Boosting Washington State’s Housing Trust Fund

April 29, 2019 | Mike Kingsella
Reading time: 3 min

The State of Washington’s Housing Trust Fund was formed to develop and preserve affordable housing for low-income and vulnerable Washingtonians. Dollars from this fund are accessed to support a wide range of projects, serving people earning up to 80% of Area Medium Income. However, most of the program funding supports those with special needs or incomes under 30% of AMI.

It’s a proven way to support more affordable housing to those who need it most. That’s why Up for Growth Action recently requested that Governor Jay Inslee include $175 million for the fund in the State Capital Budget. You can read the letter sent by Up for Growth Action and its Washington State Project by clicking here.

We are pleased to report that the Affordable Housing Trust Fund was indeed funded at the requested $175 million – a positive development for Washington and all who care about housing affordability and accessibility. It capped off a legislative session described by State Senator Guy Palumbo this way: “By any objective measure, the Legislature did a great job of addressing the housing crisis this session.”

Up for Growth Action recognizes that there is not a silver bullet for solving the housing crisis, whether that’s in Washington state or Washington, DC. Solutions must come in various forms. In many places, regulatory barriers like exclusionary zoning or poorly designed inclusionary housing policies contribute to both the housing shortage and rising rents. Aligning transit and housing priorities can also ease the housing burden.

The tax code can be leveraged to increase affordable housing units, too. Washington’s Multifamily Tax Exemption (MFTE) program creates thousands of affordable units across the state, which is why Up for Growth Action and its Washington State Project strongly supported its extension in the most recent legislative session. That legislation was championed by Senator Palumbo. We hope to revisit this legislation in next year’s legislative session.

However, in many places, direct investments in housing can pay dividends – both for the state and local communities, as well as the families who access the homes created by the funding. That’s why the Washington State Housing Trust Fund is such an important tool to help address the housing challenge.

Governor Inslee and the legislature deserve praise for their commitment to solving the state’s housing crisis. There is clearly more work to be done, however the committment of $175 million to the state’s Housing Trust Fund shows that leaders in the legislature are putting their money where their mouths are.