Housing and Land Use Bills to Watch at the State Legislature

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A large construction project near a roundabout in Tacoma.
Washington is a fast-growing state, but most of that growth is funneled to the few areas zoned for apartments. (Photo by Doug Trumm)

Housing and land use issues remain a legislative focal point, even with the Covid pandemic and recession drawing much of the attention and energy at the Washington State Legislature. So far legislators have filed dozens of bills addressing housing and land use topics with many more being filed every week, but 25 are particularly noteworthy with some already advancing through the legislative process. The list at the bottom highlights where these bills are in the process and what they would accomplish.

The legislature is still early in the session with legislators focusing on bills within their respective house of origin. Most bills have either had their initial hearing or will soon have one, followed by possible action to move them out of committee. A hard cutoff for this stage of things comes on February 15th where a bill has to have been heard in committee and voted out of committee, otherwise a bill dies for this session. This deadline, however, does not apply to bills that deal with fiscal matters, which have a few extra days and could be resurrected later in the session if deemed “necessary to implement the budget.” The next cutoff point is March 9th when a bill has to be pass out of its house of origin. If it is passed out of its house of origin, it has the chance to go through the same cycle in the opposite house and possible final passage.

Right now is a key time to encourage legislators to take action on bills. Covid has strangely made testimony on bills easier than ever with options to comment on bills headed for committee. Commenters have three options: sign up to provide remote public testimony during a committee meeting, provide written public testimony in advance of a committee meeting, or sign in as “pro” or “con” on a bill in advance of a committee meeting. The latter two options are easiest for people strapped for time.

Ultimately, the best chance to advance bills is to let committees know which ones you support. The time is ripe to do that. Peruse the list below to find your favorites.

