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[UPDATE: Sources say HB1157 will be ruled “necessary to implement the budget,” which gives it some more time to live. But it still needs your help!]

Two companion bills, HB 1157 and SB 5390, would create incentives for local government to allow more housing, but at least one of them must emerge from its committee Monday (Finance and Ways and Means, respectively) to succeed in this session.

Both versions of the bill have a bipartisan group of sponsors. In the Senate, it’s Liias (D-Edmonds), Gildon (R-Puyallup), Nguyen (D-West Seattle), and Saldana (D-Rainier Valley). In the House, there are 18 sponsors from urban, suburban, and exurban districts, including Fitzgibbon, Harris-Talley, Hackney, Walen, and Ryu from Seattle and its inner suburbs. Thank your district’s delegation for its sponsorship!

The bill would allow cities or counties to create “real estate excise tax density incentive zones” where they get a portion of the REET proceeds. To qualify, the zone must allow “Single-family detached dwellings at a net density of at least six dwelling units per acre [1], duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, townhomes, accessory dwelling units, and courtyard apartments.” To qualify, cities and counties cannot allow the units to be short-term rentals for more than 30 days per year.

Cities and counties would receive revenue for each net new unit in the zone, and nothing for sales that don’t increase unit density. In the House bill, they would get up to 50% of each such unit’s tax if within 1/4 mile of a mass transit stop, and 25% if within a 1/2 mile. The Senate uses a less logical formula, but in either case the money could only be used for planning affordable housing or code changes that increase zoning or reduce permitting times.

These bills unambiguously improve on the status quo by providing incentives for local governments to upzone in growth areas. If your representative is on House Finance or Senator on Ways and Means [2], it might help if you asked them to get the bill on Monday’s agenda. My source says the House Bill has a better shot, and as luck would have it Noel Frame (D-Ballard) is the Rules chair.

[1] a little over 7200 sq. ft. per lot.

[2] Braun, Brown, Carlyle, Conway, Darneille, Dhingra, Frockt, Gildon, Hasegawa, Honeyford, Hunt, Keiser, Liias, Mullet, Muzzall, Pedersen, Rivers, Robinson, Rolfes, Schoesler, Van De Wege, Wagoner, Warnick, Wellman, Wilson.

43 Replies to “Bill would increase housing supply, needs your help”

  1. I appreciate the thought put into this article, but this seems like really short notice considering that the deadline is literally tomorrow.

    House – in theory, the bill is ready to be voted on by the Finance committee. But the Finance committee isn’t even scheduled to meet tomorrow.

    Senate – the bill needs a hearing in the Ways and Means committee and then a vote. But according to the agenda, the meeting tomorrow doesn’t include a hearing component, just voting on several dozen bills that don’t include 5390.

    So it seems very unlikely either of these bills moves forward. 1 other option would be to incorporate the contents of the bill into the state budget which is a whole other level of legislative sausage making.

    1. After contacting my senator, I basically got this response from his aide:

      Thank you for contacting Senator Muzzall about SB 5390. He appreciates your input on this issue. The bill passed out of the Housing and Local Government committee on February 11, but has not been heard in Ways and Means. Since today is the fiscal committee cutoff deadline, the bill’s lack of progress may mean it is “dead” for the rest of this session. However, it could still move if it is determined to be “necessary to implement the budget” by the majority. Sen. Muzzall looks forward to hearing more about it if it is brought up in committee. The House companion, HB 1157, was scheduled for a vote on Friday but the committee ended up not moving the bill, so it may also need to be deemed “NTIB” in order to advance any further this session.

      Thanks again for reaching out. Please feel free to send in any additional thoughts you’d like to share with Sen. Muzzall. Constituent input is very helpful to him as he weighs the issues facing our state.

