Dear Friends and Neighbors,
If you've spent anytime the last few years looking for housing in our region, you've likely come to the conclusion that current prices are, in a word, unprecedented. High home demand continues to drive the median price of buying a home to record-setting numbers. In some cases, housing prices in the Wenatchee Valley and Lake Chelan are more than double the cost of housing found in the Tri-Cities, Spokane or Yakima.
This problem is not only limited to our region. It's happening across Washington state. While some progress has been made towards addressing the housing crunch, the challenge for working professionals—many with young, growing families—continues to be affordability. Regulatory burdens and skyrocketing fees have caused many developers to turn away from new projects. What can be done to help?
Last year, I introduced House Bill 1938, which seeks to increase home affordability. Under my bill, some infrastructure costs of new construction would be offset with a 4.37 percent remittance on items like sidewalks, sewer systems, and gutters. Developers face many roadblocks. All of this infrastructure drives up the cost of building affordable housing. This bill takes an innovative approach to buying down the cost of housing units, so we can make homeownership or affordable rents a reality for those that could not attain it before.
The measure was recently passed in the Housing, Community Development and Veterans Committee. I will continue to keep you updated on its progress.
This session, the governor has proposed that $300 million be spent from the state's emergency fund to combat homelessness. The plan calls for 2,100 shelter beds and a substantial expansion of housing programs across the state. Unfortunately, as most government-provided solutions tend to do, I fear the money would do more to grow bureaucracy than help people.
Although it's admirable the governor has finally turned his attention to this important issue, increased spending is not the immediate answer. Homelessness is a far more complex issue than just providing housing. What about the millions that have been spent already? Are those programs truly transformative or are we creating a class of people who will remain dependent on the government indefinitely?
I'm not opposed to helping. Like many of you, I have a great deal of compassion for those suffering due to mental illness, drug addiction, loss of employment or any of the other reasons that lead to homelessness. Workable, real-world solutions need to be identified and put in place. But the governor's $300 million open checkbook is not the path forward.
As the ranking member of the House Education Committee, supporting locally-based middle and high school programs that provide academic and technical skills continues to be my focus. In past years, college-track incentives got most of the attention. That needs to change. Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs can help students who plan to work straight out of high school.
These programs are vital to educating and growing our workforce and economy. The money we invest today does not compare to the value of these programs. Stay-tuned. I will be providing information on conversations taking place in Olympia on this important topic in future updates.
Thank you for reading my legislative update. If you have questions or concerns about state government-related matters, feel free to contact my Olympia office. Better yet, if you plan to visit the state Capitol during the session, call my office. I'd be glad to meet with you!