Governor signs Hawkins’ bipartisan housing bill

bill sponsored by 12th District Sen. Brad Hawkins to assist local governments with affordable workforce housing was signed today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“Legislators have really struggled in recent years to identify revenue streams for housing, and this bill was challenging,” said Hawkins. “I’m grateful for the stakeholder support and excited it has cleared its final step to become law.”

The Senate originally approved the proposal 41-8 on Feb. 9. After the House of Representatives voted 68-28 on March 2 to pass an amended version of the bill, the Senate voted 43-6 on March 7 to concur, or agree, with the House’s changes, sending the proposal to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 5868 is not a new tax but would allow rural counties to utilize their existing 0.09 local-option sales tax dollars for workforce housing infrastructure or facilities.

Hawkins said SB 5868 provides a new tool to address the affordable housing crisis in Leavenworth, Chelan, Methow Valley and other communities throughout the state.

“Many critical employees are really struggling to live in some of our communities,” said Hawkins. “Areas like Leavenworth and Chelan are losing their workforce and gradually their sense of community over time. It’s a real problem for us and local governments need more options. I’m excited this bill will provide counties more flexibility with their revenues to address the issue.”

The bill is supported by many groups, including the city of Leavenworth, Chelan County, Chelan Valley Housing Trust, Upper Valley MEND, Wenatchee Valley Chamber, Confluence Health, Cascade Medical Center, TwispWorks, Washington Hospitality Association, and others.

To learn more about this bill, read this article or watch the Senate Housing and Local Government Committee hearing on the bill.

What supporters are saying:

“This bill will help Leavenworth take its first, significant steps to slow the loss of workforce housing which threatens the very soul of our community. I am very grateful to Sen. Hawkins for sponsoring this bill and understanding what is truly at stake for communities like ours!” Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea

“We are grateful for Sen. Hawkins’ tireless efforts on SB 5868, which will assist rural counties with the housing crisis. No area of the state is immune to our housing inventory shortage, and the impacts are far reaching – further crippling the hospitality industry and our ability to recruit and maintain a skilled workforce in rural areas. This new allowance will give an additional tool to local governments to make housing more affordable for our industry’s most valuable resource – our employees.” Julia Gorton, Washington Hospitality Association

“Upper Valley MEND is thrilled that Senate Bill 5868 was signed into law this week. The Leavenworth region is in desperate need of more housing for our local workforce. Funds made available by this bill will allow workforce housing to be built. We are grateful to Senator Hawkins for being a champion for workforce housing in Chelan County.” – Kaylin Bettinger, executive director of Upper Valley MEND/Share Community Land Trust

“Lack of workforce housing impacts the well-being and economic health of the communities we serve in many ways, including access to critical medical services.  Cascade Medical has struggled to recruit enough health care workforce to meet our communities’ needs, in part due to the lack of affordable housing in our region.  SB 5868 is an important first step in helping communities like ours begin to address the housing crisis.  I am grateful to Senator Hawkins for his hard work on the workforce housing bill and appreciate the Legislature’s vision in passing it.” – Diane Blake, chief executive officer of Cascade Medical Center

“The passage of Senate Bill 5868 will provide improved opportunities for counties across Washington. In Chelan County, we will leverage these dollars toward much needed workforce housing. I am pleased that Senator Hawkins sponsored the bill and the governor signed it into law. Our housing trusts and housing authorities will be able to leverage these funds to not only aid working families but also bolster the regional economy.” – Chelan County Commissioner Kevin Overbay

“Infrastructure to available land where attainable homes can be built is key to making progress on the housing crisis. This is a huge win for housing and we are extremely appreciative of Senator Hawkins’ efforts to expand the use of these funds.” – Rachael Goldie, executive director of Chelan Valley Housing Trust

“Chelan Valley Housing Trust is grateful for Senator Hawkin’s leadership sponsoring Senate Bill 5868. Senate Bill 5868 is a creative legislative piece that immediately advances the ongoing cumulative regional efforts and activities to provide workforce housing to local wage earners who provide important services in our local communities.” – Steven Wilkinson, incoming executive director of Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce