Rep. April Connors’ bill to help build affordable housing on public lands signed into law

Washington state could soon see the construction of more affordable housing units on public lands thanks to a new law sponsored by Rep. April Connors.   

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) owns more than 7,000 acres of “transition land” that it can’t use for timber harvests because of its proximity to existing development. It can also be challenging for the state to sell or use the land.

House Bill 2003, which was signed into law Wednesday afternoon, aims to encourage lessees of these public lands to build affordable housing units. It exempts them from the state’s 12.84% leasehold excise tax when they commit to renting or leasing the housing units to low- and moderate-income households.

The exemption will last the length of the lease if a lessee commits to maintaining affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families and leases the land for at least 20 years.

“As the state with the fewest number of housing units per household in the nation, Washington is in desperate need of more supply,” said Connors, R-Kennewick. “The high cost of housing is draining family budgets, pushing young workers out of state, and hurting our senior citizens. I am happy to see Republicans and Democrats recognize the urgency of our housing crisis and unite behind this commonsense, pro-housing policy.”

“When it comes to solving the housing crisis, we need to think outside the box. By incentivizing developers to build on state lands, we’re doing just that,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “Using our public lands for housing is a real and scalable solution that will not only help us ensure that families can find the housing they need but will also provide a new stream of revenue for schools and local services.”

“HB 2003 is a creative and innovative way to help ease the housing shortage,” said Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck. “The housing crisis is real and a big issue, and we need a lot more bills like HB 2003.”

Washington will need 1.1 million new homes over the next 20 years, according to the Washington State Department of Commerce.

House Bill 2003 is one of four bills Connors sponsored to improve housing policy during the 2023-24 biennium.

  • House Bill 1070 added an exemption to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) for residential leaseback agreements of up to three months. This bill was signed into law by the governor in April 2023.
  • House Bill 1633, also known as the “Home for Heroes” program, would have provided home down payment and closing cost assistance for critical workers like nurses, firefighters, law enforcement, military members, veterans, childcare providers, mental health professionals, and other first responders.  
  • House Bill 2158 would have amended the Growth Management Act (GMA) to allow cities and counties to expand urban growth area boundaries so that any parcel near a residential parcel with access to urban services could be developed for residential purposes.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov