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Advocates call for more affordable housing in Pierce County

Increasing home prices and interest rates, along with lack of available homes, is creating a difficult environment for potential homebuyers in Pierce County.

The National Association of Home Builders released a report in March showing housing prices and interest rates rising to a point where over 72% of the state’s approximate 3 million households will be priced out of owning a home.

“The supply of units and almost every kind of housing, we’re short on in this state,” said Maureen Fife, executive director of Tacoma-Pierce County Habitat for Humanity. “We have to find a way to build more. And build faster.”

The lack of available homes is part of increasing home prices and interest rates. Meanwhile, builders are struggling to match the demand, and dealing with rising costs of their own.

“There are challenges that builders face, like lumber prices,” said Fife. “We are paying three times today what we paid a year ago.”

As a result, many Washingtonians are left stuck in a cycle of rising rents, unable to make that transition into homeownership.

“Why are we not working to move people through that rental pipeline into homeownership, which we all know, in this country, is the fastest way to create wealth for your family, and generational wealth?” asked Pamela E. Duncan, President and CEO of the Metropolitan Development Council.

But immediate priorities due to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic have put that question on hold.

“Everyone’s attention now is: what is the governor going to do? We cannot have the [eviction moratorium] end, because we are not ready as a community,” Duncan said. “These things are taking precedence over a conversation about homeownership because we are talking about people remaining housed, period.”

Now advocates are calling for programs to be put in place to help first-time homebuyers get the funding they need to buy homes they can actually afford — before it’s too late.

“For most individuals, your home is the most expensive asset you’ll ever own," Fife said. “It’s how we pass on wealth to our children, it’s that nest egg for our own future. And if we’re not creating that, there’s a whole population of young people that are still living with their parents, that are ready to buy a house, but they can’t.”

“It helps a lot," she continued. "It helps parents feel more secure, it helps kids do better in school. There’s so much about homeownership that a whole generation of folks are going to lose out on if we don’t do something.”