Update on Housing

The price and availability of housing is having a seriously negative effect on residents in our communities, especially for residents who are earning low and middle incomes. Lack of housing also affects local businesses, especially in Leavenworth and the Manson/Chelan areas. Employers in these areas are unable to attract and retain employees because workers cannot find affordable housing within the community and do not wish to commute over a long distance, or they find that the public transit schedule doesn’t fit their work schedule.

There are many agencies and organizations working on the challenge of increasing the availability of affordable housing. Local governments have a key role to play as they have an array of regulatory tools that can be used to steer developers in the right direction.

Some of those tools have been bolstered by new bills passed during Washington state’s 2024 legislative session. Those include:

• HB 1987 allows rural counties to use existing “public facilities sales and use taxes” to fund affordable housing projects up to 120 percent of the area median income (AMI).
• HB 1998 legalized what are known as co-living spaces or micro-apartments. Advocates say this type of housing is ideal for people with very low incomes.
• HB 2375 adds detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to properties that qualify for the senior citizen and disabled person property tax exemption.
• SB 6173 authorizes cities to use revenue from sales and use taxes to fund the construction of housing that’s affordable to households earning up to 80 percent of the area median income (AMI).
• SB 6175 exempts developers from a sales and use tax if they convert commercial properties to residential properties.

But the 2024 Legislature did not address how to help local governments pay for the infrastructure necessary for new home developments.