Federal Policy | State Policy | May 5, 2021

How Up for Growth Works With Members Like Association of Washington Cities to Provide the Support for Pro-Housing Policy

Written by Mike Kingsella

Reading time: 6 minutes

In March, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) with Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) in the House of Representatives, introduced the bipartisan and bicameral Housing Supply and Affordability Act (HSAA), introduced this Congress as S. 902 and H.R. 2126. The legislation creates a Local Housing Policy Grant program to help cities increase the supply and affordability of homes and reduce regulatory barriers to housing such as exclusionary zoning and parking requirements. It closely aligns with a plank of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan that calls for the creation of a program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) designed “to eliminate state and local exclusionary zoning laws.”

But you may not know that the core component of the Housing Supply and Affordability Act – the Local Housing Policy Grant program – was informed by a Washington state law supported and advanced by Up for Growth member, the Association of Washington Cities. In 2019, the Washington state legislature passed HB 1923, which created grants to local governments to fund data-driven Housing Needs Assessments and Housing Action Plans. 70% of all Washington cities with populations of more than 20,000 applied for and received grants through the program and have developed housing plans that will inform their land-use and zoning policies, enabling them to meet their growing housing needs. Bloomberg CityLab’s Kriston Capps briefly touched on the connection between HB 1923 and the Housing Supply and Affordability Act in his coverage of the latter’s introduction.

“[HB 1923] has been effective in unlocking access to planning grants that aren’t available to cities in any other way,” said Washington State Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Burien). “Our experience in Washington suggests that the HSAA will significantly and meaningfully improve housing affordability in communities across the United States.”

Elevating the core principles of a successful housing policy in Washington state to a federal housing proposal in Washington, DC is one of the many ways that Up for Growth and its members inform the advocacy work of Up for Growth Action and other organizations. Indeed, HB 1923 was a proof-of-concept for a bill that is now introduced in both houses of Congress and championed by President Biden and HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge. These connections do not happen without our membership and the work of our advocacy campaign, Up for Growth Action.

While the Up for Growth Action campaign is exclusively focused on federal policy, Up for Growth enables policy innovation at the state level as well. In 2020, Up for Growth and its members in Washington State helped to lead the effort to extend Washington state’s Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE) program. The program, hailed by the Obama administration as a model for the nation, provides mixed-income communities with a limited property tax exemption. The program, which produced over 7,100 units of affordable rental homes from 2007 through 2017, was in danger of expiring without reauthorization, putting the thousands of families who lived in the homes at risk of losing their affordable housing. Up for Growth provided the critical data and organized the coalition, which included the Association of Washington Cities and several other Up for Growth members, to get the legislation across the finish line.

In 2021 a similar coalition, led by several Up for Growth members, formed to advocate for a new and enhanced version of the MFTE program, which awaits Governor Jay Inslee’s signature. Up for Growth’s network and research helped support this latest win in Washington state. “Up for Growth has been a tremendous partner in providing the research for and the leadership needed to develop and pass legislation – at the state and federal levels,” said Carl Schroeder, Government Relations Advocate with the Association of Washington Cities. “Elevating HB 1923 to a national audience and providing the factual case for the continuation and expansion of Washington’s MFTE program are but two of the latest examples of their value. We look forward to continuing our partnership to advance pro-housing legislation, whether it’s in Washington state or Washington, DC.”

As our work with the Association of Washington Cities demonstrates, Up for Growth’s member network is leading policy advocacy at all levels of government to solve the housing shortage. Up for Growth is focused on enhancing policy decisions by building cross-sector networks of stakeholders, delivering incisive data and research, and providing leveraged advocacy support. With the support of Up for Growth, members like the Association of Washington Cities provide policy leadership to make sure that housing is always an opportunity, never an obstacle.