Building advocates and others have argued that greater use of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) is one way the state can improve housing accessibility and affordability. However, current land-use zoning treats detached ADUs differently than attached ADUs. HB 1298 sponsored by Rep. Brandon Vick (R-18) would change that by allowing counties to exclude detached ADUS in the calculation of housing density in the area, provided certain regulations are put in place.
- Prohibiting more than one ADU on a parcel;
- The location and design must be consistent with rural character;
- ADUs cannot interfere with agricultural or natural resource uses on the property; and
- ADUs cannot exceed 50 percent of the primary dwelling unit square footage.
Vick told the House Committee on Local Government at its Feb. 3 public hearing that “we’re facing multiple crisis in our state,” including affordable housing and a coming wave of retirees. “ADUs are a tool that many families have used, or would like to use, to keep their loved ones close, to keep their children who are new to the career world close.”
He added that “this bill needs to move forward, and I’m obviously willing to do my part. If we need amendments…we will definitely post those. Addressing this issue in fairly short order helps us on multiple fronts.”
In 2019 Vick sponsored HB 1353, which would have given local governments the option to allow detached ADUs or “cottages” inside or outside of urban growth areas (UGAs), but it failed to clear the House Committee on Environment & Energy after a public hearing.
Also in favor of Vick’s current proposal was Washington State Association of Counties Policy Director Paul Jewell. Testifying at the bill’s Feb. 9 public hearing, he said “we don’t really understand why if it’s attached to the principle structure, or if it’s detached, why it really matters, but that’s the way case law currently has shaped around the GMA in Washington state. We think it’s a good opportunity addressing some of the affordable housing issues.”
Washington REALTORS® Policy Director Bill Clarke said there’s currently “dysfunction right now in the regulation of ADUs” in rural areas. One example of that is how many rural construction projects start with building the garage, then a small dwelling unit inside while the primary structure is built. Ultimately, that functional detached ADU “has to actually be disabled for that financing to occur because it’s not permitted under the county ordinance, because it’s a detached ADU.”
However, Bryce Yadon with Futurewise opposed the bill, arguing it “functionally will double the underlying zoning allowances in rural areas, creating greater impact to services and infrastructure in those areas.”
HB 1298 cleared the House Committee on Local Government after a Feb. 15 executive session. It has now been referred to the Rules Committee.