The United States is in an affordable housing crisis. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, just fewer than 40 million Americans pay more than 30 percent of their income in housing costs. This isn’t surprising when considering how home prices have skyrocketed. In 1963, the median price of a home in the United States was $18,000. If home prices kept up with the rate of inflation, an equivalent home today would have been worth approximately $147,000. Instead, the median price of a home in the United States is more than double that at $323,000.
Why the dramatic increase? Before leaving office, the Obama administration examined the problem. Their answer: over time, restrictive zoning laws have created a housing shortage, pressuring the entire supply chain. A 2017 report from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition found no state in the nation had an adequate supply of affordable housing, and Washington state was one of the worst offenders. It is not only that people do not have access, it is that the housing just is not there.
Zoning is a local issue. That means there is little the federal government can do. However, people in Olympia can act by ending restrictive zoning practices and supporting the Missing Middle plan. Failure to pass this plan will mean the city’s housing shortage will continue. If housing in Olympia is to be seen as something more than a luxury for the wealthy, then it must be made accessible, affordable, and plentiful throughout the city.
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