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Legislature Promotes Housing Choice in Washington

By HOM Editor
June 2019

Lawmakers in Olympia recently completed a landmark legislative session for housing in the state of Washington.

The legislature passed a series of bills that promise to make more housing options available at all income levels. These improvements will help stabilize home prices, promote workforce housing and expand choice for moderate income households.

Two major REALTOR®-supported bills will open the door to home ownership opportunities for consumers by creating a path for cities to build new housing and improving liability laws that were preventing new condominium construction.

HB 1923 gives the state more authority to address housing shortages and calls for an increase in residential building capacity. Cities that take action to create more housing are eligible for state planning grants of up to $100,000 and may also apply for funds to ensure that their land capacity matches their planned housing.

This bill struck a balance between local control of housing plans and the state-identified need for more action on housing supply. Cities are now encouraged to use a number of planning tools that make urban development easier and timelier.

Voluntary and innovative planning tools that are encouraged include:

  • Zoning for 50 housing units per acre around light rail stations and 25 housing units per acre around frequently used bus stops.
  • Allowing for duplexes, triplexes, accessory dwelling units and other “cluster” techniques in zones currently restricted to single-family homes.
  • Short plat subdivisions can be created up to the amount allowable by state law.
  • Setting a minimum density of six homes per acre in areas zoned residential.

Having these tools in place will encourage the creation of more home options and maximize housing choice for consumers.

In addition to these important planning tools, the adoption of condominium liability reform, SB 5334, creates the promise of many more “middle market” housing options.

The new condo law maintains consumer protections while removing the barriers that made condo construction too expensive and risky. With relief from additional financial and insurance risk, housing entrepreneurs will get back to the business of building more mid-priced condos, creating more housing options for consumers.

All of this new legislation, plus many other affordable housing proposals that are still in the works, sets up Washington to take even greater steps to tackling the affordable housing crisis and the need for more homes next year.


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