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caption: An industrial shared street, as imagined by Jingjing Bu, Fred Hines, Kristian London, Bill Nicholson in 2017 as graduate students designing a community around Kent Des Moines light rail station using a "housing benefit district" model.
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An industrial shared street, as imagined by Jingjing Bu, Fred Hines, Kristian London, Bill Nicholson in 2017 as graduate students designing a community around Kent Des Moines light rail station using a "housing benefit district" model.
Credit: UW College of Built Environments

WA bill promotes dense, walkable communities around transit stops

Many cities across Washington state have invested heavily in transit.

But there aren’t a lot of people living around the many stations set to open north and south of Seattle in the next few years.

A bill introduced in Olympia aims to change that.

City planners want to see dense, vibrant communities around transit.

So they change their zoning rules. And then they sit back and cross their fingers and hope developers will come. And what gets built falls way short of their dreams.

The problem is cities cannot build the neighborhoods their planners want to see.

House Bill 1111 would give them some of that power by creating a new tool called Housing Benefit Districts. Cities could opt in if they have a light rail station or a bus rapid transit line.

Those cities could then finance hundreds or even thousands of new homes, at least a third of them affordable, in well-planned, walkable neighborhoods with day cares and parks, all near that transit.

The program is just a pilot. The main critique (so far) comes from boosters who say the system needs to scale up faster.

The bill has a long way to go before it could become law.

Learn more about Housing Benefit Districts:

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