OLYMPIA, Wash. — A bill that passed the Washington Senate this week would allow for a variety of different housing units to be built in areas traditionally limited to single-family homes.
House Bill 1110 would allow for units like duplexes or triplexes to be built on a single residential lot.
Supporters of the bill say this will help alleviate the current housing crisis they say is happening in Washington caused by low inventory and high prices. They say this would give more options to families who cannot afford a traditional, single-family home.
“So that will open up opportunities for builders and nonprofit builders to hopefully provide more housing choices for more people in more places,” said Dylan Sluder, the State Government Affairs Manager at the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, which has been in support of the bill.
The bill would change zoning restrictions across the state, to allow multiple housing units be built on one residential lot in areas traditionally zoned for single-family homes.
For example, if passed, the bill states that cities that have between 25,000 and 75,000 people must allow for all residential lots to have at least two units per lot. If the lot is within half a mile of a major transit stop or community center, or will have at least one affordable unit, then the city must allow at least four units on that lot. Sluder said this will give homeowners and builders more flexibility to create different housing options.
“This bill goes a step in the right direction by saying we're going to allow more homes and a little bit more density near that transit where we've invested public infrastructure money to have that infrastructure developed,” said Sluder.
State leaders with the Washington State Department of Commerce said the lack of housing in Washington is causing home prices to increase.
“At lower incomes, spending more on housing and utilities means there's less left for childcare, food and other necessities,” said Anne Fritzel, the Housing Programs Manager for the Washington State Department of Commerce.
A report released last month by the Department of Commerce showed over the next 20 years more than one million new housing units are needed in Washington to keep up with population growth. The report shows Pierce County will need an additional 135,652 housing units, Snohomish County will have 143,182 units, and King County will need 336,591.
Breaking those numbers down, King County will need 17,000 housing units built each year, over the next 20 years, to keep up with population growth. This need is why the Department of Commerce is encouraging communities to invest in more diverse types of housing, that are not just traditional, single-family homes. Due to more units sharing a piece of land, the department said costs will go down for buyers and renters.
“So a duplex, townhomes, other kinds of cottage apartments, or stacked flats, can share pieces of property, share walls and reduce the cost,” said Fritzel.
Supporters said the flexibility this bill allows for with the types of housing that can be built is necessary for the future.
“We need more ability to build more homes for more people,” said Sluder. “And I think this goes a great step in the right direction to really address that issue. But again, it's just a piece of the puzzle, we need to do more and we need to continue working.”
Some opponents of the bill have said these decisions should be left to each city, and not the state.