Reader view: Who will benefit from House and Senate housing bills? Follow the money

Pending bills in the state Legislature (HB1110/SB 5190) would require Edmonds and many other cities to rezone to increase the number of housing units on every single-family lot within one-half mile of “rapid transit” or within one-half mile of an “amenity,” defined as a park or a public or private school.

On affordability:

On housing bill SB 5466:

We need more affordable housing for middle-income wage earners and for low-income residents (minimum wage earners and those on fixed incomes). But that’s not what this legislation is about, and that’s not who benefits. Who’s really behind it? These bills were heavily influenced by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), “a center-right think tank based in Washington DC” (Wikipedia) that advocates for “free markets”– “unleashed market forces,” opposes all governmental regulation, and urges preemption of all local regulation. It’s housing motto is “Right to Build.”   

In January 2023, AEI gave a presentation to the National Association of Home Builders Leadership, with a road map to eliminate all local government regulations and let free enterprise reign. The presentation is candid. It advocates Reagan-era “trickle-down” theory, but labels it “promotion of filtering down.” The theory is the more you build, the lower the prices will be.  AEI even included a “model” bill, that tracks closely with the language in HB 1110/SB 5190. Compare AEI’s  “Objective zoning standards … mean standards that do not require or allow personal or subjective judgment by a public official … do not discourage the development through unreasonable costs, fees, delays, or other requirements … ” Now look at  HB 1110, p.10, (4)(a) “Objective development and design standards do not require or allow personal or subjective judgment by a permit administrator. Objective development and design standards may not discourage the development of middle housing through unreasonable costs, fees, delays, or other requirements …” (The “Model” Bill, p.2 (j), – scroll down.) 

AEI claims this will be a boon to local government because it “generates more tax yields per acre.” But who really pays? Homeowners, because tax assessments are based on highest potential use of the land. The bills’ many supporters and lobbyists include the Master Builders Association, Amazon and Chambers of Commerce. 

Our legislature promotes itself as “liberal,” “green,” pro working class. This bill’s originator and the bills are the antithesis. This is free-reign capitalism for developers, realtors and financiers to make more bucks. The proponents of this legislation and the people of this state are being hood-winked. 

It’s not too late to voice your concerns. 

SB 5190:

— By Judy Bendich

Judy Bendich is a retired attorney who has worked on environmental and zoning issues in Seattle. She is now focused on educating voters statewide about the impacts of  proposed housing bills in the Washington State Legislature.

  1. Well, this confirms a suspicion. These bills just didn’t seem right from the beginning. I think our legislators were mislead. Thanks for publishing

  2. If these bills pass, property values, thus property taxes, will increase. Real estate tax assessments are based on potential, not actual, use of property. Seniors and others on fixed incomes who are financially strained by escalating property taxes and utilities taxes, could feel pressured to sell their homes. Livable, single family homes, whose values have risen dramatically, will be purchased by developers. Middle income wage earners will be unable to afford the now increased cost of a single family home on a single family lot. A domino effect could ensue with adjoining property owners selling their property to avoid being beside, or perhaps between, the now multiple dwellings. This is happening in Seattle.

    Why do Strom Peterson and Marko Liias support these bills? These housing bills flagrantly abuse local control of zoning ordinances, create no affordable housing for those who truly can’t afford housing, will raise property taxes, further degrade our valuable critical areas and environmental resources, stress our aging infrastructure, and push even middle income wage earners out of the running to buy what will be market rate homes.

    The AEI’s fingerprints are all over these bills. Mr. Peterson and Mr. Liias, please explain yourselves.

    1. Joan, don’t you think part of the goal is to force seniors out? And I’m not being flip. From the bigoted remark from a resident in the comment section of another MEN article, to the mocking and belittling on Twitter of seniors and disabled concerned about parking and mobility downtown, it’s pretty clear that long time residents/retirees are viewed as an enemy to a vision of “utopia” which includes street after street of multi-family dwellings and the increase in population which accompanies that view. Another clue to this hatred of seniors is a statement one resident said in response to anyone who dare disagree with her vision for Edmonds: we should all “move to browner pastures”. Increasing taxes is one sure fire way to reduce the number all those pesky Edmonds retirees stuffed into their single family homes.

