It’s Time to Close the Housing Gap in Clark County – and We Need to Close it Fast
Posted May 2, 2022 in Special Features
Like many other places in the country, Clark County is wrestling the effects of a white-hot real estate market – the good and the bad. According to RMLS, when comparing 2022 to 2021 through March, the median sale price in Clark County has increased 18.7% from $431,400 to $512,200. We are currently hovering at two weeks’ worth of inventory, and the average total time on the market has decreased to 16 days.
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING HERE?
A variety of factors are influencing the market, including rising interest rates, building materials inflation, remote work relocation, increased building code requirements, fees, and most critically, years of underproduction of housing in Washington State. Michael Wilkerson Ph. D with ECONorthwest recently gave a presentation to the Vancouver City Council on March 28th which spotlighted why Washington State is in such a housing inventory deficit.
ECONorthwest’s “Redefining Economic Success in Washington State: 3 Keys to Quality Growth” is a comprehensive business competitiveness analysis that looks at three key areas that the State should focus on to improve the business climate. The report’s number one key was housing. It states as follows:
1. Washington State has the fewest number of housing units per household of any state in the country. We have chronically underproduced housing units in this state and recent demand has made this clear.
2. Washington State would need to build 190,000 housing units to achieve the national ratio of 1.14 housing units per household.
3. The average new home construction price statewide is $695,000, the 6th highest of any state.
Stark and sobering conclusions to be sure.
SO, WHAT ARE SOME SOLUTIONS?
Obviously, we cannot build 190,000 units overnight, but we can advocate for change so that more people, across all demographics have the ability to buy or rent a home. Middle housing is a buzzword among government, builders, developers, and consumers which refers to housing types that fill the gap between apartments and detached single dwellings. It includes duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, ADUs, cottage clusters, small-lot subdivisions, and townhouses that are generally built in low and medium density zones that have historically catered to detached single family homes.
Middle housing offers increased density while maintaining the neighborhood feel of a traditional single-family neighborhood without the high price point that excludes many people in our communities. This strategy allows a jurisdiction to utilize infill development or redevelopment with existing infrastructure, rather than building expensive new subdivisions. The lower price point of these product types allows lower income and first-time home buyers opportunities for home ownership that are in critically short supply today.
Concerns over neighborhood character are valid. However, design and parking standards can be crafted to maintain the integrity of the neighborhood. Our state’s housing crisis is far too severe and too important to be held back by a “not in my backyard” attitude. If we maintain the status quo, prices will continue to rise, businesses will turn away from Washington because they cannot house their workforce, and young people will move to more affordable markets, making our communities less vibrant places to live.
Washingtonians can turn the tide by supporting middle housing policies in their communities. Currently, Clark County is moving through a Housing Options Study & Action Plan that explores some of these middle housing strategies. Our communities should build more housing types while striving to eliminate costly and restrictive regulation that drives up the price of construction as well. Municipalities need to collaborate, rather than butt heads, with private developers, builders, and real estate professionals to come up with cost effective solutions, because the system we have now is clearly not working, and is perpetuating and creating new inequalities.
The more than 2,000 members of the Clark County Association of REALTORS® are committed to creating new homeownership opportunities in our community and are fighting every day for policies and programs that lead to more affordable options for homebuyers and renters. We hope that the local governments of Clark County will step up to the plate and take long overdue action to address our region’s housing crisis so Clark County can continue to be a vibrant and welcoming place for all.
Government Affairs DirectorClark County
Association of REALTORS®