On Dec. 15, delivering his speech before elected officials and community members at Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County’s Copper Pines community in progress, Gov. Jay Inslee announced his housing and homelessness policy and budget proposals for the 2022 legislative session, many of which aim to keep people in their homes and address affordable housing solutions.
Lawmakers in Washington State are working to bolster density flexibility for more affordable housing statewide, projected to create hundreds of thousands more homes in the central Puget Sound and many more throughout Washington. Inslee articulated his support for a statewide policy to overturn local bans on “missing middle” housing, effectively ending the practice of exclusionary zoning.
Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County is uniquely poised to address the middle housing shortage through its community development practices. And it is one of several housing policies Inslee wants the legislature to pursue in the upcoming session, which includes $800 million in investments in permanent supportive housing, tiny homes, hotel conversions, and behavioral health facilities.
“A variety of factors drive our state’s homelessness crisis, including lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, behavioral health needs and lack of services, domestic violence and accessible options for people with disabilities,” Inslee said. “Today, I am unveiling a statewide approach that maximizes housing units and getting people into housing solutions.”
“A variety of factors drive our state’s homelessness crisis, including lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, behavioral health needs and lack of services, domestic violence and accessible options for people with disabilities. Today, I am unveiling a statewide approach that maximizes housing units and getting people into housing solutions.”Gov. Inslee
He stated the investment were goals to:
- Pursue new avenues to help people remain in their homes
- Secure more facilities to provide permanent supportive and affordable housing
- Expand supportive services for people with behavioral health needs
- Transition encamped people to permanent housing solutions
- Restore the range of affordable housing types in our cities
Inslee is proposing a change to statewide policy that would allow for creation of a greater variety of middle housing types such as duplexes and townhomes in areas within a half mile of major transit stops in large cities. This change will also allow duplexes and lot splitting in most areas of large and mid-size cities, allowing for older families to stay in the neighborhoods they know while also downsizing if they want. The state will provide technical assistance, including developing a model ordinance, to help cities implement these new measures.
Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County has been realizing the potential of density flexibility wherever possible. With Copper Pines serving as the host site for Gov. Inslee’s announcement, Habitat SKC CEO Brett D’Antonio was able to illustrate to those in attendance how a surplus lot donated by the City of Seattle as part of the Housing Seattle Now Initiative will soon provide homes for seven low-income, hardworking families.
“With more density incentives in place, we won’t just build more homes; we will build more homeowners,” said D’Antonio. “Washington State would see existing barriers broken down to enable middle housing opportunities that meet the demand for more home types near low-income families’ jobs, schools, and public transportation. And for that, we applaud all of our elected officials’ efforts to advance density flexibility statewide.”
D’Antonio explains that housing density legislation isn’t just about rentals; it also enables organizations such as Habitat to provide permanently affordable homeownership units.
“A common misconception about density is the housing type: Density isn’t a gateway exclusively to build apartments. ‘Density’ includes duplexes, triplexes, row-houses, cottage homes, Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs), and Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADU) such as the backyard cottage,” he notes.
Rep. Jessica Bateman (D-Olympia) and Senator Mona Das (D-Kent) are partnering to introduce a bill in the House and Senate that would effectively end exclusionary zoning across much of the state.
During his announcement, the governor was joined by King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, representatives from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, Washington Realtors and Habitat SKC.
We thank Gov. Inslee for the opportunity to join us at Copper Pines to present his proposed investments, and look forward to the advancement of these initiatives in 2022.