Affordable housing was the topic of discussion at the 2016 Housing Summit, an event hosted by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. The event’s key takeaway was that Washington is clearly suffering from a housing crisis.
According to Shannon Affholter, executive director of Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish counties, the state is having one of its richest economic growth periods to date. And yet, more and more residents are having trouble finding affordable housing. In the 2014-15 school year, over 35,000 Washington students in public P-12 schools were counted as homeless. That’s a 9.1 percent increase from 2013-14 and a 62.7 percent increase from 2009-10.
According to Gordon McHenry Jr, president and CEO of the nonprofit Solid Ground, some of the area’s homeless problems are deeply rooted in other issues like mothers fleeing from violent spouses. But some of the housing crisis comes down to the fact that it’s getting increasingly difficult for middle class families to buy a home.
“Traditional majors of affordability don’t really capture that access to housing, and I believe just getting a loan can be an impairment,” said John Deschamps, vice president of Washington Trust Bank.
Peter Orser, director of U.W. Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies, believes it’s just a matter of time until the Puget Sound region’s housing problems rise to that of San Francisco’s. In the meantime, families are buying homes outside of major metropolitan areas but close enough to freeways in order to commute in. Case in point, Marysville is the fastest growing city in Washington, according to the U.S. Census.
So what’s the solution? Well, it’s complicated.
The Master Builders Association is determined to work with elected officials to start solving some of these problems. They also have a call to action that includes increasing affordable workforce hosing near job centers, focusing on policy action on building land supply, and restoring and protecting vested development rights.
McHenry pointed out that problems like these are only solved when all hands are on deck.
“When you have homelessness, when you have people who are moving in and out, it really is an indictment on values like opportunity, prosperity, self-determination,” he said. “This issue has been with us for a long time. It cannot be solved unless all of us step up to the fray and work really hard with nonprofits, the business community, and with our elected officials to find long term solutions.”