NW REporter

Governor’s budget priorities include housing

Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget proposal for 2023-25 includes a referendum that would allow legislators to front-load $4 billion of housing construction over the next six years. The fast-track construction plan recognizes the need to create more than 1 million housing units “for households of all incomes” by 2044.

According to a recently released report highlighting the proposed budget and policies, the governor is proposing a statewide voter referendum as the “cornerstone of the governor’s 2023-25 housing and homelessness plan.” It would enable the state to raise $4 billion over the next six years by issuing bonds outside Washington’s debt limit. No tax or fee increases are included in the proposal.

The state had a housing deficit of 81,400 units as of 2021, according to the governor’s report.

The referendum, which requires approval by legislators and voters, anticipates adding around 5,300 units between 2023-25, plus 19,000 in the following three biennia. The underlying capital budget will fund approximately 2,200 units in 2023-25.

As part of the proposal, the governor calls for $1.3 billion in state capital and homelessness initiatives. His agenda has seven focus areas encompassing more than two dozen items with most of the spending allocated to the Commerce department:

Proposed investments for housing and homelessness (2023-25 biennial)

Focus Area# of ItemsAgencyAmount
Increase Housing Trust Fund and investment in affordable housing6Commerce$698,000,000
Accelerate creation of affordable housing5Commerce$270,000,000
Expedite permitting and increase capacity3Commerce, Ecology$37,259,000
Maintain current levels of housing and homelessness services7Commerce, WSDOT$296,800,000
Planning for housing supply2Commerce and local governments$21,400,000
Address homeownership disparities (with BIPOC homeownership organizations)1Commerce$5,000,000
Behavioral health housing supports2Health Care Authority, Commerce$23,600,000
TOTAL26$1,352,059,000

Within the focus area for accelerating the creation of affordable housing is $75 million for a new transit-oriented housing development partnership, $50 million for an affordable workforce housing accelerator pilot program, and $35 million for land acquisition for affordable housing.

The proposal also allocates $15 million for consolidated permit review and another $4 million to streamline permitting.

Noting Washington is fifth in the nation for under-production of housing, the authors of the report break down the types of homes needed to meet the expected demand of 1 million additional homes by 2044. More than half the allowance is for affordable housing for households under 50% of the area median income;

Types of homes needed:

Units for temporary emergency housing/shelter: 91,706

Units for extremely low-income households that also need support services (permanent supportive housing): 116,114

Units for low-income households at or below 50% area median income (AMI): 409,472

Units for households that earn greater than 50-100% AMI: 196,074

Units for households that earn more than 100% AMI: 379,937

TOTAL: 1,193,303

By early 2023, the Department of Commerce plans to publish data on projected housing needs for each county. This first-ever projection will include the anticipated needs for moderate, very low and extremely low-income households.

“The scale of Washington’s housing shortage and resulting homelessness can only be solved by speeding up construction of thousands more housing units – from emergency housing to multifamily developments and affordable housing,” the governor’s report states.

The governor’s 2023-25 budget proposals also outline plans for climate, salmon recovery, education, public safety, state workforce, and more.