Working together to support housing solutions

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October 18, 2022

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Many areas in our region and throughout the state have been experiencing affordable housing challenges. Some communities in Chelan County, such as Leavenworth and Chelan, have seen home prices more than triple since 2012. This is a massive challenge because stable housing is fundamental to successful careers, communities, and families. Our state has a number of programs focused on homelessness and very low-income housing, some of which have been only marginally successful. While our local communities have seen an unfortunate uptick in homelessness in recent years, most state programs do not address the bulk of our challenges because our region mostly struggles with “workforce” housing issues.

Downtown Leavenworth with graphic

Leavenworth has always been a welcoming community for tourists, but with tourists now purchasing second homes and converting properties to vacation rentals, those who work in Leavenworth are increasingly struggling to live there. I recently partnered with Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea, Chelan County Commissioners, and others to pass Senate Bill 5868 to provide more local options.

Average Leavenworth home price chart

Home values in some areas of Leavenworth have more than tripled since 2012.

“Workforce” struggling to find affordable homes

Due to the service nature of our local economy – including many health care, agricultural, education, and hospitality workers – people who earn 60 percent to 120 percent of the area’s average income struggle to live in the communities where they work. This leads to a whole host of other issues, including longer commutes, traffic congestion, and quality-of-life impacts. To compound matters, we live in a beautiful place with year-round recreation and high-speed broadband connectivity. The frequent purchases of second homes along with the COVID trend of converting second homes to primary homes has greatly increased housing prices, pushing out essential workers. With every passing month, communities like Leavenworth and Chelan (and even Wenatchee) are gradually losing their sense of community due to high-cost housing.

Sen. Hawkins and Chelan County commissioners

I had an excellent visit recently with the Chelan County commissioners and staff. I am especially grateful to them for the county’s support last session in helping pass my Senate Bill 5868 to provide counties with expanded options to address workforce housing challenges. For more information on Chelan County’s Cascade Public Infrastructure Fund, click here and here.

Chelan County commissioners take prompt action

I’m grateful to local leaders who stepped up alongside me last legislative session to enact a bipartisan solution to improve workforce housing options. With their help, we successfully passed my Senate Bill 5868 to provide counties with more flexibility to utilize an existing tax stream (known as the “.09 dollars”) for housing infrastructure. This bill didn’t authorize a new tax but broadened the permissible uses of an existing revenue source, providing county commissioners more options. Just weeks after the bill was signed by the governor and enacted into law, Chelan County commissioners awarded over $823,000 in local grants, through their Cascade Public Infrastructure Fund, to housing authorities throughout Chelan County. This action is perhaps just the first step among many the commissioners will advance under this new authority. The September 2022 grant awards include:

  • Housing Authority of Chelan County and the City of Wenatchee ($324,160): The money will be used to extend sewer services to the Mountainview Housing development project on 6.6 acres on Olin Street in Entiat. The development will consist of 12 buildings with 66 units including one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units serving low-income and farmworker households.
  • Upper Valley MEND of Leavenworth ($310,000): Funding to acquire and rehabilitate 21 workforce housing units in Leavenworth that otherwise will go out to the open market.
  • Chelan Valley Housing Trust in Chelan ($189,040): Funding to acquire 1.7 acres next to the trust's development on Iowa Street in order to develop more units and extend infrastructure.
Chelan photo

Much like Leavenworth, Chelan has experienced a significant increase in home prices since 2012. Many thanks to the Chelan Valley Housing Trust for its active help and partnership with me and other stakeholders to advance housing solutions.

Many thanks to local stakeholders

Passing any bill through the Legislature is a difficult process. Less than 10 percent of the bills introduced each session actually become law, and housing proposals have struggled more than most. I’d like to especially thank Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea, Chelan County Commissioner Kevin Overbay, and Chelan County Housing Program Coordinator Sasha Sleiman for their helpful ideas, beneficial suggestions, and active participation throughout the intense and stressful legislative process.

I’d also like to thank the Chelan Valley Housing Trust, Upper Valley MEND, Wenatchee Valley Chamber, Confluence Health, Cascade Medical Center, Washington Hospitality Association, Serve Wenatchee Valley and individuals who assisted in our collective efforts. It is gratifying to see the combination of everyone’s hard work result in tangible benefits distributed to worthy organizations that will leverage these funds for greater good. We can be proud of what we accomplished together!

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your state senator!



Brad Hawkins



State Senator Brad Hawkins
12th Legislative District


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