September 10, 2023
By Traci Tenhulzen
In the ongoing housing attainability crisis, we need a spectrum of solutions to lower barriers for those seeking a place to call home in our region. That’s why I’m heartened that one of several important housing bills to pass in Olympia this year was legislation to streamline permitting for new home construction and renovation, Senate Bill 5290.
Passing with unanimous support, this new law will add important reporting requirements and accountability measures related to permit processing and review timelines in cities and counties. This legislation, part of a comprehensive effort to address the housing crisis, was adopted alongside bills that will lower barriers to housing choices like backyard cottages and legalize a range of housing types across our state. In addition to new housing, SB 5290 will also help current homeowners expedite the process for certain remodel permits while maintaining standards for safety and compliance.
Permit review timelines may not be visible when you are walking down a street in your neighborhood, but they are a critical part of the work that allowed for those homes to first be built. If this isn’t working, it can have a significant impact on housing availability and affordability. Even though cities and counties do not share much information on their timelines, we know that the wait is unacceptably long in many places. The Building Industry Association of Washington reports that the average permit approval timeline in Washington is 6.5 months. These permit delays add an estimated $31,375 to the price of a new home. Unfortunately, it is even higher in the central Puget Sound region, adding more than $46,000 to the cost of a new home in Snohomish County and more than $51,000 in King County.
The bipartisan permitting reforms signed into law this year establish grant funds for local governments that commit to meeting shorter permit review timelines. The reforms also add accountability measures, such as annual performance reporting and best practices for local governments. However, these critical process reforms will not be fully implemented until 2025. That does not mean local governments need to wait until then to act. Not only is it important for cities and counties to operate transparently and adopt best practices, there are steps they can take now to improve permitting timelines that will help bring more homes to renters and buyers sooner. See More
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