skip navigation

New Legislation Related to Affordable Housing

Lack of affordable housing is among the most pressing issues facing Washington State. A household is considered cost-burdened when 30% or more of its gross income is dedicated to housing. Statewide, over 51% of renters are cost-burdened and nearly 234,000 households are severely cost-burdened — or paying over 50% of income toward housing.  When the federal government’s proposed housing policies include dramatically cutting funding for affordable housing programs, the burden is increasingly on state and local governments to come up with solutions.

This past session, the legislature passed a handful of new laws intended to promote the development of affordable housing and to address the affordability crisis. This blog post briefly summarizes some of the new options available to local governments and developers.

Disposal of Surplus Government Property at a Discount for Affordable Housing: 3SHB 2382

Effective June 7 of this year, 3SHB 2382 enables state agencies and local governments to dispose of surplus property at no or low cost to developers to construct affordable housing.

Municipalities must typically receive fair market value for surplus properties. Allowing the sale of surplus property at a discounted rate will open up more land for development of affordable housing. In King County alone, the assessor has identified more than 300 county-owned properties larger than 20,000 sf within a quarter-mile of transit.

Allowing for Smaller Residences: HB 1085

In HB 1085, the legislature amended the state building code and related planning statutes to allow local governments to reduce the minimum dimensions of habitable spaces in single-family residential units below the standards set forth in the state building code.This bill is intended to enable the development of smaller, more affordable homes, sometimes called tiny homes.

RCW 19.27.060(2) now reads, in relevant part:

The legislative body of a county or city… may adopt amendments [to its local regulations implementing the state building code] that eliminate any minimum gross floor area requirement for single-family detached dwellings or that provide a minimum gross floor area requirement below the minimum performance standards and objectives contained in the state building code.

Exempting Emergency Housing from Impact Fees: SHB 2538

In SHB 2538, the legislature amended RCW 82.02.090(1) to exempt emergency housing for the homeless and domestic violence victims from any requirement to pay impact fees. State law already gives local governments the option to adopt exemptions from impact fees for non-emergency, low-income housing (subject to certain restrictions). See RCW 82.02.060(2)-(3).

Exempting Certain Property Intended for Low-Income Housing from Property Taxes: ESSB 5143

ESSB 5143 exempts real property owned by a nonprofit entity from state and local property taxes when that land is being used for developing or redeveloping low-income residential housing. In particular, this law extends the exemption to community land trusts where the land remains in the ownership of the nonprofit but is leased to low-income households.

Increased Funding Available for Affordable Housing and Homelessness: E2SHB 1570

In E2SHB 1570, the legislature made permanent the $40 recording fee surcharge intended to raise funds for homelessness and affordable housing. It also increased the surcharge amount to $62. A portion of the surcharge is provided to counties to put toward their homeless housing program and a portion goes to the state to be deposited in the Home Security Fund Account. The funds must be used for specific purposes, and data collection requirements and metrics are incorporated to determine whether the funds are addressing the homelessness problem.

The legislature also increased funding appropriated to the state’s Housing Trust Fund to $107 million in the capital budget — up from $72 million in the previous capital budget.

Additional Provisions

In addition to the laws summarized above, the legislature adopted provisions to protect tenants against source-of-income discrimination (HB 2578), among other actions to assist low-income and other vulnerable populations with regard to housing. These articles summarize some of these additional measures:


For more information on affordable housing, see the following:

Questions? Comments?

If you have a comment about this blog post, please contact me at or leave a comment below. If you have questions about this or other local government issues, please use our Ask MRSC form or call us at (206) 625-1300 or (800) 933-6772.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Jill Dvorkin

About Jill Dvorkin

Jill joined MRSC as a legal consultant in June 2016 after working for nine years as a civil deputy prosecuting attorney for Skagit County. At Skagit County, Jill advised the planning department on a wide variety of issues including permit processing and appeals, Growth Management Act (GMA) compliance, code enforcement, SEPA, legislative process, and public records. Jill was born and raised in Fargo, ND, then moved to Bellingham to attend college and experience a new part of the country (and mountains!). She earned a B.A. in Environmental Policy and Planning from Western Washington University and graduated with a J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law in 2003.