Ross: Can Gov. Inslee’s plan to move beyond single-family zoning actually fix homeless crisis?

Dec 16, 2021, 6:25 AM | Updated: 10:23 am
Compassion Seattle, homeless crisis, single family zoning...
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It was on Nov. 2, 2015, that King County Executive Dow Constantine and then-Seattle Mayor Ed Murray called homelessness a human-made disaster, and declared a state of emergency. Now, here it is six years later, and it’s only gotten uglier. Your first impression entering Seattle on I-5 is a graffiti gauntlet and a roadside trash dump.

On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled his Homelessness Policy Brief. It states that, at any given time, more than 10,000 people in Washington are living outside, and that the state’s homeless rate is well above the national average.

It goes on to lay out a budget for low-cost assisted living units, crisis centers, tiny homes, money to prevent evictions, and many other things – but the big item is this: Because developers have continued to build single-family homes instead of multi-family housing, Inslee says the best way to make housing more affordable is to relax neighborhood zoning laws.

To that end, he proposes to allow duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes on all lots within a half mile of major transit stops in large cities. In large and mid-size cities, duplexes would also be allowed in every neighborhood.

No more single-family zoning.

I wonder how that will be received. Theoretically, it should be welcomed across the political spectrum. Here’s a Democratic governor embracing the free market theory of supply and demand: You want more affordable housing? Remove some of the restrictions and let developers work their magic.

But there is one thing I don’t see in the governor’s proposal: a guarantee. I don’t see anything that says if we open up single-family neighborhoods, the tents will disappear.

And I think asking neighborhoods to accept more people, only to see the tents continue to pop up, would create some very angry voters – of which we already have plenty.

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Ross: Can Gov. Inslee’s plan to move beyond single-family zoning actually fix homeless crisis?