      1. Annon,

        As you, I’ve seen an extraordinary amount of ageism in comments about the housing bills. Flippant, disrespectful comments implying that seniors are “privileged,” obstructing progress and taking up space that younger people are entitled to. Yet, as a senior myself, and having been involved in Edmonds politics since 2004, I know that many of our environmental activists, supporters of schools, champions of actual affordable housing, and otherwise engaged community members, are seniors. Those who are retired and on fixed incomes often have time to give back to their community in significant ways.

        However, my guess is that the goal of the bill is profit, for financiers, developers, realtors, construction companies, architecture and engineering firms. And the resulting increased property taxes will provide more money for our legislators to spend, supposedly on our behalf. A side benefit, for those who so thoughtlessly disdain seniors, is that seniors could be forced out of their homes.

        1. Joan,

          I couldn’t agree with you more. I am a pretty free market individual, but this is pure profit driven by lobbyists who are targeting high density high profit areas. Why build one home when you can build 120?

          The developers will argue vehemently that the new homeowners will pay for the necessary additional capacity for infrastructure, and that their development fees will cover the rest. That hasn’t really worked out all that well.

          This is a very successful lobbyists push…

    2. Excellent Reader View and Excellent Comments – very helpful and important information.

      The concept of “highest and best use for property” concerns me.

      I fear elimination of single-family zoning will allow for a property containing a single-family home to be taxed as if the property contains a multifamily building rather than the single family home actually on the property.

      The words “highest and best use for property” always jump off the page at me when I see them.

  3. Pretty shocking information. Who knows how to track lobbying money behind these bills? Typically, “follow the money” tells us who will benefit.

    However, it seems pretty obvious that developers will benefit. And I’m still waiting for evidence that forced density has a positive result for anyone else. There is no shortage of negative examples.

  4. Sad situation it is. Clearly Peterson and Liias are in lock step with our Governor. This has been coming for awhile now. I guess all we can do except not sell…Is wait until time for re election at the state level and simply change our Governor and all the rest of our legislatures. This is a large state and for once we may have to all Dem and Rep get together and get this reign of terror out once and for all for WA State. Selecting more moderate candidates. I believe this Socialism and a push to try to make WA state a Socialist State. I think people better think about this. Our Nation is not going to go that way. This is not going to help us if the Rep take office in 24. WA the wealthy who are left here will be the only ones to feed Inslees Ideals. This is serious very very serious.

  5. many in my SFH neighborhood who are young and not retired. Utopia is not a choice it is a result. Utopia cannot be reached while infighting continues. As a retired person I want people to know that there are many of us who could easily get a parking permit but we choose to not apply so we can help accommodate those who do need parking places. Elders care for elders all of the time. During covid some said in the news we saw around the country that they didn’t care if those 60 and over died! It was so saddening to see this. As we are the ones who raised many and paid for all of their fun and frolic. We weren’t perfect no doubt but I think mistakes made were with good hearts. This hatred must stop. Both of youth and of older age individuals. Also not to be flip either Annon the older hold the purse strings often here. We are the ones giving much and talking little about it. I know you are speaking against belittling of seniors and home owners. I thank you for this.

  6. This is a very thought provoking Reader View. Like many commenters I am concerned that seniors and retirees are being vilified. My husband and I have worked hard, we have a modest house, and we do not want to be taxed out of Edmonds. As Mr. Reidy states, the concept of “highest and best use” as a jumping off point from which to raise property taxes is very concerning. And please see below for what The Seattle Times had to say about one housing bill and taxes.

    It is significant that even The Seattle Times opposes this approach to housing policy: “Trouble is, the way the bill is written (HB 1110), there is only a token attempt to build any actual affordable housing. It is really intended to boost market-rate housing – the highest price developers can get someone to pay. And that could make property taxes go up for everyone else in the neighborhood, a county assessor confirms.”

    The Times editorialists add, “Well played, developers.”

    (This is from The Seattle Times, Jan. 27, 2023)

  7. Remember the next election for Governor of WA is in the fall of 2024. I hope Governor Inslee is paying attention to all the problems he is trying to cause. I will not vote for him if he continues with these Bills he is proposing.