      Best,

      Eric Hemmen

      Legislative Assistant to
      Senator Ron Muzzall

  2. Is this a one-time tax on new units or an annual ongoing tax? The problem with one-time hookup fees is they’re an insufficient solution: they depend on a large number of market-rate units continuously opening forever, like a pyramid scheme that inevitably collapses. Inclusionary zoning is also flawed, where a new building has to reserve 25% or so of the units for low-income. But the need for low-income housing is larger than that number of units, and if the units revert to market rate after twenty or thirty years, then you need a continuous supply of new market-rate buildings to replace the lost low-income units, another pyramid scheme. Maybe this tax can raise enough money to build a substantial amount of low-income housing. But it would be better if it’s a permanent annual tax rather than a one-time fee. One-time fees are like a drug that appears to solve the problem but doesn’t really.

    1. The real estate excise tax is tax we already charge on real estate sales. The state charges 1.1-3% of the transaction value, depending on the sale price, and local governments tack on a bit as well.

      Skimming the house bill, what it would do is allow cities to designate a zone that they would upzone to qualify for the rebate of the state REET. For every new home built in these zones that could not have been built under today’s zoning, a portion of the state’s REET would be transferred to the city each time that home changes hands: not just on the initial sale, but on subsequent sales as well. It wouldn’t be an annual tax because homes tend not to change hands annually, but it would be an ongoing one.

  3. One of the biggest complaints by cities is housing and population targets/goals don’t come with funding to help offset the costs of density, especially considering the state exhausted any property tax capacity for local levies with McCleary. Upzoning and increasing population cost cities a great deal of money, from infrastructure like larger water and sewer mains, schools, larger roads, social services, and larger police and fire budgets. Often missed is that the larger a city (NY) the higher tax rate per resident, even with the revenue from having a commercial core (at least before working from home).

    This bill would allow cities to keep some of the REET tax, which cities already get part of. The things cities can spend REET on depend on whether it is REET 1 or 2, and much of the REET is reserved for capital projects. http://mrsc.org/Home/Explore-Topics/Finance/Revenues/Real-Estate-Excise-Tax.aspx#:~:text=The%20State%20of%20Washington%20levies%20a%20real%20estate,and%20other%20debts%20given%20to%20secure%20the%20purchase. Commercial property sales is where the REET is.

    This bill encourages an acre — 43,560 sf — to have six dwellings, which is a 7200 sf lot as the author footnotes, hardly dense, with larger lots than many Seattle residential neighborhoods. It also incentivizes these new lot sizes near “mass transit” stops (1/4 acre and 1/2 mile).

    So who is this bill aimed at, and who are its biggest backers?

    Not Seattle. 7200 sf lots are hardly dense, even though Seattle has the most mass transit. Is that what upzoning in Seattle means: 7200 sf lots? Six houses per acre (as though a developable acre existed in Seattle) on 7200 sf lots is hardly multi-family or “affordable” housing.

    Not rural areas which often have five acre minimums per the GMA, and have very few “mass transit” stops to qualify.

    How about eastside suburbs? Now you are talking, because that is what the Master Builders Assoc. is targeting, and ST hopes to somehow manufacture the ridership and demand it promised in ST 2 and 3 on the eastside. For example, Mercer Island has a residential neighborhood to the north of the light rail station with lots ranging from 8400 sf to 15,000 sf, but it would be impossible to develop those lots to meet the terms of the bills. Mercer Island also has a town center south of the light trail station but with density many, many times greater than 6 lots per acre, which is a residential single family house density standard.

    The problem with these bills are there are few acre parcels on the eastside ripe for development, the few that exist are not near mass transit, Metro is cutting service to these areas anyway, and these developments are always single family homes in communities usually named after whatever was destroyed to build them (“Elk Ridge”, “Green Valley”) with three car garages. Any developer have a vacant acre is downtown Issaquah they want to convert into six single family homes, despite the commercial only zoning?

    Will any eastside city take this offer? No. Zoning, especially residential zoning, is very contentious on the eastside. A city like Bellevue has greater density than 6 units per acre in its commercial and multi-family core (who doesn’t), and the REET promised is too little to offset the increased costs, even if the politicians wanted to touch the third rail of politics on the eastside: single family zoning. At the same time most eastside cities have greater density than 6 lots per acre near mass transit.

