The state Senate of Washington has adopted a major housing measure that will make duplexes and fourplexes permissible in most areas in practically every city in the state.
The Seattle Times reported on Tuesday that House Bill 1110 was approved by a vote of 35 to 14. Approximately six Republicans voted with the Democrats to approve the bill. This legislation would nullify city ordinances that have for decades restricted huge sections of cities to single-family dwellings.
According to Governor Jay Inslee and his allies, the state is in the midst of a housing crisis due to skyrocketing property prices and an increase in homelessness.
"We simply don't have enough housing in this state," said Senator Yasmin Trudeau, D-Tacoma. As one official put it, "This problem affects every city in every county across the state, and it's bigger than any city or county has been able to tackle so far."
Some people think the law is a gift to developers without doing enough to boost affordable housing, while others believe that local governments should make choices about land use and development. The Senate amended the measure to make it easier for smaller governments in the Seattle suburbs, and that version will now return to the House for a vote.
When it comes to the state of Washington taking aggressive action on zoning reform to provide additional housing options, "it's hard to overstate what a sea change this is," said Dan Bertolet, director of housing and urbanism at the Sightline Institute.
However, it would prevent municipalities from mandating that only single-family houses be built in a certain community. Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia) said that the measure would safeguard people's freedom to own private property.
According to Braun, homeowners' freedom of choice is curtailed when municipalities impose limits such as "one house per half-acre lot."
The Washington State Department of Commerce projects that the state will need to construct one million more dwellings in the next two decades. Watersheds near drinking water reservoirs that are in danger would be exempt from the regulations, nor would ecologically sensitive regions.
Cities have campaigned to keep control of zoning restrictions, therefore similar legislation has failed in previous years. This year's backers, however, put in significant time and effort with the Association of Washington Cities, which only provided tepid support (although last week).
As populations rise and available homes fail to keep pace, states have become more involved. In 2019, Oregon did away with single-family zoning, and in 2021, California followed suit.