Same space, more housing

Same space, more housing
HB 1690 would allow cities and counties subject to the Growth Management Act to approve short subdivisions composed of up to 30 units. Photo:

As a Senate proposal to increase the housing supply advances, a separate House bill calls for a similar solution by allowing cities and counties to change the minimum lots allowed within a piece of property that is broken up into different parcels.

Sponsored by Rep. Amy Walen (D-48), the latter proposal, HB 1690,  would allow cities and counties not subject to the Growth Management Act (GMA) to pass an ordinance increasing the number of parcels within a short plat to nine; currently, lots can be four or fewer. Local governments operating within counties that are subject to GMA would be able to create short subdivisions of up to nine units and have the option to pass an ordinance to create ones with 30 units.

Walen is the former mayor of Kirkland, which approved nine-unit short plats in 1999 “with zero controversy,” she told committee members at a Feb. 12 public hearing of the House Local Government Committee.

Other cities such as Seattle, Bellevue, Wenatchee and Vancouver have also approved nine-unit subdivisions. However, Walen said “the local governments need state support to create more housing opportunities.”

She added that the bill “will support cities and counties in developing housing in accordance with their plans. It doesn’t shortcut environmental protections, it doesn’t shortcut local control because…these need to be adopted by local ordinance. It also doesn’t shortcut public process.”

Adding to that sentiment was Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties Lobbyist Scott Hazlegrove. He told committee members “there are a series of challenges of housing affordability at all income levels. This is simply one small incremental change that can help streamline the development of lots to work to create more housing.”

Jan Himebaugh with the Building Industry Association of Washington told committee members that the bill would also streamline the process in areas “where the jurisdiction and the state has told us they want growth.”

Association of Washington Cities Government Relations Advocate Carl Schroeder reiterated similar comments made during testimony on SB 5008, saying “our concern is bringing the minimum from four to nine without some local decision making around that.”

However, opposed was Bryce Yadon with Futurewise, who argued that allowing so many parcels within that land would deny the public a chance to weigh in as they do for long subdivisions subject to review under the State Environmental Policy Act.  He added that “we have the potential to be building 30 single family homes under a short plat without a new requirement for sidewalks, which seems kind of backwards.”

HB 1690’s companion bill, SB 5008, cleared the Senate Committee on Local Government on Feb. 7. No further action is scheduled for HB 1690.


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