    So we have a bill that does not incentivize any kind of meaningful density, for parcels that do not exist in the urban areas where density is needed, that does not cover the costs of increased density for cities, and at best applies to areas without mass transit while mass transit (Metro) is cutting service.

    I am just amazed progressives and Urbanists are excited about 6 lots per acre density. If affordable housing is the goal I am not sure 6 houses per acre is going to do it, but then new construction will never create non-subsidized affordable housing.

      1. Hi Martin, the details of the bill(s) are murky. On paper it looks like three houses with an ADU each on a full urban acre would trigger the tax advantage. I. don’t think the REET is enough of an incentive for cities.

        Basically once HB 1923 became voluntary cities have zoned like they always have: based on citizen desires, or in the case of Seattle ideology. Most Eastside cities that don’t need the development revenue have requested zero increases in housing targets from the PSRC.

        IMO where we need true housing density is downtown Seattle. Sam is right: very few cities can compete with Seattle for beauty, , summer weather, cruise ships, regional culture, and general hipness. It is suppose to be the heart of the region.

        Believe me, I work in Pioneer Square and live on the north end of Mercer Island and want downtown Seattle to return to its glory days.

        Instead Urbanists are moving to Seattle’s residential neighborhoods and worrying about upzoning the Eastside suburbs when regional population growth is slowing to a trickle. We built 90 miles of “commuter” rail from nowhere to nowhere density and culturally wise without the ability for bus feeder service to serve such a massive area.

        If downtown Seattle is going to survive or thrive it will need safe streets, which means busy streets, which create retail and restaurant density, which means revenue and people who WANT to commute into Seattle more because Seattle is cool and exciting with great shops and restaurants. Instead all the cool Seattleites are moving to very undense residential neighborhoods. No offense, but I am not going to drive or take transit to West Seattle or Ballard to shop or dine (Ballard has some good restaurants but I could drive to Pluto quicker).

        Instead Seattle’s zoning — including excluding housing in the core from James to Pike — is hollowing out Seattle. We need 30%, 50%, 80% and 100+% AMI people living permanently downtown, lots of them, not zero AMI folks. I still don’t know why 30 years later the city could not create a safe corridor from Westlake Mall to the Pike Place Market. And I have no idea why Urbanists want to move to the Eastside, except it is safe and clean.

        If a city as beautiful and culturally rich as Seattle is hurting you know it is bad policy. Forget about mild upzones of other cities or Seattle neighborhoods. The Urbanists need to fix downtown, not move to the Eastside and expect any kind of urban experience. And ST has to learn zoning will never cover its lies about ridership estimates and project costs.

        If my wife and I WANT to go to downtown Seattle to shop and dine — a seven minute drive — Seattle will thrive.

      2. AMI is median income?

        Central Ballard and the West Seattle Junction area are urban. You can walk to many of life’s essential amenities, some recreational places, friends’ houses, and in Ballard there are office and industrial jobs. They wouldn’t be out of place in Chicago’s North Side or Queens. They could be denser, as we’re always saying. But they don’t have to be highrise dense. A few midrises or highrises would be nice, but there don’t have to be many. The main things that must disappear are space-wasters: too many single-family houses within a few blocks of the station, surface parking lots, excessive underused setbacks that aren’t an environmentally-beneficial garden or bioswale.

        And downtown isn’t emptying out. Some buildings have gone from 1% to 5% vacancy, a few 10-15%. The ideal level is 5-10% where there’s neither upward or downward pressure on rents. Seattle’s problem is that it has been far below 5% for twenty-five years. The units that have 10-15% vacancy are the most expensive over-$2000 units, which only the top 10% can afford. That doesn’t affect ordinary people who need a $1500-$2000 level. Those are still full, or at most 5% vacant. If a $2500 unit drops to $2000, it’s still expensive, and not a reason to panic about the neighborhood emptying out. San Francisco has had dramatic falls from $4000 to $3000, but that’s still very high. It’s not like they’ve fallen to $2000 or $1500. And it’s not like 70% of the people are leaving.

