reach.

According to Washington Center for Real Estate Research, first-time home buyers can only afford homes in three Washington counties, all in Eastern Washington.

While the single-family home has been the iconic American starter home for decades, it is an outdated model that is no longer attainable to most first-time home buyers. In Seattle, a person must earn $170,000 annually to afford the median-priced home.

Washington is experiencing a housing shortage of more than 140,000 homes

To close this gap, we must triple the pace of construction.

That’s not possible under the status quo because most cities either restrict home construction to single-family homes or make it only feasible to construct single-family homes by requiring minimum lot sizes and setback requirements.

We need to close the housing gap by making it legal to build modest homes in cities where people want to live.

House Bill 1110 creates a statewide zoning floor by making it legal to build up to a fourplex on any residential lot in cities of 6,000 residents or greater. It also allows the construction of a sixplex if two of the units are affordable to those with incomes up to 80% of area median income.

This legislation also makes building up to sixplexes near transit legal, but would not override local higher density limits.

Additionally, HB 1110 requires cities to comply with the anti-displacement provisions of HB 1220 (which passed in 2021) so that people don’t have to move unnecessarily.

Middle housing makes the dream of home ownership real for far more families.

Owning a home is essential for broad-based economic prosperity, creating vibrant, livable and inclusive communities for everyone. More affordable homes build intergenerational wealth and reduce homelessness.

California and Oregon have already passed this bold reform — and bold, serious reforms like this are needed to solve our housing crisis. Business as usual and decades of local one-size-fits-all zoning got us here. The status quo isn’t working, and it’s time for a change.

Change that can help more families in Washington state own their first home.

Change that brings people closer to their jobs, spending less time-fighting traffic.

Change that’s better for our environment and helps reduce the homelessness crisis.

You can help make this change happen.

If you have a story to tell about your family’s struggle to find an affordable home to buy, please get in touch with us, and we will share it with our fellow lawmakers. Because your story is important — and every family needs a home.

Rep. Andrew Barkis, a Republican, represents the 2nd Legislative District. His personal knowledge, experience and leadership as a local business owner foster his priority to address the housing and homelessness crisis.

Rep. Jessica Bateman, a Democrat, works as a healthcare strategic advisor. She served on the Olympia City Council and Planning Commission before becoming a member of the House of Representatives.

As published in The News Tribune

State Representative Andrew Barkis, 2nd Legislative District
427A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7824 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000