Central Washington Sentinel | Sept 3, 2019 ~~~
There isn’t really any argument about what makes a house unaffordable.
It’s not labor, permitting, hookups or building material costs. Those costs are fixed within the target cost of a house. The real cost is the price of the land underneath the structure. “The Dreaded California” recognizes this, and however imperfect their approach is, it recognizes that higher housing density is a key answer to housing affordability.
We’ve shared several articles on the recently on this site about how regulation and unnecessary restrictions raise the cost of housing by as much as 55%, creating both social and racial inequities in housing markets throughout the United States.
Read Sentinel Post: Is America Finally Waking Up to Its Government Created Housing Crisis?
In Kittitas County we are seeing a movement towards a housing market where the wealthy can afford land in areas outside city/Urban Growth Area limits, and the rest of the worker bees will just have to live in subsidized housing units provided at the largesse (and the design capabilities – uhh-hunh!) of government planners.
How to make housing affordable, or at least attainable for a wage-earning family in Kittitas County? Ahhh, there is the question. There is a simple answer but it requires some explanation, so here goes…
The Growth Management Act requires that rural counties, through zoning and land-use restrictions, preserve “rural Character”. Yes, that’s really the term they use. Along with other terms that are virtually undefinable like ‘sprawl’ and ‘Agricultural Lands’.
Kittitas County has been saddled through a court-ordered definition of “rural character” with limiting new lot sizes in rural Kittitas County to lot sizes in excess of 5 acres. Note that legacy lots or lots created before the final order are exempt from this, thus the existence of “non-conforming lots”.
So really, Kittitas County is prevented from participating in any solution to the affordability of housing due to the artificially inflated cost of land. It’s that simple.
The answer is also simple. Automatically allow the creation of ADU’s – Accessory Dwelling Units – on any existing or future lot in Kittitas County. The catch? The GMA only allows for the creation of ADU’s in counties with a population in excess of 125,000 and the primary residences can not be rented or leased.
Granted, this only creates rental units, but affordable rents are part of the affordable housing question. Many younger families prefer to rent, deferring the cost and benefits of homeownership until later in their lives.
Does Kittitas County support ADU’s? Yes but there are a host of regulations and application barriers to contend with. Does Kittitas County have a streamlined permitting process for ADU’s? No, and maybe that would help. Would the presence of a rentable unit on an existing property aid in the ability of someone to afford a home in rural Kittitas County?
… You bet.
Your move, commissioners.