Homebuilders pay tens of thousands of dollars in impact fees when they obtain building permits, even though the actual impacts being paid for do not occur until after the house is sold and the first family moves in. The fees must be financed while the house is being built and awaiting sale. In an important step toward making housing a bit less expensive to build, a new Washington law, which takes effect September 1, 2016, compels local governments to postpone collection of the impact fees until either the final building inspection or the closing of the sale of the house.
The law is targeted to smaller builders, and only allows each builder to postpone impact fees for 20 houses annually. Local governments may increase that number after consulting with school districts, and those districts are opposing additional postponements. In the never ending debate about who pays how much for infrastructure, developers and their new home buyer customers have long been subject to ever increasing fees. Naturally, public agencies that receive the fees object to any delay, but as we learned in the recession, if new housing cannot be built at a price the public can afford, those same agencies don’t collect any impact fees at all. This law will help bring much needed housing to market at a lower cost for Washington’s growing population, which inevitably benefits all home buyers.
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