As a youth-led organization passionate about achieving a livable and sustainable future, Sunrise Spokane is dedicated to improving our community in effective ways. Not only is climate action needed for the sake of the environment, it is also essential for communities disproportionately impacted by it. An important step that we can take at the state level is updating the Growth Management Act (GMA), which exists to help Washington cities and counties effectively and sustainably accommodate growth. The problem: the GMA doesn’t require communities to meaningfully plan for climate, housing affordability, or racial equity.
As young people, we know that our future is at stake if we do not act now to stop climate change. During our lifetimes, we have seen the impacts of climate change only worsen. Every summer, the air quality in Spokane reaches unsafe levels as the wildfires increase in frequency and severity. The negative impacts that climate change has on air quality will lead to more respiratory and heat-related illnesses among vulnerable groups, such as elderly people, children, low-income communities, communities of color, and the homeless.
Our problems don’t stop at the effects of climate change. We know that climate justice is housing justice. Communities across Washington are in a housing affordability crisis. 32% of Washingtonians struggle to balance housing costs with the rest of their expenses. Furthermore, many communities struggle to gain economic mobility due to historically unjust policies of the past. In Spokane, the history of redlining has created neighborhoods where opportunities to gain economic mobility are scarce.
In Eastern Washington, we have all seen the effects of the decisions our legislators have made regarding how our city and state manages our growing population. Our beautiful plots of empty wildland, neighboring farmlands, and even the local and highly-frequented city parks are subject to policy such as the Washington Growth Management Act. Unfortunately, the GMA hasn’t been appropriately updated to include planning around climate change or environmental equity.
During this legislative session, the state legislature has the opportunity to address environmental injustice, the effects on climate change on our communities, and the lack of affordable housing. Making these updates to the GMA would create a brighter future for our beautiful state of Washington and ALL who live here.
There are 3 bills this session that will update the GMA to:
- Plan for climate change: Via HB1099, counties will be required to mitigate the effects of our changing climate and prepare for climate disasters.
- Support housing development for all unit types and income levels: HB1220 will address housing affordability and sprawl, while creating housing policies that serve all members of our community equitably.
- Require environmental and human justice: The HEAL act will require just and equal representation for all residents of the state, and increase community involvement.
We can’t afford to go another decade without addressing these concerns. We must take action now to protect our state from the severe effects of unaffordable housing, environmental injustice, and climate change. Eastern Washington will inevitably see change in the coming years, and as our population grows we must accommodate new people in a responsible way. By updating the GMA, we are sustainably prioritizing the safety of everyone in Washington State.
As a grassroots movement dedicated to improving our community, we encourage state legislators who represent Eastern Washington to support and champion these important updates to the Growth Management Act to improve the livability of our community for all residents.
Authors: Rosie Zhou, Sophie Avery, Eliza Dawley, Veronika Coleman, and Phillip Amado.