The short subdivision housing solution

    The short subdivision housing solution
    Senate Bill 5008 seeks to improve housing affordability in Washington state by allowing local governments to permit up to 30 lots in a subdivision for developers, rather than the current maximum of nine. Photo: CHANS-Net: International Network of Research on Coupled Human and Natural Systems

    An ongoing challenge facing Washington state is being able to improve housing affordability, in particular in the central Puget Sound area, despite a recent drop in real estate prices.

    One way to accomplish that goal is by increasing supply, and Senate Bill 5008 (SB 5008) sponsored by Sen. Guy Palumbo (D-1) and cosponsored by Sen. Phil Fortunato (R-31) aims to do just that. The proposal would increase the number of plats allowed in a subdivision by local governments in counties subject to the state Growth Management Act (GMA). The bill was given warm reception by building industry members at a Jan. 17 public hearing of the Senate Local Government Committee.

    “Shortening the process in being able to bring those homes to market at lower costs and more quickly – that really is the heart of housing affordability for us in Washington state right now,” Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties Lobbyist Scott Hazlegrove said. “We need more supply, and we need it at prices that are going to be affordable to try and provide homes for families.”

    Under current law, cities and counties can create short plats or subdivisions of up to four lots, with the option of increasing it to nine. SB 5008 would amend that to set the default at nine, with the possibility of increasing it to 30 lots or parcels, which is the maximum amount allowed by state law before a development is required to undergo the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process. However, this would only apply within the urban growth areas (UGA) under GMA.

    Hazlegrove said the proposal “is about trying to find ways where we can start to address housing affordability issues by looking for some ways to reduce costs and eliminates steps in the process that probably do not add value.”

    Building Industry Association Government Affairs Director Jan Himebaugh told legislators at the public hearing the bill “is a really small step to get at affordability and get at streamlining the processes. This actually lets developers develop where the jurisdiction has told us they want us to put housing. Why not streamline that process and make it easier for us to divide the land?”

    Association of Washington Cities Government Relations Advocate Carl Schroeder told panel members that while “we do think there’s value in trying to facilitate residential development” and “we agree that we should be taking every step that we can,” he added that the association would prefer to maintain the four lot default, with the option to increase to 30 lots if desired.

    The bill is not scheduled for any further action at this time.

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