Government Affairs Monthly Update

Jamie Howsley

Jamie Howsley is a land use attorney practicing in Washington and Oregon. He has served as the BIA’s Government Affairs Director since 2011. You can reach Jamie directly via email or call 360.281.1123.

The Government Affairs Committee meets on the second Monday of the month in the BIA office at 3:30 pm.

November Government Affairs Update

11.06.17

November is the month that we take stock of the year, our lives and give thanks. One of the things I am most thankful for is working in an industry that puts roofs over people’s heads. But as I attended the Metro HBA’s economic forecast breakfast last week I was reminded about the headwinds that continue to face our industry, otherwise known as the four L’s:  a lack of labor, a lack of land, lumber costs and lean lending practices from banks. Despite the tremendous rebound our industry has had, and despite it looking fairly rosy over the next few years, we continue to struggle with some of those systematically created issues.

So I wanted to take a little different tack with this month’s update and give some practical advice on things that you can do locally to help us out with at least a couple of these struggles.

Labor

Avaly wrote a great article in the July 7, 2017 Vancouver Business Journal entitled “Banding Together for the Construction Industry’s Future” which set forth some concrete solutions to address our industry’s labor shortage. We need to encourage and demonstrate to local youth that the construction industry has high paying, good quality jobs.

In addition, when we get the opportunity we should encourage our elected leaders, our educators and other businesses to stress the importance at high schools and community colleges that the construction trades can provide great careers and alternative paths for those where college might not be the right fit or who do not wish to become burdened by student debt.

Land

Housing affordability remains a challenge for the nation, but is even more pressing in high-growth states on the west coast. One of the major barriers to affordability is the cost of land. While some laud density as the answer, study upon study show that the housing preference of choice across generations is a single family home. Local governments can assist the private market in keeping land prices in check to ensure that an adequate market supply exists so that those individuals with land holdings don’t unjustly inflate the value of the property by recognizing that the value they have is being artificially created through regulation.

Washington State Senate Bill 5254 provides a positive step in the right direction. It mandates that GMA planning counties evaluate their buildable lands and ensure they are using a reasonable land market supply, mandates that OFM looks to actual population statistical trends rather than forecasts and a host of other steps to ensure we have enough land for housing of all types.

The Washington Department of Commerce recently selected a consultant who will be reaching out to various stakeholders about the implementation of this bill. As an industry and as individuals, not only do we need to provide comment to the state during this process, but we need to remind our local elected officials that you cannot have houses that are affordable without affordable land.

Lending

Statistics recently demonstrated that the lack of lending to the construction industry is not from a lack of lending from large banks, but driven more from the conservative practices of local and regional banks. When speaking with our local banks we must remind them that part of their role in building community is supporting those who actually build for the community.

By doing our small part on these three items, we can hopefully make an impact on some of the headwinds facing our industry.

Hirst Update

On Election Day, November 7, the 45th District in Washington could tip the balance of power in the Washington Senate back to the Democrats or continuing to be with the Majority Coalition. I mention this because the Majority Coalition has managed to tie the passage of the state’s capital budget to a permanent fix to Hirst. Many folks are waiting to see what the outcome of this may be for the prospects of a special session in December or whether the Hirst issue bleeds over into the 2018 session.

Phase I NPDES Stormwater Permit Update

The Washington Department of Ecology recently released some of the draft permit language for the latest Phase I NPDES permit update. Comments are due to Ecology in mid-January.  We are carefully evaluating the update and will provide an update at the next two government affairs committee meetings.

Fall Protection Rules

At our December government affairs committee meeting (December 11, 3:30-4:30PM) we will host special guests Bob White and Al Audette from BIAW to discuss the new fall protection rules.  We wish to thank BIAW in advance for coming down and giving us an update.

The next government affairs committee meeting is Monday, November 13, at 3:30.  If you have any questions please feel free to email me at Jamie.howsley@jordanramis.com.