Washington State Has a Severe Housing Shortage. A New Report from Up for Growth Shows How to Solve It.

Washington State Has a Severe Housing Shortage. A New Report from Up for Growth Shows How to Solve It.

From 2000 – 2015, the state of Washington fell over 225,000 homes short of meeting its housing needs, or 7.5% of the state’s total 2015 housing stock. Washington’s shortage was the 8th-highest, according to Up for Growth’s Housing Underproduction in the U.S. report, which put the nationwide housing shortage at 7.3-million homes. Despite over a decade of economic expansion, Washington’s severe housing shortage has significant impacts on housing affordability, the environment, quality of life, homelessness, and future economic growth.

While the Housing Underproduction in Washington State found a shortage of homes accessible to people of all income ranges, the lack of housing production hits lower income Washingtonians the hardest. 181,000 units – or approximately 80% of the statewide shortage – are for families making less than 80% of area median income (AMI). While every county in the state is experiencing some level of cost-burdening (when a family spends more than 30% of their income on housing), it is a particular challenge in the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area. In 2017, 48% of Seattle metro renters were cost burdened. Counties in the Puget Sound Region are producing fewer houses than new households formed and creating more jobs than new units of housing – strong indicators that housing production is still not keeping up with economic and population growth.

Fortunately, the report identifies a way forward that would require less land, take cars off the road, boost economic growth, and increase state revenues. This “Accessible Growth” approach prioritizes building housing near transit and job-rich but housing-poor areas. Such an approach could be achieved by increasing and expanding funding for affordable housing, zoning reforms, regional planning and accountability, and public-private partnerships.

The report makes it clear that Washington is indeed experiencing a severe shortage of housing for people of all income levels. Solving it will require leadership and the state and local levels, as well as the private sector.

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