A historic new bill could redefine the future of housing in the state. House Bill 1110, broadly referred to as a “middle housing” bill, would allow duplexes or fourplexes in most neighborhoods in most cities throughout the state, regardless of local zoning rules. Although this rankles some who would prefer that cities keep control of their zoning regulations, for proponents of affordable housing, it’s a step in the right direction.
The proposal would help to address Washington’s housing shortage through “middle housing” — options like duplexes, fourplexes, town homes and DADUs that offer more dense housing but are not as large as full apartment buildings.
Last month, the Washington House of Representatives passed their own version of the bill, which would allow two units of housing to be built anywhere in cities with populations between 25,000 and 75,000; up to four units per lot could be built within a half-mile of public transit. In cities with 75,000 or more people, four units per lot could be built anywhere and six units could be built within a quarter-mile of transit or if two of the six units are affordable.
The Senate’s version of the bill is more lenient on the requirements it places on Seattle’s suburbs. Now, the Senate bill will move to the House, where it will either be approved as-is or the two chambers will have to work out the differences in the legislation.
An important point to note about the bill is that while it requires cities to approve denser housing, it does not ban the construction of single-family homes. Instead, the bill would increase housing density by preventing neighborhoods from being made up of exclusively single-family homes.
Seeing as Washington will need to construct almost one million new housing units by 2044 to meet demand, the easing of zoning restrictions could help the state address the affordable housing issues it has long faced.