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Kit homes could be part of housing crisis remedy in Washington

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(The Center Square) – Mail order abodes could soon be coming to a city or town near you.

Legislation is moving forward in Olympia that would allow for the construction of small kit houses, also known as catalog homes, as part of the solution to Washington state’s housing crisis.

Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 5657.

“These are factory-built, 800 square feet or less, and are assembled in the field,” he explained. “The theory is to mass produce these homes, and they are affordable.”

Wilson told The Center Square, “They range from, say, $10,000, to as much as $40,000 or $50,000, but you own these homes.”

SB 5657, according to Wilson, would tell local governments to get out of the way.

“It says we built this to code; we built this to HUD standards, so let us assemble these in the field,” he said.

Per the bill, a buyer could assemble the kit house or hire a contractor to do so.

“I’m certainly not reinventing the wheel here,” Wilson noted. “Well before my time, Sears and Roebuck had a catalog where you could order a house, and this is what we need to do, because you don’t have to continue to approve the plan and get approval over and over. The plan is the plan.”

This is the second year the legislation has been debated by state lawmakers, with some concerns raised by Democrats in the 2023 session.

“What about the land issue?” Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, asked Wilson last year. “Is there some kind of incentive that would encourage property owners to put one of these on their property?”

Wilson had an answer.

“The incentive, frankly, is to allow somebody to be able to own something,” he responded at the time.

Wilson is confident the bill will get a full Senate vote this year.

“When you are in a crisis, you are going to have to forward options, and while this is not going to cure the crisis, this is the level where people can afford to buy a home and to make something – the word we throw out there all the time – affordable,” he told The Center Square. “We are so far behind, it will take a number of things to be built to get our people away from going into homelessness and get them out of tents and shelters.”

The Rules Committee has place the SB 5657 on the second reading calendar for debate before the full Senate.

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