Senate Bill could make it easier for more condo development

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – You could soon see condos popping up all across the state.  That’s if a new senate bill becomes law.

Senate Bill 5334 would loosen restrictions on the state’s strict condo liability law.  Lawmakers say the high cost of insurance and ease of purchasers to sue condo developers scared many away from Washington state, adding to our housing crisis.

Olympia Washington Capital Building Dome, USA

The Washington State Capital Building in Olympia. (Undated file photo from Getty Images)

In the heart of Chinatown, a lot off Fifth and Main will turn into the neighborhood’s first high-rise condo. But just two months ago, protesters argued the condo is only for the wealthy.

“We are anticipating in the last 5 years about 7 to 10 high rise luxury developments with no affordable housing,” said Chinatown-International District Coalition’s Jacqueline Wu.

But Sen. Jamie Pedersen says condos mean more housing options.

“We have a real problem with housing affordability and housing supply, and everybody understands increasing the supply of condominiums would help with that,” said Senator Jamie Pedersen.

Senate Bill 5334 is picking up steam in both chambers, and it would make it easier for condo developers by limiting the number of building codes and making it harder for a purchaser to sue the condo developer for damage or shoddy construction.  The language in the bill is something Sen. Pedersen says consumer advocate groups and builders all agreed to.

“Everybody shook hands and came to, agreed on language that still protects consumers but will try to knock out some of the meritless lawsuits,” said Pedersen.

But back in the international district, some argue the condo construction is a sign of gentrification by pushing out the culturally diverse people who’ve always lived there.  But Pedersen argues this is simply a chance at the American Dream.

“This isn’t necessarily going to change the character of anybody’s neighborhood. It just allows for the ownership mechanism for those buildings. So instead of having an apartment where a person could pay rent forever and never develop any equity, a condo buyer can in a starter home, can start apply those monthly payments to build up a nest egg that can help him or her buy a single family home if that’s what they want,” said Pedersen.

And while some condo construction projects are met with protesters, other construction zones, like Waterfront Place at the Port of Everett, welcome condo developers. Terrie Battuello says if Sen. Pedersen’s bill passes, developers might find building easier and more appealing.

“We’ll be looking for developers for the second phase, we haven’t selected those yet,” said Port of Everett’s Terrie Battuello.

She says it will provide more housing options for empty nesters and young families in Everett to purchase their own condo instead of renting.

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