    1. A policy like this would be great for small towns, which are not immune to the affordability crisis, especially if their near the water. If my town of Langley, WA could even add 100 units of affordable housing, that would almost solve our workforce housing shortage for our small business district, and do wonders for our tourist season parking problem (nearby workers can walk to work). For a larger city, larger solutions are needed, for for some communities we only need just a little nudge from an incentive like this to make a huge difference in the course of our community.

      1. Cities can enact any of these zoning changes if they and their citizens want them without REET incentives. The amount of REET tax the bills allocate is not significant enough to incentivize cities, and really don’t offset the costs of additional density.

        Langley is a very pretty town, well planned for its purpose. I would be surprised if the Langley Planning Advisory Board would find REET a sufficient basis to change Langley’s zoning, and housing in the town center probably equals seven units per acre already.

        In the end zoning and land use are political decisions, and very emotional subjects for councils and residents. New development near or in Langley will not be affordable workforce housing. That will require a different approach, and quite frankly with the disparate prices for housing on Whidbey Island workforce housing will always be more affordable outside Langley, and away from the water.

  4. Neither of these bills seem well thought through. What I see happening on the east side is more of the 6-pack development Kirkland has been doing on Rose Hill. None of these houses are close to frequent transit or walkable. It’s just more traffic dumped in an existing area. The city already has a big incentive for this type of development since the six new homes shoehorned in one or two existing parcels generate way more tax revenue.

    Schools, not much of an issue since these usually aren’t dwellings that attract families with school age children. I don’t think water is an issue since six 1-2 person households with today’s efficient toilets, showers, dishwashers, etc. probably use less water than the typical 1-2 homes they replaced. And new development is required to pour tons of money into storm water systems.

    Makes more sense to develop specific areas like Bellevue is doing in the Spring District and has plans for in Wilburton (what they’ve rebranded as Wilburton). Kirkland is doing well with Totem Lake.

    1. I only skimmed the bill description – I didn’t read the details – but anytime I see the phrase “within 1/4 mile of frequent transit” in a state law, it smells like a state law that is too micromanage’ish to belong at the state level.

      At a minimum, this means there will have to be a definition of “frequent transit” enshrined in state law, that applies everywhere from Seattle to Moses Lake. At worst, cities respond by cutting just enough bus service so that a previously “frequent” route isn’t legally frequent anymore – as a way of skirting the new law.

      Also, just because a street doesn’t have a frequent bus today doesn’t mean it never will. Think future Link stations like I-5/185th. No frequent transit today, but will likely get frequent transit in the future. The state is too large of an entity to reasonably judge which areas are/are not likely to get frequent transit in the future. This is a judgement better made at the county of city layer.

  5. I don’t get it–don’t taxes discourage people from doing things? If you want developers to build dense housing shouldn’t there be a tax BREAK for doing that? Sounds like this is in the opposite direction of sanity

    1. This would not be a new tax; the state would divert a portion of revenue from an existing tax to cities that comply with the incentive provisions in the bill.

    2. Yes, developers building dense housing should get a tax break if all else were equal, the way we’re subsidizing electric cars and solar panels. But the entire situation around real estate is so complicated I’d hesitate until experts can review the net effects. We know that more units per person lowers rents/prices over the long term. At the same time the price of land is going steeply up and canceling it out to some extent. We know that developers don’t like high taxes, and it’s insane to put extra requirements to allow optional bonus height when we should be encouraging them to build up to that height. At the same time, I wouldn’t immediate give developers tax breaks for that height until we study the issue more closely. Merely eliminating the extra requirements that shouldn’t be there in the first place would be a good first step. Another step would be taxing land value, so that owners are paying for the underuse of their land. That would apparently require changing state law or the state constitution, but it’s the right thing to do. Chicago, Boston, and New York don’t have such undense lots as we do a few blocks from neighborhood centers, because that’s not appropriate for a city with a high population. It was appropriate when the population was much lower, but that was almost a century ago.

  6. A lot of commenters failing at reading comprehension here… but it is a complicated scheme, so I don’t know how to explain it any better.