Bill NumberStatusPolicy Areas
HB 1035No hearing or action yet- Allows for local jurisdiction to create an affordable housing program that provides incentives for property tax exemptions for up to 12 years in exchange for affordable housing.
HB 1070Hearing held on 1/25, scheduled action on 1/28- Expands the allowable uses for the sales and use tax dedicated to housing and human services to include acquiring affordable housing;
- Modifies the purposes for construction and acquisition of affordable housing to include emergency, transitional, and
supportive housing; and
- Expands the allowable uses for the shared lodging tax to include housing and facilities for homeless youth
in King County.
HB 1099Hearing held on 1/19, scheduled action on 1/28 and 1/29- Amends Growth Management (GMA) goals clarifying that transportation must meet reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled;
- Amends GMA goals by adding climate change as a goal;
- Adds climate change and resiliency as required elements for comprehensive plans in certain counties and cities;
- Requires land use elements of comprehensive plans to inventory pedestrian and bicycle facilities needed;
- Requires park and recreation elements of comprehensive plans to consider health disparities to increase green space in highly polluted areas;
- Requires the Washington Department of Commerce to issued guidelines that specify proportionate greenhouse gas reductions within certain areas of the state for cars and light trucks;
- Adds a greenhouse gas emissions reduction sub-element for comprehensive plans; and
- Requires some metropolitan planning organizations to adopt a regional emissions and vehicle miles reduction plan.
HB 1101Hearing held on 1/26- Creates a grant program to facilitate reuse of publicly-owned buildings for housing people experiencing homelessness in counties with no more than 100,000 residents.
HB 1117Hearing scheduled for 1/28- Adds salmon recovery as a GMA goal;
- Amends requirements for land use elements of GMA comprehensive plans to include a strategy that achieve net ecological gain of salmon habitat;
- Adds requirements to the capital facilities and transportation elements of GMA comprehensive plans for elimination of fish passage barriers;
- Requires that Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) adopt rules outlining criteria for net ecological gain and consistency with regional salmon recovery plans;
- Requires WDFW to monitor and report progress on net ecological gain achievement; and
- Requires certain critical area development regulations to apply mitigation requirements.
HB 1128Hearing held on 1/19, scheduled action 1/29- Allows cities and counties to establish a Housing Benefit District to acquire, land bank, contract, sell, improve, fund, and lease land for the creation on of low-income and middle-income housing;
- Allows such districts to impose a sales and use tax of up to 0.2% on goods and services if approved by voters or 0.1% without voter approval, except that in some areas the tax rate may be 0.5% with voter approval, and 0.1% property tax.
HB 1157Hearing held on 1/27- Requires that local jurisdictions plan for additional housing types and location in relation to employment locations through the housing element of GMA comprehensive plans;
- Requires that local jurisdictions ensure that housing is adequately planned and housing growth targets are implemented through the housing element of GMA comprehensive plans;
- Establishes a minimum density of six dwelling units per acre in UGAs where housing is permitted with some exceptions;
- Requires that GMA cities and counties adopt housing targets consistent with countywide planning policies and balance supply with employment in the area; and
- Allow cities and counties to create a real estate excise tax density incentive zone within UGAs.
HB 1173Hearing held on 1/26, scheduled action on 1/29- Allows for creation State Lands Development Authorities to manage development or redevelopment of state-owned property near or within manufacturing industrial centers (i.e., Interbay); and
- Specifically authorizes establishment of such an entity for the Ballard-Interbay area.
HB 1154Hearing held on 1/26- Modifies grant limitations for state matching funds from the Building Communities Fund by raising them.
HB 1220Hearing held on 1/27- Modifies the housing goal of the GMA to include planning for and accommodating affordable housing;
- Requires GMA jurisdictions to plan for moderate, low, very low, and extremely low-income households in the housing element of comprehensive plans; and
- Requires that disparate racial impacts and displacement are addressed by local jurisdictions in the housing element of comprehensive plans.
HB 1236Hearing held on 1/26- Modifies the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act to reduce evictions due to the Covid pandemic by increasing notice of termination by the landlord, limiting causes for eviction, and providing for alternative rental payment plans.
HB 1277Hearing held on 1/22, scheduled action on 1/29- Creates a $100 document recording fee to fund housing assistance programs; and
- Creates the Eviction Prevention Rental Assistance Program in the Washington State Department of Commerce to issue grants for rental and utility assistance to struggling lower-income households.
HB 1350No hearing or action yet- Creates a property tax exemption for limited equity cooperatives that provide for houses owned by low-income households in certain circumstances.
HB 1232No hearing or action yet- Adds to housing element requirements of comprehensive plans by cities and counties planning under the GMA to include duplexes, triplexes, and townhomes instead of just single-family homes in developing goals and policies.
HB 1241No hearing or action yet- Cities and counting planning under the GMA with a population of 7,500 or more would need to create and implement an annual work program to advance comprehensive plan goals and policies each year after 2024.
HB 1337No hearing or action yet- Provides that cities and counties planning under the GMA may be eligible for grants if implementing specified actions, discounts accessory dwelling units (ADUs) from underlying density calculations, and exemptions specified actions from appeal under the GMA and State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA);
- Provides that cities and counties that wish to benefit from grants must adopt at three outlined ADU policies (including, not establishing off-street parking regulations for ADUs, not assessing impact fees on ADUs, not requiring owner-occupancy on ADU lots, and allowing at least two ADUs on lots in zones that permit single-family homes), at least five other policies (including not counting ADUs against limits on number of unrelated persons on a lot, not establishing a minimum gross floor area limit that exceed state building code requirements, not counting gross floor area of an ADU in floor area ratio maximums of the principal dwelling unit on the lot, not counting certain features in gross floor area, allow for certain features to encroach into setbacks as are for the principal dwelling unit, allow for other specified setback encroachments, adopt model pre-approved building plans for ADUs, or establish an amnesty program for previously unpermitted ADUs), and must adopt the following standards: allow for detached ADUs, allow an ADU on any lot that meets the minimum lot size for a principal dwelling unit, allow an attached ADU on any nonconforming lot with a principal dwelling unit in certain cases, not establish a maximum gross floor area for ADUs that is less than 1,000 square feet or 60% of the principal dwelling unit, not establish certain development standards that are more restrictive than those for a principal dwelling unit, allow for ADUs to be located up to alley lot lines in most cases, allow for conversion of nonconforming structures to ADUs, not preempt sale of a condominium ADU, not charge permitting fees greater than that of a similar sized principal dwelling unit, and not require separate connection of utilities unless necessary limited to conditions.
SB 5012Hearing held on 1/13- Provides authorization for local governments to impose a tax up to 10% on internet-based short-term vacation rentals and use revenue proceeds for affordable housing programs.
SB 5042Hearing held on 1/12, scheduled action on 1/28- Modifies the effective date for certain actions that expand urban growth areas, creates or expands limited areas of more intensive development, creates a new fully contained community, creates or expands a master planned resort, or removes designated agricultural, forest, or mineral resource lands to 60 days after publication of notice of adoption or after a final order by the Growth Management Hearings Board, whichever is later.
SB 5043Hearing held on 1/20- Allows for any school district to construct housing (e.g., cottages, single-family homes, or multifamily housing) for teachers and other school district employees when authorized by district voters; and
- Exempts all leasehold interests in facilities that the school district provides as housing for district employees from the leasehold excise tax.
SB 5139Hearing held on 1/21, scheduled action on 1/28- Prohibits all increases in rent and other charges for residential tenancies for the first six months after Governor Jay Inslee's eviction moratorium expires; and
- Limits rent increases for the following six months to no more than 3% above the consumer price index based on monthly rent as it was March 1, 2020.
SB 5160Hearing held on 1/20- Modifies the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act to reduce evictions due to the Covid pandemic by increasing notice of termination by the landlord, limiting causes for eviction, provides tenants a right to counsel, providing voluntary early rental termination by the tenant of a rental agreement, limiting fees and charges on tenants, and providing for alternative rental payment plans.
SB 5235Hearing held on 1/26- Prohibits counties planning under the GMA and cities within those counties from prohibiting renter-occupied accessory dwelling units, except in certain circumstances; and
- Prohibits local governments from limiting the number of unrelated persons occupying a home, except under certain circumstances.
SB 5279No hearing or action yet- Same as HB 1277, see above.
SB 5287Hearing held on 1/26- Expands the multifamily property tax exemption (MFTE) to include all cities and UGAs within King County;
- Adds affordability requirements for the program and modifies the income requirements for the eight-year MFTE program;
- Increases the affordability requirements and modifies the income requirements for the 12-year MFTE program;
- Provides for a 12-year extension of MFTEs that would otherwise expire; and
- Allows for a new 20-year MFTE for permanently affordable homes.
SB 5312Hearing held on 1/27- Allows for certain planning grants to be used to facilitate transit-oriented development planning by cities on SEPA environmental review processes, planned action ordinances, subarea plans, and other costs for planning and implementation; and
- Requires the Washington Department of Commerce to prioritize grant applications for transit-oriented development.

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Stephen is an urban planner 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. Stephen lives in Kenmore and primarily covers land use and transportation issues for The Urbanist.