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Top housing experts and legislators tackle challenge of shrinking supply of buildable lands and housing affordability at Master Builders Association’s 2014 Housing Summit

Housing affordability and the impact of the Puget Sound region’s dwindling supply of buildable land was the focus of the  Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’(MBA) 2014 Housing Summit, held yesterday in Bellevue.

Attracting 400 attendees, the Summit’s program, “Accommodating Housing Needs with Less Land,” included presentations by top national and regional housing experts and a panel discussion with state legislators and homebuilders.

“There is an explicit link between the availability of buildable lands and housing affordability,” said MBA Executive Director Shannon Affholter. “The Summit served as a starting point in a frank discussion about what’s working, and what’s not, in meeting the Growth Management Act housing targets and the region’s growing needs.”

 

A presentation by Todd Britsch, regional director for Metrostudy, Inc., a leading provider of research and analysis to the housing industry, underscored the immediate challenge to the buildable land supply: based on projected population growth, King County has 3.87 years of supply remaining of assumed total inventory, and only 3.29 years of supply in Snohomish County.

“We’re seeing lot prices absolutely skyrocket, and the numbers are staggering. It’s a long-term issue and we have to address it sooner rather than later,” he said. “And if we don’t, the Puget Sound region is going to become the next San Francisco Bay Area, where only the ‘elite of the elite’ can afford to own a home.”

Nancy Bainbridge Rogers, land use attorney at Cairncross & Hempelmann, noted that GMA-mandated Buildable Lands Reports generated periodically by counties don’t provide a full and accurate picture of future trends.

“The reports compare housing targets to the actual growth. The reports must determine whether sufficient land exists to accommodate population projections.  Unfortunately, the reports are not required to include a feasibility component or an assessment of affordability.”

A lively panel discussion focusing on legislative solutions included Senator Joe Fain (R) 47th District, from Auburn; Senator Marko Liias (D) 21st District, from Mukilteo; Representative Jay Rodne (R), 5th District, from Snoqualmie; and Representative Larry Springer (D), 45th District, from Kirkland. Other participants included homebuilders Mark Kaushagen of the Pulte Group and Lynn Eshleman from Pacific Ridge Homes.

Individual panel members cited specific action items that could advance the goals of housing availability and affordability, including:

  • couple housing demand with affordability in future planning
  • passage of a transportation package and infrastructure financing bill
  • comprehensive review of the Urban Growth Boundary and its possible expansion
  • require cities in King and Snohomish counties to do a planned action on remaining undeveloped lands to assess infill housing opportunities
  • eliminate redundancies in the review and permitting process, and establish a meaningful time limit in which permits can be outstanding.

Also attending the Summit were Kevin Kelly, chairman of the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) and Dr. David Crowe, the NAHB’s chief economist and senior vice-president, who presented a national perspective on land supply issues.

.About the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties:

The Master Builders Association is a trade association made up of approximately 2,700 member companies involved in the residential construction industry.  It is the nation’s oldest and largest local home building association affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders.

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