    The state would do better to simply override local zoning and upzone everything near any transit stop.

    1. Yeah, that’s true. The problem is that the Association of Washington Cities and Sound Cities Association scream about local control anytime a statewide mandatory land use bill comes around, no matter how milquetoast. So far, moderate Dems, from both the suburbs and Seattle, have proven unwilling to rebuke these voices. And we settle for extremely complicated and less effective incentive bills, rather than simply overriding apartment bans near transit.

  7. Reduce the over-burdensome regulations home builders are required to comply with, including proposed energy codes. These regulations increase the cost of housing making housing less attainable.
    Also, increase the amount of buildable land. If land is taken for parks, etc. it must be replaced by zoning changes. Must be an equal amount.

    1. Claire did not say expand the urban growth boundary.

      The parks issue is moot because cities aren’t taking much buildable land for parks, at least not in Seattle. The only takings like that are a few one-block parks, which add up to a few blocks. And maybe the Ballard Commons park. The large Seattle parks were established decades ago. Northgate park was built on a P&R, and South Lake Union park on a navy base. The rails-to-trails conversions aren’t buildable land. The biggest park expansions, Ballard Commons and Bellevue Downtown park, coincided with significant upzones in those areas, so that increased the amount of zoned housing capacity even if it didn’t increase the number of lots.

      What does bother me about Claire’s suggestion is deregulation and energy codes. The permitting process is too lengthly and bureaucratic and should be streamlined. Design review needs to be reformed. Its main effect right now is allowing low-density nimbys to put their thumb on the scale. There are probably other regulations that should be streamlined. Upzoning is a kind of deregulation.

      But I get nervous when people advocate deregulation as a major issue because they usually mean gutting good, necessary, urban restrictions. Texas and California deregulated their electricity markets and got slammed.

      And what does “proposed energy codes” mean? I’d have to know more about it before I can say whether I agree/disagree. My impression when I hear that is it’s trying to lock in fossil-fuel dependency.

      1. The State mandated that cities adopt international building codes for just about every aspect of residential development effective Feb. 1, 2021. These standards are stricter, and safer, but add costs to construction. A city or state cannot mandate less safe construction because it is for lower income residents or is affordable housing. Plus the state’s new tiered REET tax for home sales based on price hurt expensive areas like the Puget Sound region.

        Climate mandates for building codes also add costs, as do ideological mandates like mandatory bike storage. These are discretionary, and are not safety based.

        King Co.’s elimination of exemptions for updated fire codes for existing and older multi-family housing where much of the non-subsidized housing exists will result in significant costs to retrofit these older buildings, result in assessments and increased rents, and likely incentivize redevelopment with new, owner occupied condos now that the warranty on new condo construction has been relaxed that incentivized apartments in the past.

        Although some believe simply increasing housing supply will create affordable non-subsidized housing, it is very difficult to build market rate housing that is affordable for 30%, 50% or even 80% AMI residents, depending on where in the county the construction is. Especially when there is more profit for the builder the more expensive the unit, because much of the profit is in furnishings, appliances, fixtures, flooring, et al. Why would a builder want to build low cost new construction is one of Seattle’s hot residential markets?

        I suppose the proof is in the pudding. The Seattle Times has an article today noting Seattle’s population growth is now zero, so soon we should see lower housing prices based on increasing the housing supply.

      2. I like the way you mention mandatory bike storage as a costly discretionary mandate, but fail to mention mandatory car storage, which costs far per vehicle stored. One of the classic pro-car blind spots.

        Even in places where every single person owns a car, buildings everywhere have significantly more parking spaces than the number of cars parked there simply because the city makes them.

      3. “SLU was a naval base?”

        When I was in college in the late 80s I had a friend who was in the navy and went there on weekends to train. It must have been the reserves.

        “Although some believe simply increasing housing supply will create affordable non-subsidized housing, it is very difficult to build market rate housing that is affordable for 30%, 50% or even 80% AMI residents”

        That’s not my argument. I don’t believe increasing supply can roll back rents that dramatically. But it can knock a few percent off its rise. It lowers the price curve from what it would have been without that additional supply. If rents are going up 3%, 5%, 10% per year as they did from 2003-2008 and 2012-2019, then shaving 2-3% of those could bring the increase down to zero, or at least slow it down enough to make it easier to swallow.