  8. For many of us seniors our retirement income is not keeping up with raise prices and taxes. Many are now income challenged, spending more for housing expenses than what the formula suggest. Downsizing to senior friendly facilities is difficult. While income challenged, the tax relief programs are really not available for most. Reverse mortgage programs are not good options for most.

    The taxes on a $500,000 home are near $7000/yr. Many seniors would benefit from a deferred tax plan that would collect the taxes when their homes are finally sold. Living units, designed with seniors in mind would be good for Edmonds.

    We would do will to spend some time thinking about the development of senior friendly housing.

    1. Darrol, I appreciate your comment. Stating a real concern and providing constructive considerations. The community needs more of this if we are to tackle these complex issues regardless of House/Senate Bills that are on the floor. I agree, we need to spend some time on evaluating and collaborating on a variety of age in place options for seniors.

      1. Jeremy, thanks for the comment. Many seniors would like to age in place or at least stay in Edmonds. But where to build, what are the options that seniors want and need, how can seniors use their equity creatively to downsize. Not sure if the Housing Commission spent any time on this subject, but a good hearty discussion may create some useful ideas.

    2. Correction to the data about the taxes we pay. We pay $6.87/1000 so it would be a $1m home that would be paying about $7000/yr. Sorry for the confusion. Many of our seniors have homes that are at or over $1m as Assessed Value and for them the $7000 is about correct.

      1. True. But one month in an assisted living facilty is about 6,000. at a minimum. So do the math. If capable why spend 72,000. a year instead of 7,000. a year if you are able to take care of yourself.

  9. The basis for these bills originates with the dummies in DC. Our legislators are representing their ideology and not the people they were elected to represent. They are also using some unrealistic projections in population to justify the need for much more dense housing. For example it is being said that the population of Edmonds will grow by 14,000 by 2044 when it has only grown by 3,000 since 2000. They must be planning on making Edmonds a destination for illegal immigrants.

    1. Some population data over the years
      2000 was 39,515 2010 was 39,709 almost no growth in those 10 years. Then for 2020 we grew to 42,622. Those 10 years produced almost 3,000 added.

      The GMA target for 2035 is 45,550 or another 3,000 in the 15 years from 2020 to 2035. Given all the new housing along Hwy 99 and other already approve projects we are likely to exceed the 2035 target and be well along to achieve the target for 2044. I think that target is around 54,000???

      2022 to 2035, 13 years. Senior homeowners with 1 or 2 folks could well be out of their homes in those 13 years and even more in the 22 years to 2044. Those households will change for under 2 per to more likely 4. All this with no new buildings just remodels. All projects currently planned or under construction will be market rate and not aimed at filling the missing middle.

      If our council and mayor are successful in stopping the bills, then what do they propose to provide truly affordable housing? It will be interesting hear what they have to say on the subject during this election year!

      1. Election year says it all. Building into an inflationary cycle makes little to no sense. King County homeowners are being priced out of their homes by property tax increases. Same applies here. “Growth” is actually about expanding the revenue base for the collection of taxes. The “missing middle” is being squeezed hard with all the taxes, and many will leave. And many will sell homes to hedge funds and corporate developers for the high prices they now command. Over taxing the population (17% on water and sewer for example) in an inflationary cycle affords Cities the opportunity to have expensive visions. A healthy relationship between the population’s ability to pay taxes and prudent spending by Cities on basics ( police, fire, schools, streets and schools) is what is needed. Not more government visions and grand plans. This is about the money. Plain and simple.

        1. Yes it sure is Diane. I hope people will not sell their homes and will get help with their needs until we can perhaps find a more moderate and more environmentally friendly sort of Governor. If we hang tight its not that long until 24. No time at all really. But we need to find this person. Someone who is not extreme and takes all views into account. I find much hypocrisy in this legislature we have in Olympia and I hope the whole state rallies and says NO. This is WA state. We will preserve it. There are plenty of empty spots in the US. They are everywhere. Why do we have to run off the ones who care to bring in those who clearly do not care? I don’t get it?

  10. It’s illustrative that the housing that is proposed in these single-family zone busting bills are townhomes and multiplexes which will be terrible for seniors with multi levels and plenty of stairs. These bills truly are anti-senior citizen proposals.

