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WA governor signs series of bills to address housing issues

This includes restrictions on single-family zoning, but some housing advocates say it won’t do enough to address affordability

On Monday, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed a series of bills into law that are designed to address the state’s housing issues, relating particularly to supply and housing affordability.

Included in the package is a bill that lifts the zoning restrictions on certain types of multifamily properties, called “middle housing,” in areas zoned for single-family housing. Another allows for easier accessory dwelling unit (ADU) permitting and construction within the state.

“This is one way we can expand a large amount of affordable housing,” Inslee said. “We need to house our growing population.”

An additional bill, House Bill 1474, is intended to “help people who were affected by racist housing covenants designed to keep ethnic and religious minorities out of certain neighborhoods, as well as their descendants, with down payments and closing costs,” according to the Seattle Times. Sponsors say it’s the first statewide bill of its kind.

The governor also signed House Bill 1074 into law, which requires landlords in the state to show documentation of damages when they withhold part of a renter’s security deposit after the tenant moves out.

“This session, our Legislature needed to go big so people can go home,” Inslee said. “And our Legislature, I’m happy to say, has gone big this year so people can go home. Congratulations to the state of Washington. I’m signing some great bills here today.”

But while Gov. Inslee is singing the bills’ praises, some housing advocates have expressed disappointment, stating some of the measures do not go far enough to address the root issues behind the affordability crisis.

“The Legislature had opportunities to do something about the massively unaffordable rents that are driving housing insecurity for so many people across the state,” Michele Thomas, director of policy and advocacy for the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, told the Seattle Times. “They completely turned their back on that.”

Other measures that were debated but that did not make it to a vote included a cap on rent increases and a requirement that landlords provide six months of notice to tenants before increasing rent by a certain percentage.

Rent stabilization also continues to remain at the forefront for some state legislators. Democratic Sen. Patty Kuderer, the chair of the Senate Housing Committee, told the Times that the slate of bills signed into law could increase the housing supply and lower costs. In the meantime, a program to limit rent increases should be considered, she said.

“I’m not talking about them not ever being able to increase the rent,” Kuderer said. “What I’m talking about is that it would be on a temporary, time-limited basis and tied to the housing inventory.”

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