In April, the Washington State Legislature concluded the 2019 legislative session. Many progressive environmental, transportation, land use, and housing bills managed to win approval and will become law. In our first two installments to cover the legislative session wrap up back in May, we provided an overview of key transportation bills that passed and stalled out this legislative session and key line-items in the biennial transportation budget.
In this piece, we are circling back to cover significant housing and land use bills that passed and those that came up short. We will have one final piece focusing on environmental bills to round out our coverage of the busy legislative session.
House Bill 1219 gives an option to cities and counties fully planning under the Growth Management Act to use a portion of the real estate excise tax (REET 2) for affordable and homelessness housing. Through January 1, 2026, a city or county may use $100,000 or 25% of available funding, but no more than $1 million to fund homelessness and affordable housing projects. The limitation on funding does not apply if homelessness housing is to be provided prior to June 30, 2019.
House Bill 1377 will require cities and counties fully planning under the Growth Management Act provide a density bonus for low-income affordable housing residential development on properties owned by religious organizations. Certain conditions apply to when the density bonus is applicable.
House Bill 1406 creates a new set of local sales and use taxes that cities and counties can impose to fund the creation of affordable and supportive housing. The additional maximum tax rate ranges between 0.0146% and 0.0073% depending upon when and what jurisdiction imposes the tax. The local tax option will be imposable for up to 20 years after enactment and can be credited against the state sales and use tax as a remittance.
House Bill 1462 requires landlords to provide written notice to a tenant at least 21 days before termination of tenancy whenever the tenant’s unit or premises will be demolished, substantially rehabilitated, or change use. The bill does not apply in jurisdictions that have a relocation assistance program for affected tenants meeting RCW 59.18.440 and requiring at least 120 days notice.
House Bill 1923 allows qualifying cities to more easily enact a spectrum of urban residential housing options and increase development capacity. The bill modifies the Growth Management Act and State Environment Policy Act, reducing appeals and process of local jurisdiction seeking to reform zoning and land use regulations that fall within the scope of encouraged density increase approaches. Cities will not be able to block permanent supportive housing wherever multifamily housing is permitted. Local jurisdictions are also eligible for grants from the state when enacting laws that implement the bill. See our earlier reporting on the bill by Natalie Bicknell last month.
Senate Bill 5334 modifies the condominium liability laws in such a way that it could induce interest in multifamily condominium developments again.
Senate Bill 5025 will create an exemption from the real estate excise whenever an affordable homeownership facilitator of self-help housing sells such real estate to a low-income household. Self-help housing is considered to be housing where members of the low-income household provided labor in the construction of the housing.
Senate Bill 5183 deals with mobile home park policies. It expands relocation assistance allowances for households displaced from mobile home parks, extends a real estate excise tax exemption for the sale of mobile home parks to affordable housing providers, preemptions cities and towns from prohibiting mobile homes on existing lots solely on the basis of noncompliance with separation and setback requirements, and makes minor updates the Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act.
Senate Bill 5383 is designed to encourage tiny houses. Cities and counties will be able to allow the division of land through the binding site plan process in authorizing sites for tiny houses. Cities and counties are also preempted from requiring tiny houses to remove wheels, provided that there is sufficient access to shower and toilet facilities. Tiny house community owners are required to comply with the Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act.
Senate Bill 5600 makes significant changes to the Residential-Landlord Tenant Act. Under existing law, a landlord may serve notice to a tenant that they have three days to pay or vacate a unit if missing the rent due date. This bill will extend that grace period to 14 days, giving extra time to the tenant to come up with finances to pay the rent. Landlords will also be obliged to apply any received money from a tenant first to rent and then to other charges due. Collectively, these changes could reduce instances of “unlawful detainer for non-payment of rent” under the law and thereby preempt a large share of evictions. The eviction process through the courts will further be reformed to turn the tides on judgments more favorably toward tenants for good cause shown by tenants subject to unlawful detainer. As compensation for these changes, the state legislature has authorized creation of a “mitigation” program from which affected landlords can draw upon.
A long list of land use and housing bills failed during the session. Many of the bills dealt with weakening or eliminating the Growth Management Act. Some bills were also filed to complicate and delay the decision-making and appeals process under the Land Use Petition Act. However, there were other bills that progressive housing and land use advocates might like that did not make the cut, including:
- Increasing minimum density allowances in urban residential areas and around light rail stations;
- In larger counties, providing a longer timeframe for enactment of any resource designation removal, urban growth area expansion, and establishment of limited areas of more intensive rural development in comprehensive plans;
- A variety of other circumstances that eviction of residential tenants would be preempted;
- Increasing the number of lots that can be processed under a short subdivision;
- Requiring landlords to allow residential tenants to pay deposits, last month’s rent, and nonrefundable fees in installments;
- Extending the multifamily tax exemption laws to more eligible areas and for rehabilitation of units as well as tax exemptions for existing affordable housing;
- Requiring local jurisdictions to provide density bonuses for affordable housing development on properties owned by religious organizations;
- Allowing easier annexation of certain unincorporated areas;
- Encouraging and reforming regulations for accessory dwelling units; and
- Exempting some actions to permit temporary shelters or encampments from SEPA.
Many of these bills will return next year for further work and could find final passage.
Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.