Legislature Passes Landmark “Middle Housing” Bill
On May 8, 2023, Governor Inslee signed HB 1110, commonly known as the “Middle Housing Bill”. The Middle Housing Bill represents the culmination of years of advocacy by groups concerned about the affordability of housing in Washington State, especially the Puget Sound.
The Middle Housing Bill strongly encourages “middle housing”, which includes 2 to 6- unit complexes, townhouses, stacked flats, courtyard apartments and cottage housing built on lots predominately zoned for residential use. As such, the bill has significant ramifications for those in the real estate and development industries in Washington.
Below is a summary of the high points of the legislation:
Cities between 25,000 – 75,000 must:
- Allow two housing units on all residentially-zoned lots
- Allow up to four housing units on all residentially-zoned lots within ¼ mile walking distance of a “major transit stop” *
- Allow up to four housing units on all residentially-zoned lots that provide for affordable housing on at least one unit
Cities of more than 75,000 must:
- Allow up to four housing units on all residentially-zoned lots
- Allow up to six housing units on all residentially-zoned lots within ¼ mile walking distance of a “major transit stop”
- Allow up to six housing units on all residentially-zoned lots that provide for affordable housing in at least two units
To meet the affordable housing requirements, a covenant or deed restriction requiring the housing to be affordable for 50 years must be recorded on the title. The affordable housing must be similar in size and design to the conventional housing in the development.
As an alternative to implementing these changes city-wide, Cities may opt to make these changes to 75% of the lots that are primarily dedicated to single-family detached housing units, provided the remaining 25% is limited to areas that are subject to displacement, areas that lack adequate infrastructure, areas that contain environmentally critical areas or that are prone to flooding – unless these areas would further discrimination, are within ½ mile walking distance of a major transit stop or subject to racially discriminatory covenants.
The act limits design review to “administrative design review”, which is based on objective, rather than subjective standards, and which does not include public hearings, unless required by other state or federal laws, or if the property is an historical landmark.
Cities may not impose stricter development regulations on the middle housing than are imposed on regular housing. Off street parking may not be required on lots within ½ mile walking distance of a major transit stop.
The provisions of this Act do not apply to:
- Environmentally critical areas or their buffers
- Impaired or threatened watersheds
- Areas designated as “urban separators” in a Comprehensive Plan
After the effective date of the Act (July 23, 2023), private covenants, CCR’s and condominium declarations may not prohibit Middle Housing.
The timeline for implementing these changes is tied to the City’s Comprehensive Plan amendment process, which occurs in 2024 in the Puget Sound Counties. Under the Growth Management Act, comprehensive plans must be amended every eight years. The schedule for this process appears in the following link: https://www.commerce.wa.gov/serving-communities/growth-management/periodic-update/
* A “major transit stop” serves light rail, express buses and HOV lanes