Lawmakers embrace urban density proposal

Lawmakers embrace urban density proposal
House lawmakers have approved legislation intended to increase the housing supply within certain cities. Photo:

A Democrat proposal to boost housing within urban areas received bipartisan support in a 66-30 house vote on Mar. 13. SSHB 1923 sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) would direct cities under certain populations sizes and planning under the state Growth Management Act (GMA) to choose from a variety of options to increase housing capacity or update the zoning in their comprehensive plan updates. The bill is one of many introduced this session in both chambers seeking to encourage an increased housing supply to meet both existing and future demand that has already added to real estate and rental prices.

“As more and more people keep moving to our state, that’s’ great…but that has created a severe housing shortage that has impacted our constituents in a big way,” Fitzgibbon told colleagues.

“Building the supply of housing is at the center of what we need to do, and this bill sets the foundation for us to work together,” Rep. Nicole Marci (D-43).

Under SSHB 1923, cities with populations of 10,000 or less and subject to GMA must select two of several options by December 2022 that include:

  • Authorizing the developments within half a mile of a transit station that contain at least 50 residential units;
  • Allowing duplex, triple or courtyard apartments on parcels in zoning districts that permit single-family homes;
  • Requiring only one on-site parking space per two residential units in multi-family; housing if it’s located within half a mile of a light rail or bus rapid transit station; and
  • Allow accessory dwelling units on all lots within zoning that permit single family residences.

Any city that fails to do so by December 2022 would have to make certain revisions to the housing portion of its comprehensive plan update. They would also be ineligible for grant money from the Public Works Assistance Account, the Water Quality Capital Account or the Transportation Improvement Account until the requirements are met.

The bill received support from some Republican lawmakers including Rep. Matt Shea (R-4) who voted for it though he said there are “still some things that need to be done to alleviate concerns.”

Rep. Andrew Barkis (R-2) said the bill “gets at some of the core elements of the issue of supply. When we talk about the regulatory burdens, we talk about some of the things that prevent cities and local jurisdictions and builders to increase that supply, this is a bill that goes to that issue. Anything we can do to get at the supply of housing is a good move.”

The bill has not yet been referred to a Senate committee.


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