Legislature approves my bipartisan affordable housing bill

Hawkins Capitol banner

March 8, 2022

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As you know, many areas in North Central Washington and our entire state have been experiencing affordable housing challenges. Having stable housing is so fundamental to success in other areas, including our working careers and raising families. Washington state has an increasing number of programs focused on homelessness and very low-income housing, but very few on “workforce” housing. These are the housing programs that support people in our communities who provide essential services there. Many of these individuals and families, unfortunately, are unable to afford to live in the communities where they work. This is particularly true for the communities of Leavenworth, Chelan, and the Methow Valley, as well as larger communities, including in the Wenatchee Valley.

Wenatchee Valley from above Wenatchee

The Wenatchee Valley, the community where I was raised, has always been an area where people want to live. This popularity has only increased in recent years with retirees purchasing homes and people relocating to the area during the COVID pandemic seeking lifestyle changes. Housing inventories are very low, driving up the cost of home prices and rentals for the local workforce.

Average Wenatchee home price chart

Average home prices have continued to increase throughout our region, including in Wenatchee. People working in the Wenatchee Valley often travel in from other towns.

Working together to find housing solutions

I am pleased to share that my Senate Bill 5868 was approved yesterday by the Legislature. Senate Bill 5868 is not a new tax for housing but would allow counties to utilize their existing .09 sales tax dollars for the purposes of housing infrastructure or facilities. The counties already have a long list of permissible uses for these funds but expanding flexibility for housing infrastructure is a significant addition for our local governments. The bill is supported by the city of Leavenworth, Chelan County, Chelan Valley Housing Trust, Upper Valley MEND, Wenatchee Valley Chamber, Washington Hospitality Association, Confluence Health, Cascade Medical Center, TwispWorks, and others. I am extremely grateful to all of these organizations that worked closely with me on the bill’s passage, including providing key testimony during committee hearings, sending letters in support, and contacting legislators directly. This bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

Sen. Hawkins floor speech on SB 5868

This photo was taken yesterday during the Senate’s final vote for my Senate Bill 5868. The bill received final legislative approval yesterday, after being passed by the Senate 41-8 on February 9, the House 68-28 on March 2, and the Senate again 43-6 on March 7 to agree to amendments made in the House Finance Committee. Due to the differing opinions of both Republicans and Democrats in both chambers, SB 5868 proved to be one of the most challenging bills to pass since I began my service in the Legislature in 2013.

Thank you to Senate Bill 5868’s supporters

You are probably familiar with the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The same can be true for certain bills at the Capitol. Washington’s Legislature has struggled in recent years to approve bills related to housing, especially those that involve reliable revenue streams for cities and counties to address housing challenges. Seeking approval for new taxes is usually met with significant resistance, but sometimes so is including housing investments within existing revenue streams, which I learned earlier this session with a lodging tax idea. While the idea of providing counties with flexibility for housing infrastructure investments using their .09 dollars wasn’t universally supported, I’m thankful that the majority of my legislative colleagues in both chambers approved the idea. I am very grateful to the supporters below for their hard work in securing passage of Senate Bill 5868.

  • Chelan County commissioners
  • City of Leavenworth
  • Chelan Valley Housing Trust
  • Upper Valley MEND
  • Wenatchee Valley Chamber
  • Washington Hospitality Association
  • Confluence Health
  • Cascade Medical Center
  • TwispWorks
Downtown Leavenworth

Senate Bill 5868 would provide 30 of Washington’s counties with more flexibility to address their growing affordable housing challenges. This bill would help employers in Chelan County and help Leavenworth preserve its sense of community.

Average Leavenworth home price chart

Rising home prices are common and very challenging in tourism communities like Leavenworth and Chelan. Home prices in Leavenworth were already high and continue to climb higher.

Chelan’s challenges with workforce housing

In addition to Leavenworth, many other communities in Washington state are experiencing ever-increasing challenges in offering affordable homes. In North Central Washington, for example, communities in the Methow Valley and along Lake Chelan are struggling to house the workforce that supports their economies. The Chelan Valley Housing Trust was recently established with a mission to, “Develop stable and secure housing that is attainable to Manson and Chelan wage earners. We believe that secure housing in which families, young professionals, and seniors can thrive is crucial to a healthy community, and strong economy.” Looking at the data below, it is no surprise why community members are concerned. The average home price in Chelan – much like in Leavenworth – has nearly tripled since 2012.

Chelan and Lake Chelan

Communities near Lake Chelan also struggle with having adequate options to house their workforce. Tourism communities seem to be affected the most.

Chelan home prices chart

Similar to other areas in North Central Washington and throughout the state, housing prices in Chelan continue to increase, making home ownership very difficult for the local workforce.

Listen to one of my recent local radio interviews

Throughout the legislative session, I call our local radio stations weekly to participate in live interviews about legislative issues. Click on the link if you would like to listen to my interview this morning with KOZI about the final days of the session. If you have any questions, please contact me anytime.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your 12th District state senator.



Brad Hawkins

State Senator Brad Hawkins
12th Legislative District

Website: senatorbradhawkins.org

107 Newhouse Building - P.O. Box 40412 | Olympia, WA 98504-0412
(360) 786-7622 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000