New growth management grants help Washington communities design a future with housing choices affordable to all income levels

Funding for housing action plans and transit-oriented development helps communities address years of underbuilding that left middle and lower-income residents priced out of housing as state’s population boomed.

2020 report tagged Washington state with one of the 10 worst housing shortages in the nation, underbuilding by over a quarter of a million homes over the prior 15 years. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies documented the nationwide housing shortage and potential economic impacts in its 2019 State of the Nation’s Housing.

As Washington’s economy boomed, many middle and lower-income people could no longer afford to live in or near the communities where they work. Rising rents are a primary contributor to homelessness and soaring prices have put single-family homes out of reach for many potential homebuyers. In addition, communities today suffer from a so-called “missing middle” — the lack of more diverse options such as duplexes, fourplexes, cottage courts and courtyard buildings that can be more affordable.

Photo of multi-family housing under construction

In Washington state, residential construction remained flat, while our population ballooned by over 1 million people since 2010.

To help communities grapple with this growing challenge, the Department of Commerce recently awarded $5.9 million in funding through two new growth management grant programs. Funding will support zoning changes to allow more housing and a greater variety of housing types, and help cities encourage developers to build smaller and more affordable housing.

“Housing continues to be a challenge in every part of our state. Population growth and underbuilding have limited affordable housing options for working families,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “The efforts supported by these grants will strengthen communities as they plan a future with vital, diverse neighborhoods offering good housing options for all.”

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