        Making it go down is harder because nobody wants to take a loss. So the critical thing is to stop it from increasing before it starts or when it’s still small. That’s what Seattle should have done in 2003 by saturating the market with supply.

        My rent has been as follows:
        2000-2003: 3 BR 2 story, U Heights, 1905: $550
        2003: 1 BR, Ballard 65th, 1960s: $700
        2004: studio, FH, 1960s: $450
        2005-2010: studio, Summit, 1920: $550-750
        2010-2021: 1 BR, Pike-Pine, 2000: $1175-1895

        Inflation has been 2% or less per year that entire time. Yet rents have gone up 5-10%.

        In the 2010s boom Seattle was building 9 units for every 12 new jobs. If it had built 12 or 13 units, the price curve would be lower. It wouldn’t be enough to get rents down to $600 that lower-income people could afford, but it would have helped. We also need subsidized housing for lower-income people, since market-rate rents have gone up so far beyond their purchasing power.

    2. She said “[I]ncrease the amount of buildable land.” How exactly does one do that other than by “expand[ing] the urban growth boundary”?

      I admit to resorting to hyperbole, but the essential truth is there: she wants more SFH in currently undeveloped land. “Available” land in this context is either brownfield conversion or currently undeveloped. That’s what “expand the urban growth boundary” means.

      1. There are many ways to increase the amount of buildable land without touching the UGA. I’ll list many options, most of which would have support in the STB commentariat.

        There is public land that could be converted to dense housing, such as the Amory site or the NOAA HQ, and other publicly owned spaces are well suited for housing development, such as the UW or the community colleges. Many advocates of lidding (or removing) I5 point to the ability to add housing. Privately owned golf courses could be redeveloped – that’s ‘green space’ but not park space. More out of the box, but why not allow new houseboat development? Etc.

        The big fish are the industrial zones. I don’t think Seattle should turn away from its industrial roots, but I don’t think it should do something like what San Fran or Chicago has done and recognize that a high cost, white collar knowledge economy is not the best place to situate low density industrial uses. Reasonable people do disagree, but I think there is at least a discussion to be had about allowing residential uses in some marginally industrial zones, such as the stadium district.

        “If land is taken for parks, etc. it must be replaced … equal amount” I interpret as a land swap to create dense TOD a shift park space away from Link stations, which is a common suggestion in these threads.

        Simply allowing for greater lot coverage increases the amount of ‘buildable land.’ Most missing middle advocates support this – correct me if I’m wrong, but RSL and Midrise allow greater lot coverage than SF? Snohomish county is looking at exactly this change:
        https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/02/10/snohomish-county-explores-higher-lot-coverage-allowances-in-medium-density-zones-for-housing/

        And finally – wasn’t there a mock-article a few years back on STB about draining Green Lake for housing development? That isn’t much different than the infill land Seattle created in the many regrades or the lowering of Lake Washington.

      2. That was unclear – I’m generally supportive of what SF and Chicago have done around recycling their industrial land.

      3. asdf2, I was referencing subsidized affordable multi-family housing that has little or no mandatory parking for cars anyway. So little point to suggest eliminating car parking in these developments if it isn’t part of the development to begin with.

        The cost of mandatory bike storage was an issue raised in an article in The Urbanist for this kind of housing, and I believe recent proposals by the Seattle Council sought to eliminate this requirement for affordable housing, because most of these individuals don’t ride bikes, bikes make up a little over 2% of non-recreational trips in Seattle, and common bike storage areas — in affordable or non-subsidized multi-family housing — have one of the higher bike theft rates.

        The issue I have with eliminating or reducing mandatory car parking in non-subsidized multi-family housing is the tenants still own cars, and those cars then are parked on the street, making bike and bus lanes impossible, or removing a lane of traffic.

