Washington state needs to add more than 1 million homes over the next 20 years to keep up with growth — and more than half of those need to be affordable for residents at the lowest income levels, according to the final housing needs projections recently released by the Washington State Department of Commerce. 

“Based on the large number of housing needs at the lower income bands, many communities will need to change the way they plan for housing and plan for more apartments, condominiums, moderate-density housing such as middle housing, and accessory dwelling units,” said Dave Andersen, managing director of the Growth Management Services unit, in a prepared statement. “Planning for housing in the next 20 years will require an inclusive and equity-driven approach if we are to meet the housing needs for all the residents at all income levels.”

Based on census data and the Office of Financial Management’s population projections, these final housing projections illustrate that Washington needs more than 50,000 new units annually to keep pace with expected population growth. 

The final housing numbers estimate the need for about 91,360 units of emergency housing by 2044 to ensure that those with unstable housing situations have a safety net, such as those in-between jobs who cannot afford housing and young people exiting the foster care system. 

Over the next few years, most communities will be updating their comprehensive plans and regulations. Counties may choose a higher or lower population target from the Office of Financial Management range and then will use Commerce’s new Housing for All Planning Tool to identify how much housing in each income bracket is needed.

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