  11. The Heritage Foundation, basically a sister of the American Enterprise Institute, says providing housing won’t solve the homelessness problem. So why are they pushing these bills? For the benefit of the building industry, realtors’ associations and anti-regulators. Certainly not for the benefit of Everyday Joe. Our reps have been duped.

    1. Yep. Our liberal representation in lockstep with conservative think tanks. Go figure. It’s not hard to figure out. The coffers get more taxes, the community gets dramatically changed. There’s nothing affordable about the zoning changes for the citizens…

      I don’t think the AEI is bad, I do think the voters who elected our State Representation should take note.

      1. George I would argue that allowing 4 plexs and 6 plexs in single family neighborhoods is exactly what Democrats or our elected representatives want it matches up perfectly with their DEI, ideology. I know those places won’t be much cheaper but it allows for people that would not otherwise be able to afford to live there to do so. I would agree that voters need to take a closer look at who they vote for.

        1. Careful of your generalizations. I am a Democrat, and I do NOT want 4 or 6 plexes in single family neighborhoods. Surely we do better if we resist categorizing each other and assigning “ideologies” to others that may well be wrong, broad-brushing and finger-pointing. Let’s argue the issues and stop pretending to know what others think. Generalizing and assigning blame is a poor way to convince the other person that you’re right.

  12. To me this is a bizarre situation we are in as residents of Edmonds. Everyone is jumping up and down about HB11110 which is truly a “draconian measure” as someone has correctly described it. And yet no one criticizes or places the blame on two of our local legislators that are the proponents behind these bills–I’m talking about Strom Peterson and Marko Liias. Even worse, rather than holding these two responsible for their actions, there are statements like “Our reps have been duped”. This is clearly not a true statement because I don’t believe anyone believes that these two are so stupid that they could be duped by a bunch of evil conservatives at the American Enterprise Institute. No–the blame is clearly on these two. And its not that these two have been secretive about their positions. As another letter to My Edmonds News referred to Liias “Who knew a single individual in a small geographic area could do so much damage to an entire state?”. Its time to wake up people or there won’t be an Edmonds left. This is not about political parties, it is about power and greed.

    1. You are right they haven’t been duped this is exactly what they want, we could have voted them out of office in the last election but we the voters were duped into thinking they had our best interests at heart or at least a large majority of us were. I guess it could be the majority of people want all these radical polices being pushed here in Washington really we have brought it on ourselves we elected these hacks.

    2. “This is not about political parties. It is about money and greed.” Exactly. Liias and Peterson have not been duped. But they have duped fellow democrats who suggest in comments that implementation of these bills will result in middle-income housing stock. Money and greed will ensure that only market-rate housing is created, and the market-rate will continue to escalate.

      Part of my comment on these bills to Liias and Peterson:

      Please explain yourselves. Why are you duping your liberal constituents into thinking that these bills will result in housing for the “missing middle”, whatever that is, and for heavens sake, “affordable” housing?

      If you don’t answer, I will continue to assume that you no longer represent your constituents because you have been bought by corporate interests.

  13. SB 5190
    HB 1110

    SB 5190 (2/8/23) requires: “A city with a population of at least 25,000 but less than 75,000 must include authorization for at least: two units per lot on all lots zoned for predominately residential use; four units per lot in all lots zoned for predominately residential use, if at least one unit is affordable housing; and four units per lot in all lots zoned for predominately residential use within one-half mile of a major transit stop or community amenity.”
    “A city with a population of at least 75,000, or any city located within a contiguous urban growth area with a city population above 200,000, must include authorization for at least: four units per lot on all lots zoned for predominately residential use; six units per lot on all lots zoned predominately for residential use, if at least two of the units are affordable housing; and six units per lot on all lots zoned predominately for residential use within one-half mile of a major transit stop or community amenity.”
    If a middle housing bill passes legislature, the State will mandate housing.

    1. These horrible bills that they are trying to force on us will eliminate the character of our neighborhoods with cookie cutter buildings that all look the same, while clear cutting our trees and eliminating yards. This isn’t about building homes that people can actually afford, it’s all about the developer/real estate industries’ greed. I guess we’ll have to drive up to the gates of the privileged neighborhoods if we ever want to see any trees, as I seriously doubt the politicians will take away their covenants that protect what kind of single family homes they can build. I agree with other commenters’ views that this is also about pushing out seniors who won’t be able to keep up with the rising property taxes. Where will they go? Small small town that won’t be affected by these bills, that is away from the services a bigger city provides? Some small town they don’t want to live in?