        Some on this blog hate cars and hope to eliminate them one day, but a recent article in the Seattle Times noted Seattle has the second highest rate of car ownership, so not everyone shares that view. If you want to own a car, or sell a unit to someone who owns a car, they should not shift the cost of that parking to the street which limits bike, bus and car capacity for everyone else. I am just a realist. If people are going to own cars they need to provide onsite parking.

      4. If each tenant owns an average of one car, you still don’t need two or three spaces per tenant, but many cities require that, leading to a lot of wasted paved space.

        However, there is still no reason for the city to require any parking. If everyone who lives there is going to own a car, fine – the developer will build the parking anyway, so why require it? If street parking is clogged, the city can respond by regulating the street parking and letting the developer know that their tenants won’t be able to freeload off taxpayer funded parking. That’s fine. But, the ultimate choice of how much parking to build should be made by someone who’s actually paying for it, not some arbitrary formula. If the developer builds too little and has trouble renting units because there’s not enough parking, that’s his problem, not th city’s problem.

        Yes, I also saw the Urbanist article about how for transitional housing, maybe a mandatory bike room is overkill. That’s fine. Although, I’d you read Donald Shoup’s book, you’ll learn that there actually are a lot of subsidized housing developments that do have excessive parking because of city parking code. The author even visited one such development and found the mandatory parking garage nearly empty because most people who qualify to live there cannot afford car payments, yet the city still insists on something rediculous like 1.2 parking spaces per bedroom.

      5. AJ, perhaps she meant some of those things, but she didn’t mentiin word one about them. She simply said “increase the amount of buildable land.” Since most of your suggestions already have built structures on them, they can’t be considered an “increase” in “buildable land”. It was defined as “buildable” some time in the past.

        The same thing is true of “upzoning”. By definition land available for upzoning is already occupied by some sort of built structures.

        Is all this tendentious? Yes, somewhat. It merely serves to show the sloppiness of thought in which far too many people wallow about such topics.

  8. HB 1157 has been deemed “necessary to implement the budget” (NTIB), and that is the bill’s only path forward.

    If it survives, it can be refined in the House floor or Senate, so no need to worry about the gory details right now.

    The most important thing people and orgs can do to support HB 1157 over the coming days is to contact House Finance Committee members so they’ll be more inclined to take it up when they reconvene in March.

    Finance cmte emails:

    noel.frame@leg.wa.gov (chair)
    april.berg@leg.wa.gov
    amy.walen@leg.wa.gov
    ed.orcutt@leg.wa.gov
    jeremie.dufault@leg.wa.gov
    Rob.Chase@leg.wa.gov
    frank.chopp@leg.wa.gov
    Kirsten.Harris-Talley@leg.wa.gov
    melanie.morgan@leg.wa.gov
    tina.orwall@leg.wa.gov
    alex.ramel@leg.wa.gov
    larry.springer@leg.wa.gov
    drew.stokesbary@leg.wa.gov
    my-linh.thai@leg.wa.gov
    brandon.vick@leg.wa.gov
    sharon.wylie@leg.wa.gov
    jesse.young@leg.wa.gov

    1. I don’t know of any cities that require two or three parking stalls per unit for multi-family housing. Even on the the Eastside the average is one unit per stall, and eastside cities have found that is fewer stalls than the number of cars per unit because most don’t live alone. Plus some developments then charge for resident or guest parking. As a result parking migrates to streets and private surface parking critical for retail.

      If there was a way to guarantee tenants would not own fewer cars than allotted stalls (plus common stalls for guests) I could agree parking mandates could be relaxed, but when you see packed street parking in Seattle neighborhoods that is not the reality.

      You can probably marginally reduce construction costs by eliminating onsite parking (especially if true underground parking which is usually large developments) but don’t then complain about streets jammed with parked cars and no capacity for bike or bus lanes, or retail businesses that can’t attract customers who arrive by car. It is usually retail owners who complain the most about inadequate parking in multi-family housing because they know Seattle is number 2 in the nation in car ownership per resident.

