Published on Feb 11, 2019

House’s version of a housing and density bill is introduced

Contact: Carl Schroeder, Shannon McClelland

The long-awaited House of Representatives approach to the challenges of housing and density has been released and scheduled for a hearing on Monday morning. HB 1923 from Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D–Burien) is preferable to the approach in the Senate’s more preemptive proposal to this challenge; but the bill still has a number of significantly problematic elements from the city perspective. We appreciate the fact that the sponsor has been willing to work with us and we recognize that this is a work in progress.

We expect that this bill will serve as one of the major vehicles to address the interest of legislators around land use and housing. As such, we would greatly appreciate any feedback that you have, particularly anything you like or feel is unworkable.

Here’s a summary of the key provisions:

Section 1:

Cities planning under the GMA with a population over 10,000 must, by December 31, 2022:

  • Select and enact two policies from a menu of housing policy choices to increase residential building capacity. The options include: minimum densities near transit, pursuing SEPA planned actions, authorizing missing middle housing type (duplexes, triplex, courtyard apartments) on each parcel in one or more single family residential zones, limiting parking requirements, etc. Adoption of these policies is exempted from appeal under SEPA. These options are listed Section 1(1)(a)-(g) of the bill.
  • Select and enact two or more actions to increase housing affordability. The current options in the bill are limited to adoption of an inclusionary zoning program in which at least 25% of new housing be affordable at 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI), or some other action to address affordability for very-low income households making 60% or less of the AMI. This is an area of the bill that is clearly a work-in-progress.

Cities would then be required to certify to the Department of Commerce (Commerce) that they had met their obligations. Once verified by Commerce, those cities would be eligible for a one-time $100,000 grant to support planning and outreach efforts.

Section 2:

The next section is where we believe the draft doesn’t quite line up with the intent of the sponsor. We believe the concept is that cities would get the choice to either choose policies off the two “menus” or plan to a new and expanded housing element under the GMA. The bill draft as written, however, applies that new housing element planning requirement to all cities. The provisions of this section are identical to those in SB 5440, detailed in our previous article.

Section 3:

This element of the bill provides definitions in the GMA for affordable housing, extremely low-income household, very low-income household, and low-income household.

Section 4:

This section exempts from SEPA those amendments to development regulations enacted to comply with Section 1 of the bill.

Section 5:

The next section places further restrictions on city parking requirements in GMA planning counties:

  • Minimum parking requirements may be no more than one parking space per bedroom for affordable housing units (80% AMI) within ¼ mile of a transit stop. Only transit stops where transit service is provided at least every fifteen minutes, twelve hours of the day are included.
  • No minimum residential parking requirement may be imposed on housing units specifically for seniors or people with disabilities within ¼ mile of a transit stop with the same frequencies.

Section 6-8:

These sections specify that cities that are not in compliance with Section 1(1) and (2) of this act are not eligible for grants or loans from the water pollution control facilities fund, public works trust fund, or the centennial clean water account.

Section 9:

Specifies that a project evaluated under SEPA by a city planning under GMA is exempt from appeals on the basis of the evaluation of, or impacts to, transportation elements of the environment under these circumstances:

  • The project does not present significant adverse impacts to state highways;
  • The project is consistent with a locally-adopted transportation plan or transportation element; and
  • Impact fees have been paid or impacts have been mitigated by an ordinance or ordinances of the city.

Section 10:

The bill also makes changes and extends the transit-oriented-development SEPA planned action authority that provides a limited protection from appeal (RCW 43.21C.420).

Section 11:

This section makes changes to the state’s Planning and Environmental Review Fund, which hasn’t had money for grants in many years.

Section 12:

The next section states that permanent supportive housing must be a permitted use in all areas where multifamily housing is permitted. Neither type of housing is defined.

Finally, Section 13 declares that cities may not charge a higher per unit fee for multifamily residential construction than they do for single-family residential construction.

Again, we would greatly appreciate any feedback you have.

  • Land use & planning
  • Affordable housing
  • Advocacy
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