Nearly 400,000 Washington households pay over half their income on housing

New housing study from Affordable Housing Advisory Board is most comprehensive in a decade

Over 390,000 Washington households pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing expenses, Faith Li Pettis, chair of the Affordable Housing Advisory Board (AHAB), told the Legislature today.
“Since 2000, incomes in the state have declined by 2.4 percent but median rents have increased 7.8 percent in real dollars,” Pettis said. “Over the next five years, Washington’s population will grow, but most of that growth will be among low-income households.”
Pettis and Tedd Kelleher, a Department of Commerce managing director of housing programs, briefed the House Community Development and Tribal Affairs Committee on findings from the 2015 Washington State Housing Needs Assessment, the first comprehensive, statewide look at housing needs in more than a decade. The data will help the state, cities and counties, and private and nonprofit entities make the most effective policy and funding decisions to meet the state’s affordable housing needs.
Affordable housing covers a wide spectrum of housing needs, from emergency shelter and temporary housing for the lowest-income persons, to apartments and houses for individuals and families. Affordability varies by region, and the housing needs in large cities are far different from the needs in smaller, rural communities.
“We always knew that each community has a different set of housing challenges,” Pettis said. “Now we’ve quantified those housing needs county-by-county, region-by-region, so solutions can be more targeted and tailored to community needs.”

The study does not make specific recommendations, but provides a solid footing for making current and future policy decisions.
“We wanted to establish a baseline of housing data that everyone could agree on, and that we could measure progress against in coming years,” said Kim Herman, AHAB board member and director of the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.
AHAB, a Governor-appointed board composed of 22 stakeholder members, secured funding for the study from public and private partners, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Washington REALTORS®, the Building Industry Association of Washington, and Association of Washington Housing Authorities.
As lead funders of the study, Commerce has committed to partner with the Housing Finance Commission to ensure that the study, and subsequent versions of it, will continue to provide primary measures about meeting the state’s affordable housing needs.
“We value this collaboration among our public, nonprofit and private partners,” said Dan McConnon, Commerce Deputy Director. “The study builds a foundation for better affordable-housing data for years to come,” he added.
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