OLYMPIA - The Wenatchee Valley is known for being one of the more expensive places to live in eastern Washington but a local legislator aims to change that. 12th District State Rep. Mike Steele of Chelan says the “workforce housing” shortage has reached critical levels in many parts of his district, especially in Wenatchee.
“Wenatchee has a less than one percent vacancy. It's also a resort area. People from Seattle or the Puget Sound region may have the ability to buy half-million to a million dollar homes in our area, but it's driving up the costs for everyone else. Many working professionals in my district, who make a decent wage, are finding it virtually impossible to achieve the dream of homeownership,” said Steele.
Workforce housing is term that typically refers to housing for working professionals who make middle-class incomes. Steele says this group is being left behind.
“The median home cost is much higher in my district than it is in much of Eastern Washington,” noted Steele. “Workforce housing is a big challenge. We need a way to solve the shortage here and in many other parts of Washington state. My bill is one way we can do that.”
Steele's bill, House Bill 1938, would create a local infrastructure pilot project to help offset some of the costs of workforce housing projects. Housing developers could receive a remittance of 4.37 percent sales or use tax on their infrastructure construction costs, such as sidewalks, water, sewer systems, and gutters. Steele's bill would then require housing developers to pass that savings on to home buyers.
“By helping with some of the infrastructure costs, we can make housing construction projects more attractive and affordable for developers. In turn, this savings makes homeownership more affordable for young professionals in our region, many of whom have young, growing families,” added Steele.
Steele's bill has been referred to the House Committee on Housing, Community Development & Veterans. It is scheduled for a public hearing on Feb. 15 at 10 a.m.
The 105-day 2019 legislative session is scheduled to end April 28.