The Washington State Department of Commerce (DOC) will distribute nearly $5 million for the construction of affordable housing units as residents have seen rents increase steadily in the state since 2017.
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DOC announced that $5 million in Connecting Housing to Infrastructure Program (CHIP) grants will help expedite the construction of 1,102 affordable housing units in 12 counties. Local governments can use the funding to pay for water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure costs, and to waive connection fees for projects tied to affordable housing.
Tedd Kelleher, Housing Policy Director at the DOC’s Housing Division, discussed the need for affordable housing during a House Housing, Human Services & Veterans Committee meeting on Wednesday. He said Washington rents increased by 22% from 2017 to 2021. Median incomes increased by 19% during that time.
“The difference between 22% rent increases and 19% income increases is 3%, so you can see the mismatch in Washington, as a whole, between rents and incomes,” Kelleher said.
The COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role in the rent increases, Kelleher said.
“The unique circumstances of the pandemic resulted in rents growing faster than incomes in a way we haven’t seen recently,” Kelleher said. “There was a sudden increase in demand for rooms for remote work and school. People were interested in purchasing more housing than they were before the pandemic. There was a sudden demand for people who had the resources. Many people had a desire for more rooms.”
Another way the pandemic exacerbated the issue was related to the increased amount of residents working remotely, Kelleher said. Residents did not need to live near their job sites.
“There was an expansion of remote work, allowing many people to move away from high-income communities and into lower-income communities,” Kelleher said.
The CHIP program supports both rental and home-ownership opportunities, and has funded 54 projects with $41 million in 17 counties over the last year, supporting 4,700 affordable housing units.
Recipients of the latest round of DOH funding include:
- Airway Heights (Highland Village 1) – $55,844 for 40 affordable units
- Bellingham (Barkley Village) – $99,546 for 77 affordable units
- Everett (Four Corners) – $1 million for 430 affordable units
- Jefferson County (7th Haven) – $142,583 for 43 affordable units
- Kirkland (Horizon) – $1 million for 300 affordable units
- Raymond (Willapa Center) – $117,182 for 30 affordable units
- San Juan County (Lopez North) – $400,000 for 15 affordable units
- Tacoma (Lincoln) – $483,085 for 78 affordable units
- Tumwater (Talicum Townhomes) – $726,984 for 28 affordable units
- Vancouver (O Street) – $108,207 for 10 affordable units
- Winthrop (Cascade Meadows) – $100,000 for 22 affordable units
- Yakima (Justice Housing) – $764,998 for 29 affordable units