February 27, 2003
Affordable housing still GMA challenge
By TODD BENNETT
Not only is housing an intricate part of our local economy, but having an adequate supply of affordable housing strengthens families and communities and contributes to our overall quality of life.
Twelve years after the Growth Management Act’s (GMA) passage, the affordability goal has proven to be particularly challenging, especially in the Puget Sound region. The median home price in King County in 2001 was $244,000. And yet according to the 2002 King County Benchmark Report, a family earning the median household income of $61,400 could only afford a home priced at $214,000 or below, assuming these families could produce a sizeable down payment.
This creates an “affordability gap” of $30,000.
The disparity is even greater for first time homebuyers, who typically earn 80 percent of the median income. A first time homebuyer earning $49,000 in 2001 could afford a home priced at $162,000 or below, creating an affordability gap of more than $80,000. On balance, only 16 percent of all home sales in King County in 2001 were affordable to households earning 80 percent of the median income or less.
Clearly we have fallen short of achieving the GMA’s housing affordability goal. In order to address this issue, it is important to consider the many factors that impact the price of homes:
The homebuilding community is concerned about the combined effect of these factors on the overall affordability of homes. While there are steps government can take to provide assistance to families in need of housing, it is ultimately the private sector that provides a majority of the housing in our region.
Too many communities lack the supply of affordable and available housing needed to meet the high demand. The challenge is finding the right balance between the GMA’s housing affordability goal and the other important goals of the act, such as reducing sprawl and protecting the environment.
We need to balance these goals very carefully, protecting the natural environment that all of us enjoy while acknowledging the important role that housing plays in our communities.
To the extent that local jurisdictions can promote more efficient and predictable permitting processes, enact zoning laws that encourage innovative, affordable housing types and encourage infill development, including condominiums and other affordable housing, we can go a long way toward achieving the GMA’s housing affordability goal.
Achieving this goal is just as important today as it was when the law was enacted 12 years ago. The availability of affordable housing is critical to our local economy because a home is where a job goes at night. Furthermore, affordable housing helps build a sense of community and maintain a quality of life that we all enjoy.
Copyright ©2009 Seattle Daily Journal and DJC.COM.
Comments? Questions? Contact us.