July 8, 2019
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Housing Forum draws packed house in Bellevue as groups unite to address growing issue

More than 200 people gathered Monday in Bellevue to talk about the state of housing in Washington. U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-WA 10, and state Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, kicked off the daylong discussion organized by AWB and nine other groups: the Association of Washington Cities, the Building Industry Association of Washington, Greater Spokane Inc., the Rental Housing Association of Washington, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber, the Washington Public Ports Association, Washington Realtors, the Washington Roundtable and the Washington State Association of Counties.

Heck said the lack of housing is a nationwide crisis, not just an issue in Washington. The nation is short at least 5 million housing units, and the number may be closer to 7 million. “This is a supply problem,” Heck said, adding that it’s one of the few remaining issues that’s truly bipartisan. Barkis said we need to lower the cost of development 20-25% to achieve affordable housing.

The forum was the first of its kind and came about as the result of an unprecedented partnership among diverse groups. Panel discussions looked at the cost of building a home, navigating regulations and permit costs, infrastructure, land use and more.

Next week’s Fast Facts will have more coverage of the event. Check out #WAHousing on Twitter for an overview of the conversation.

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Unintended Consequences

State's proposed overtime rule change goes too far, too fast

By AWB President Kris Johnson

If it's approved, any employer with salaried workers making less than that amount will be faced with the difficult decision to either raise their employees' salary to nearly $80,000 or convert the worker to hourly status. For employers who can't afford to give out big raises, they may have little or no choice but to switch employees to hourly status.

In theory, this could lead to increased pay for some workers, but that's only if their employer can afford to pay overtime. Small businesses, nonprofits and other employers that can't absorb the cost increase will likely cut services.

Even for workers who don't take a step backward financially, the change could feel like a demotion. Increasingly, employees value flexibility in work hours, particularly younger workers. Making the transition from a salaried job -- with the flexibility to duck out for a couple hours in the middle of the day to take care of family obligation -- to an hourly worker who is required to be in the office a full eight hours, without the option of working from home, will be jarring.

No one is disputing that Washington's overtime rule needs updating. But the state's proposal simply goes too far, too fast and risks harming the employees it's intended to help.

Read the full column in The Wenatchee Valley Business World