WA Lawmakers Consider New Rules For Condos - UD CEO Lars Gilberts testifies

Thursday, January 31, 2019

(as reported by Steve Jackson of Spokane Public Radio)

Washington lawmakers are considering some proposals being touted to provide more housing options in communities like Spokane.

One bill in the Senate would modify condominium construction warranties, so that they would not apply to condos with less than seven units.

Testifying at a hearing of the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Monday, Lars Gilbert, the CEO of Spokane’s University District, spoke about the housing shortages in Spokane.

“I’ve got six universities and colleges in my university district, and as they are trying to recruit talent and graduate students. There are definitely not enough places and definitely not places people could own close to the campuses,” he said.

Also testifying, Spokane Valley Deputy Mayor Pam Haley, who quoted Greenstone developer Jim Frank, on why there is a shortage of condos in the Spokane area.

“Liability insurance and construction requirements are adding significant costs to the project, to the point it became economically unfeasible to continue the project as a condominium. We withdrew the building and submitted the identical plans as an apartment. All of the excessive costs disappeared. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when all these requirements came into place, building condominiums ceased,” Haley said.

Sounding a cautionary note was attorney Dean Martin, whose career has focused on construction defect litigation.

“For smaller developments, those tend to be newer developers, smaller, less sophisticated builders. And the warranties are there not to protect against the good builders, they do the right things all the time. It’s to protect the homeowner from those that make mistakes, the bad builders that people that are learning almost on their dime,” Martin said.

Martin is concerned that if the regulations are relaxed for smaller condos, some owners could be on the hook for repair costs.

The bill, SB5219, is expected to be voted on by the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Thursday.