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Washington's 'middle housing' bill has been tweaked a bit. Here's what's in it now

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Washington is growing, and new people along with longtimers all need places to live. It's estimated that Seattle alone will need more than 100,000 new homes in the next two decades.

According to State Department of Commerce projections, King County overall will need 17,000 homes each year to keep up.

A bill in the state Legislature aims to address this growth. The legislators behind House Bill 1110 say the measure will help alleviate those daunting numbers by addressing a lack of what’s called “middle housing.”

They want to allow multi-family buildings to be built in typically single family neighborhoods, including duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and so forth. This isn’t the first time a pro-density bill like this has been tried in Olympia. Several attempts have fizzled in recent years, but supporters are optimistic this time around.

Last month, HB 1110 passed the House with massive bipartisan support (75-21). On Monday, the bill made it out of the state Senate’s Ways and Means Committee. Along the way it’s been poked, prodded, and whittled away through the amendments process.

Sightline Institute's Dan Bertolet joined Soundside host Libby Denkmann to discuss exactly what the bill aims to do. Here are some key takeaways from that conversation.

Under the current version of HB 1110 / SB 5190: Fourplexes would be OK in cities with populations over 75,000 people. That includes the state’s 17 biggest cities, such as Everett, Yakima, Kirkland, Pasco, Vancouver, Renton, and Tacoma.

Duplexes would be allowed in smaller cities, with populations between 25,000 and 75,000 people.

Six-plexes would be allowed in larger cities, with populations more than 75,000, if two of the units are affordable or the housing within a quarter mile of a “major transit stop.”

Fourplexes allowed in smaller cities (25,000-75,000) if one unit is affordable or the building is within a quarter mile of transit.

Cities with populations under 25,000 would have to allow duplexes only if they are within the “contiguous urban growth area” of the states largest cities, such as Seattle and Spokane.

Streamlines the design review process. Only administrative design review would be required. Cities have to treat middle housing the same as single-family projects in the design review process, which accounts for factors like setbacks and tree canopy.

Lifts parking spot requirements if building is half of a mile from transit, and it allows local governments to reduce their parking requirements without triggering a state Environmental Policy Act review.

NOTE: Oregon eliminated single-family zoning in 2019, and California largely did the same in 2021.

Soundside was also joined by representatives from Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond to discuss what HB 1110 would do in their communities.

State Representative Emily Alvarado served as director for the Seattle Office of Housing from 2019 to 2021. She represents the 34th Legislative District, covering Vashon Island, West Seattle, White Center, and west Burien.

Planning Director in the Community Development Dept of the City of Bellevue, Emil King.

The city of Redmond’s Director of Planning & Community Development, Carol Helland.

You can listen to the full conversation in the audio above.

Soundside would like to hear from you on HB 1110: What do you think about bringing more duplexes and fourplexes to cities across Washington state?

Leave a voicemail: 206-221-3213, or send us an email:

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