Scaled back version of bill reworking state’s single-family zoning fails to advance

Feb 16, 2022, 8:36 AM | Updated: 9:08 am

Single family zoning, Puget Sound housing...

(MyNorthwest photo)

(MyNorthwest photo)

A bill that would have changed Washington’s approach to dense housing and single-family zoning failed to advance ahead of a Tuesday deadline.

Economist: Gov. Inslee’s proposal to rework single-family zoning ‘a good start’

The proposal was first introduced by Gov. Jay Inslee in December of 2021, citing the need to address an affordable housing crisis that has proliferated across the state’s major cities.

In January, it was then introduced in the Legislature by state Rep. Jessica Bateman, in the form of HB 1782. The initial draft sought to allow for the construction of townhomes, duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, fiveplexes, sixplexes, stacked flats, and courtyard apartments in what have traditionally been single-family zoned areas in cities with populations over 20,000 — provided the areas are within a half-mile walking distance of a major transit stop. For all other single-family zoned neighborhoods outside that range, it also would have allowed for duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes.

After it failed to gain traction among many Democrats in the Legislature, Rep. Bateman proposed a “striker amendment,” which would have scaled back several key aspects of the proposal. That would have seen it reduce the affected areas to those within a quarter-mile of major transit stops, cap the increased housing options at quadplexes, and eliminate the inclusion of duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes in areas outside of transit zones.

Economist: Gov. Inslee’s proposal to rework single-family zoning ‘a good start’

But even in its watered-down form, it ultimately still couldn’t garner the support it needed to advance out of the House, leaving it dead on the floor for this year’s abbreviated legislative session. As for why it struggled to get the necessary votes, Rep. Bateman pointed to what she believes is a problematic difference in philosophies on the need for denser housing.

“Unfortunately, philosophic beliefs about ‘local control’ are crippling our ability to take this necessary step,” Rep. Bateman said shortly after the deadline to advance the bill had lapsed. “There is a real disconnect that limits fully appreciating the impact of our housing crisis and the necessary urgency of taking action.”

While she expressed that she was “very disappointed” by the bill’s failure in 2022, she vowed to renew her efforts next year for what she hopes will be “an even stronger policy proposal.”

“We don’t have time to waste,” she warned. “The housing crisis is being felt in every corner of our state, impacting families on all ends of the income spectrum.”

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Scaled back version of bill reworking state’s single-family zoning fails to advance