Padden condo-construction bill unanimously approved by House

Measure would reduce barriers to affordable home ownership

Today the House of Representatives unanimously passed Sen. Mike Padden’s measure to help increase the supply of affordable housing by removing barriers to condominium construction.

“This is tremendous news for both homebuilders and those looking for more affordable homeownership,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “This bill will not only reduce the cost of inspections by allowing them to be conducted by a qualified architect, but it will also make some additional financing options available for construction of these units.

“At a time when many areas of the state are desperate for affordable housing, I’m glad that lawmakers of both parties have been able to come together to support this common-sense proposal.”

Currently, condominium projects must undergo multiple inspections, performed by a very expensive forensic inspector.

Under Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5024, which cleared the House 97-0 and the Senate by a vote of 37-12 in January, requirements on condominiums would be brought more in line with other stick-frame constructions, such as single-family homes or duplexes. This crucial change would reduce the cost of condominiums by allowing any qualified architect or engineer to perform the inspections. Condominiums would still be subject to all current building codes and warranty provisions.

If the bill becomes law, it would also allow funds deposited for the purchase of a unit to be used for construction costs, under certain conditions.

“We heard from several builders that one of the biggest barriers to constructing smaller condominium units is the lack of financing for such projects,” Padden explained. “Many told us that under some circumstances money tied up in escrow could be put to better use by allowing it to go towards construction.

“This bill will help builders have access to more financing for condo construction. If these funds are protected by a surety bond, there is no reason why they can’t be used to develop condos at a more affordable price for first-time or lower-income homebuyers.”

Padden pointed out that the benefits of homeownership are immense. According to research by the National Association of Realtors, homeowners:

  • are more likely to contribute to the maintenance of their properties and surrounding areas;
  • have higher self-rated health, self-esteem and happiness; and,
  • deter neighborhood crime, especially helping to create lower rates of a property crime.

Because the House amended the measure, ESSB 5024 now returns to the Senate so it may consider the House’s changes.