  9. I’m not convinced that this will change the housing shortage significantly. It feels like a measure designed to give legislators the reward of saying that they are handling the housing shortage yet not challenging the local land use status quo systems. This reads like a banker “solution” rather than a builder or home buyer/ renter solution.

    Housing is a very complex topic. In that, making quality building practices cheaper and faster seems to be a more effective long term solution. Financial strategies should reward buyers. Of course, outright banning of single detached units on lots with side setbacks over 5 to 10 feet (at least allowing a duplex or accessory unit attached to the structure) would change the entire regional economics to bring down housing cost and increase availability.

    Finally, the state should incentivize reducing large residential districts that require a car to survive. Large “new communities” like Tehaleh and Ten Trails are extreme examples of the marketplace trying to come up with a housing product that implies a harmonious natural setting — but is in reality isolating its residents and increasing per capita GHG emissions.

  10. City zoning should not be done in the Washington State Legislature. And REET taxes collected now – SHOULD be allowed to be spent by cities on infrastructure – as should developer impact fees. But Cities and their citizens should be allowed to have a voice in any rezoning plans – a voice in deciding how they grow and where they grow. The cities and their citizens know the answer to what is best because they live here!

    1. You’re making the classic NIMBY or BANANA claim that the votes of incumbent residents should permanently override the votes of people who do not AT THIS TIME live in the city but would like to by ensuring that they never will do so.

      While I agree that the Northwest can’t be the climate refuge of the 300 million Americans who don’t now live here — it’s too small — we need to be more welcoming to those who share an environmental responsibility ethos.

      1. Yes, and also add that the opportunity to live in those areas was not available to all. Many of the places that want to prevent others from moving in were red lined at one point (preventing those of color from living in the area). Many of those that moved in after that got their wealth during a period that prevented people of color from acquiring similar wealth. The moral case for allowing the current residents from excluding others is weak to non-existent.

      1. Except the author does not oppose state-level reform (“If we have to choose between the current system with statewide zoning reform and the current system without it, zoning reform is a decent course of action”). He is arguing that it is not the best place to make the change.

        Yeah, well, no shit. That is obvious. Ideally, the state does nothing, while the cities does the right thing. But when they don’t, the state should step in.

        It is like voting rights. Ideally every state does the right thing, and the federal government can worry about other issues. If not, though, the federal government should step in.

    2. City zoning should not be done in the Washington State Legislature.

      So you mean it should be done nationally. I could go for that. Basically revisit Euclid v. Ambler. At the very least I would like to revisit one of the key aspects of that ruling (*):

      In zone one, only single-family residences are allowed. In order for the zoning ordinance to be valid, the apartment house must be a nuisance, which the Appellant is attempting to exclude from zone one. This court found that apartment houses were a nuisance to single-family houses, and thus, the zoning ordinance was proper.

      That is a hell of a claim. An apartment — the exact same size, shape color as a house — is somehow a nuisance? I don’t buy that, and I’m sure there would be some good lawyers willing to argue that one. Who knows how the court would go (not an obvious left/right thing).

      Amending the law so that a city could not outlaw density would be huge. It would mean that a city could still have the same restrictions when it came to the structure. You could limit a neighborhood to one “house” per acre, for example, along with limits on its size. It is just that the house could now have many units. Likewise, cities would continue to ban industries or commerce in certain neighborhoods. But it would still blow a huge hole in the restrictions that have pushed up housing costs in much of the country (including this city). You would see a lot more multi-plexes, if nothing else.

      * https://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/property/property-law-keyed-to-cribbet/introduction-to-the-traditional-land-use-controls/village-of-euclid-v-ambler-realty-co/

      1. I’ve seen houses turned into multiplexes in Seattle. Specifically close to 45th and 15th in the U District. It was a slum, plain and simple. Single rooms with shared bathroom and kitchen, roaches and rats everywhere, people with massive numbers of pets (like a dog with five puppies), really somewhere nobody should be forced to live. If that’s what you’re supporting, turning homes into multiplexes, count me right out. The old single room low income houses in Belltown were infinitely better and cleaner.

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