Wash. needs 1M new housing units by 2044 to meet demand

Washington state needs to keep up the pace of new housing development if it is to meet the needs of its growing population in the next 20 years. According to a new growth management plan released by the Washington State Department of Commerce, the state as a whole will need over 1 million new housing units to meet demand, and King County alone will need 340,000 new units.

These housing figures are based on a recent population projection by the Office of Financial Management, and take into account the relative affordability of the homes that need to be built. Over half of the new homes will need to be affordable for people making less than 50% of area median income (AMI) — about $45,300 for a single person.

Additionally, the state will need to add 91,000 units of emergency housing including shelter beds and permanent supportive housing for those who do not have access to more stable long-term housing options.

In the last decade, Washington has added an average of about 35,000 housing units per year. To meet the upcoming demand, the state will have to increase that to around 55,000 units per year, for the next 20 years. King County will need to add about 17,000 units a year to meet demand in the area.

While more housing is necessary for the state’s growing population, greater access to funding for subsidized rentals and homeownership opportunities is also needed for Washington’s middle- and lower-income residents. Currently, about three in 10 households are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

In King County, the median price for a single-family home or townhouse is around $800,000. To meet the needs of its growing population, the county will need 60,000 shelter beds, 179,000 homes for people making less than 50% of AMI, and 95,000 homes for people making up to 120% of AMI, about $109,000 for a single person.

The population projection suggests that Seattle and Bellevue will both see significant growth in the coming decades. Based on the forecast, Seattle will need 112,000 new housing units and Bellevue will need around 35,000.

While these figures are significant, they are also based only on the “medium” projection for population growth in the state. If growth instead aligns with the highest projections, King County would need to add more than 600,000 housing units by 2044.

State leadership seems focused on how to meet this challenge. The governor’s office has already pushed for municipalities to allow more duplexes, fourplexes and six-plexes in single-family neighborhoods, while many cities are planning for increased moderate-density housing, such as more apartments and condominiums. The state certainly has a bustling future in store; the challenge is planning ahead for it.

Information for this article was pulled from 425Business and the Seattle Times.

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