    2. Nathaniel well I am a Republican and am also against it but some are trying to put the blame on right wing lobbyists. This DEI framework/ideology probably started in the 60s with some college classes and now has become mainstream in Democrat run government from the city we have our own DEI administrator to the federal level where I just heard all agencies will now be required to have a DEI program. I would be happy for someone to tell me why the push for these bills isn’t because of this DEI ideology because my feeble little mind sees no other reasoning.

      1. Mr. Fairchild,

        As Douglas Swartz said “This is not about political parties, it is about power and greed.”

        This is free market ideology. The result of proposed up-zoning will be market-rate housing. NO truly affordable housing will be created, because the legislature has defined “low income” as 80% or less of adjusted median income. The median income for Snohomish County is $115,000/year. See my Reader View:

        The Dems are using DEI to garner votes for these bills, and are convincing many Dem constituents to support it. The fact is, these bills are anti-DEI, because they would result in further gentrification of our communities. And they are ageist, because they would pressure seniors (and others on fixed incomes) to sell their homes to developers.

        As always, all you have to do is follow the (corporate) money. That’s what our representatives are doing.

        1. Joan I agree everything is about the money but if I look up the 2 people listed first as sponsors would lead me to believe they were involved in the writing of them. Looking at their own information they both state equity in their about information they both went to the same and in my opinion the most left leaning college. I know it doesn’t have anything to do with low income, equity doesn’t have to just benefit those with poverty level income the idea is to provide more options at a lesser price into more affluent single family neighborhoods. We could solve all our housing needs with apartment complexes just along our major transit highways but where is the equity in that? So I have to respectfully disagree that this isn’t about equity this is just a way to deliver equity and still make money..

  14. We don’t have middle class housing for the simple reason that we don’t really have much of a middle class anymore. Our tax system since JFK has been steadily going regressive with that trend really taking off with Reagan and trickle down economics. Rich people in both major parties run this nation for the greater benefit of their fellow rich people. (No one in the U.S. Senate is strapped for cash). Our young people come out of our higher education institutions owing vast sums of money on loans they will often never pay off. A low income starter home that used to cost $30,000 now costs at least $200,000 almost anywhere in the country. Most of our common jobs don’t allow for two $3000/mo. payments plus a possible car payment. We pay the two bit Mayor of a small town over $120,000+ a year and our (critical for success) teachers $70,000 and routinely insult them in the process. Everything is backwards and upside down as to how it should be. These proposed de-zoning laws are a crock of B.S. and won’t do anything for middle class housing.

  15. Remember the mayor with his diversity equity and inclusion narrative well it is not just him it is in city, county, state and federal government. The purpose of these bills is a push for equity within the DEI framework it is the left wing narrative which by all decisions must be made. It is only a bonus that it creates a environment for greater construction.

  16. The Growth Management Act was really born out of the perceived need to stop rampant urban sprawl into rural, mostly farm, orchard, and forested type available land. People living in the Skagit Valley area did not want their home area transformed into another Kent Valley where farms and orchards were destroyed in favor of industry and housing, for example. GMA has worked pretty well at accomplishing this goal, which brings us to now; when developers are rapidly running out of available development land in the areas defined as available and advantageous for growth. In Edmonds builders have picked off most of the small cottage type housing at a pretty hefty cost so have had to build very expensive and large homes on relatively small lots to come out on their investments. That well of opportunity has been largely tapped; so the next tactic is to go after dirt that is already owned but being used as green space and parking.

  17. Interesting you should mention parking. I’ve been in Edmonds twice this week trying to pick up a piece of work that was done for me, only to return home because I couldn’t find parking close enough for me to manage the distance. There are too many cars for Edmonds to handle already, and with more apartment/condo buildings, there will be still less parking.

    Not to mention the people who ignore the stirpes marking parking places and straddle two spots. Can these perhaps be painted more prominently? Could the parking monitor deliver reminders?

    1. Parking enforcement obviously has been given a lower priority as I haven’t seen any enforcement in several months.

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