In densely-populated Seattle and in surrounding King County, housing is at a premium. A shortage of housing in the area means buyers are constantly competing and prices are consequently pushed higher and higher. However, a simple solution is available: more multifamily housing. This includes everything from duplexes and triplexes to apartment buildings.
According to a recent poll by sustainability think tank Sightline Institute, about 71% of respondents in the region would support a proposal to do away with local zoning laws that allow exclusively single-family housing in cities with more than 6,000 people.
Part of the reason for these zoning laws is a consensus among lawmakers that their constituents would prefer single-family housing in their neighborhoods. While this is certainly true for some residents, the poll revealed that a majority of residents would be amenable to adding more multifamily housing in larger cities to help address the housing shortage.
The poll also asked if residents would support a multifamily housing measure if it meant a duplex or triplex could be built in their neighborhood, to which 68% of respondents said they would. Additionally, 61% of respondents said they would support a measure if it meant a duplex or triplex could be built next door.
House Bill 1110 and Senate Bill 5190 both aim to address this issue. The bill would require cities between 25,000 and 75,000 people to allow two units per lot. That number goes up to four units per lot if the lot is within a half-mile of a major transit stop or community amenity, or if the development meets affordability requirements. For larger cities with a population of at least 75,000, or those near major population centers, the allowance would be four or six units per lot.
The housing poll also asked respondents what they believed contributed to higher housing costs in the state. About 72% of respondents said the shortage of housing is a factor as strong competition between buyers drives up prices.
While the housing bill hasn’t passed yet, it’s clear there is strong support for multifamily housing and more flexible zoning laws. Lawmakers may wish to heed their constituents as they work to address this complex and multifaceted issue.
This post was based on a Seattle Times article by Claire Withycombe.