Most state residents can't afford a new home, building group says
Last updated 4/14/2022 at 1:28pm
TUMWATER — The majority of Washington residents are priced out of purchasing a new home, according to a report completed done by one of the largest home building organizations in America.
The Tumwater-based Building Industry Association of Washington, which represents 800 members, calculates that households need $130,409 of income to qualify for a mortgage in the state. Given Washington’s median household income is $73,775, that translates into 76% of households not being able to afford a median-priced new home.
“When we look at the housing affordability crisis in our state and nation, it’s easy to point to recent factors like supply chain disruptions or lumber prices,” organization President Joseph Irons said in a press release. “But the sad truth is there simply aren’t enough new homes available for people to purchase. That, coupled with decades of increasing layers of regulation and zoning restrictions, has slowly and steadily created the crisis we’re in today.”
Joseph’s contention is backed up by Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based think tank championing long-term solutions to the region’s challenges.
“Washington’s statewide tsunami of home price escalation demonstrates how housing shortages spill across city boundaries,” wrote Dan Bertolet, the organization’s director of housing and urbanism, in a September 2021. "And it follows that the solution hinges on enacting statewide standards to boost the production of homes.”
He went on to note, “The critical target for state-level action is to loosen the stranglehold of local zoning laws that ban anything but detached houses with big yards and driveways on roughly three quarters of the state’s residential land. These exclusionary rules kill affordability in two ways: they mandate the most expensive kind of home, and they severely constrict the number of homes in places where people want to live.”
During this year’s legislative session that concluded March 10, the associatio worked against what it characterized as anti-housing legislation that would have changed net-zero energy codes, implemented a net ecological gain standard in land use, added climate change considerations to the Growth Management Act and required more on-the-job ergonomics rules.
“Every $1,000 increase in the cost of building a new home now prices more than 2,182 people out of the market in Washington,” Joseph said. “We’re grateful to those who stood with us, both Republicans and Democrats, to make home ownership a priority.”
A fifth piece of legislation was touted by proponents as closing a loophole that allowed for growth in rural landscapes creating urban sprawl. It passed the Legislature this year.
The association said the law, first proposed as a bill 14 years ago, will increase land uncertainty for builders.
On the other hand, the association approved of the Legislature passing minor adjustments to the State Environmental Policy Act, a move the organization says will save builders time and money.
The group was disappointed legislation streamlining local permit process reviews, Senate Bill 5964, did not pass.
“The Building Industry Association of Washington looks forward to continuing to work with state lawmakers as well as local government leaders to provide guidance to address these problems,” Irons said. “We believe everyone deserves to be able to achieve the American dream of owning a home.”