Regulatory reforms considered to improve housing affordability

There’s abundant evidence that Washington’s regulatory policies have played a role in the housing affordability challenges in metropolitan Seattle. We discussed them in posts on research into the Growth Management Act at 25, national research on urban containment regulations, and Canada’s restrictive land use policies. On one level, it’s textbook supply and demand: constrain supply as demand increases and prices go up. 

The Lens has a good story on a recent state House hearing examining ways to ease the housing affordability crisis. Measures to increase supply received a lot of attention.

Solutions to improve affordability was the topic of a recent state House committee work sessionthat included new types of co-housing that may require legislation to make it easier to obtain project financing. At the same time, regional building industry associations continue to tout accessory dwelling units (ADUs) as an effective way to increase the rental supply without taking up new land.

The GMA also comes in for another look.

In many ways we’re seeing a second step to the state’s historic Growth Management Act,” [Marco Lowe, political director for the Master Builders Association for King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS)] said. “The urban growth boundaries are holding, but now that the growth has continued in terms of job growth, the housing growth hasn’t kept up. More jobs, slow housing growth has created the prices we see today.”

But that’s not all.

Impact fees and other requirements can also make construction financially unworkable, he said.  “There’s no certainty.”

His testimony matched similar observations made by Senior Policy Advisor Emily Grossman for the Department of Commerce’s Community Services and Housing. She told panel members that local land use policy and additional regulations have contributed to the shortage by limiting the amount and type of housing constructed.

It’s an important conversation. Where regulation exacerbates problems and drives up costs, regulatory reform are inevitably going to be part of the solution. And the metro region desperately needs a solution, despite the recent market cooling.