Our nation, state, and county are currently in the midst of an affordable housing crisis with home ownership attainability slipping out of reach for many people.
A large factor in the price of a home is attributed to fees and regulations. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) estimates that an average of 25 percent of a home’s value is attributed to fees and regulations on a single family unit. NAHB also calculates that for every $1,000 increase in the cost of a home, 896 people are priced out of living in the Seattle/Bellevue/Tacoma region.
Creating a culture of collaboration is key. A coalition needs to be built between public and private entities to best tackle the housing affordability crisis. It is essential that city staff department directors are a part of this partnership to ensure the success of removing barriers which will subsequently lead to developing attainable housing units.
There are many innovative ways to approach zoning to make housing more attainable to all income levels. By loosening zoning regulations, allowing for more diverse types of housing, and getting creative with the types of housing that are incentivized, Tacoma can spur a much bigger impact on the attainable housing issue. The results of creative zoning would prove to be long-lasting.
Most everyone has heard the phrase, “If you build it, they will come,” and this is true for Tacoma: More housing and economic growth can spur the thriving economic development the City is looking for. However, getting projects built will take creative incentive packages offered by Tacoma. Incentives should include increasing building heights, decreasing parking requirements, decreasing permit fees, expediting review procedures, and tax abatement.
Finally, there is a concerted effort to modify programs in attempt to spur more development of affordable housing units throughout Tacoma, yet caution should be urged when the approach to renovate one program is to punish another. Units brought to market — even at market rate — are not a bad thing because when more units are available, cost is driven down. Programs that are producing housing units should not be punished in the midst of a national housing crisis where new units are desperately needed.
There is not a silver bullet solution to solving the housing crisis. Nonetheless, Tacoma can take major steps forward pursuing these measures because the city has great potential for development. In order to maximize that potential, Tacoma can explore removing regulations and red tape to attract developers seeking to do business here. Collaboration, predictability, timeliness, and reasonableness will spur attainable housing development in the city.
Jessie Gamble is the government affairs manager for the Master Builders Association of Pierce County (MBA Pierce). MBA Pierce represents 700 member companies who are industry professionals that work throughout Pierce County and are interested in promoting housing attainability.