With the entire state facing a housing crisis, Washington should create a state Department of Housing, according to legislation by Rep. Melanie Morgan (D-Spanaway).
“It is said that education is important to a living wage, but without housing, it means nothing,” Morgan said. “I am asking this committee to support this effort for our children, for our future homeowners, and for the well-being of our state.”
Time and again, the state has expanded efforts to increase availability of housing, provided rental assistance, and built and funded more shelters for those experiencing homelessness. But the number of Washingtonians without a home of their own continues to climb.
House Bill 2270 has broad support in the House Democratic Caucus and passed out of the Housing Committee with a vote of 8-5 on Tuesday. If passed into law, it would set the state on a path to establishing the first state Department of Housing.
“It has been reported that 1.1 million units of housing is needed to end homelessness and increase homeownership. The intent of the proposal is to create a holistic approach to housing to achieve this goal so that we can improve our coordinated efforts using our state, local, and federal resources, and have a single voice on how we direct those resources in the most efficient manner,” Morgan said. “With a new department focused solely on housing and homelessness programs and services, we will go from a broad patchwork to a one-stop-shop.”
In 2021, there were more than 1,005 people in Pierce County in shelters, which only includes numbers reported by shelters, not those sleeping in cars, on the streets, or “couch-surfing” with friends or family members. The 2023 Point-In-Time Count in Pierce County showed that 36 percent of people who were homeless were women, 7 percent had children, and 41 percent were Black, Indigenous, or people of color.
The bill requires the Office of Financial Management to contract with an external consultant to study the transition of state housing programs to a new state agency, analyze existing state and federal funding streams for state housing programs, and submit a report to the Legislature and the Governor by July 1, 2025.
The bill now heads to the Appropriations Committee for consideration.