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New law pushes WA cities toward denser housing

By Josh Cohen for Crosscut

The “menu” of options approved by legislators includes more backyard cottages, duplexes, triplexes everywhere and apartments near transit.

Seattle’s affordable housing shortage gets a lot of airtime, but the city isn’t alone in having one.

It’s an issue just about every state legislator is hearing about from their constituents, said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Seattle.

“We have a pretty serious housing crisis in the state,” he explained. “It’s most acute in the central Puget Sound region. But as we talked about housing this session, we also heard about housing shortages even in rural parts of the state.”

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The numbers back up Fitzgibbon’s claim. According to a recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 43 percent of Washington households earning 50 to 80 percent of their area’s median income are cost burdened, meaning they pay more than a third of their income towards rent. The less money a household earns, the more drastic the problem, with 83 percent of households earning less than 50 of percent median income considered cost burdened. Some 74 percent of renters earning less than 30 percent of median income are considered severely cost burdened, paying more than 50 percent of their income on rent. Even for those making a middle-class income between 80 and 100 percent of the median, there is not enough rental housing that costs a third or less of monthly earnings.

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