Reader view: Weigh in on HB 1110, SB 5190 before it’s too late

Washington state has a critical middle housing supply shortage. This shortage is particularly acute here in Western Washington.

The problem is very real and getting worse rapidly. These “middle housing” bills are not the right approach.
These bills will cause far more harm than good.

Here is a link to an excellent 2019 TEDx Talk by Chris Collier, manager of the Housing Authority of Snohomish County, giving an overview of the missing middle housing problem. The problem has only become worse.

HB 1110 and SB 5190 “middle housing” bills seek to remove barriers to building much needed “middle housing” including duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, apartments,etc. by eliminating single-family zoning in our cities. These bills would eliminate local single-family zoning from JBLM north to Marysville. If passed, all existing single-family residential building lots could have two, three or four residences on them, and perhaps as many as six under certain circumstances. Additionally, they would not be required to provide any off-street parking.

This heavy-handed, wrecking ball approach does not take into account neighborhood needs, desires and special conditions. The bills are wrongheaded and will not solve the problem. Our Olympia representatives need to be encouraged to redirect their efforts into better options.

Since 1990, Washington state has had a collection of bills known collectively as the Growth Management Act (GMA). It has worked well to anticipate and address our housing growth needs until recently. Expected population increases rely on the urban planning process at the state, county and city levels. This process identifies, targets and implements zoning changes needed to grow our communities in appropriate, effective and sustainable ways.

Instead of smashing the GMA with these well-intentioned but fatally flawed bills, these ideas should be used to improve and strengthen it. Let’s revise, speed up and streamline the GMA to appropriately identify where and how to increase middle housing. Let’s fix the well-considered tools we already have and tune up the GMA instead of destroying it.

Many neighborhoods will welcome a faster development process and enjoy increased affordable housing inventory, while others may appropriately oppose it. Each neighborhood is different and only careful urban planning takes all of this into account neighborhood by neighborhood. We skip the urban planning process at our risk and peril.

Please contact your state representatives at your earliest convenience and respectfully weigh in with your thoughts on these bills.

Use this tool to find your District legislators:

Please engage with your city council and mayor with your ideas and comments about this serious issue.

Let’s be smarter than the problem.

— By John Brock

John Brock is a Woodway Town Councilmember

  1. Have sent an email to the Governor and also to the 3 legislators of WA district 21 opposing these bills

  2. This is what happens when political party ideology replaces good common sense Centrist thinking. It does little good to contact these people when the last thing they want to do is listen. The developers are out of large size, reasonably priced dirt, so they are going after already purchased small size dirt to build on. That housing will be no more affordable than we have now. Just more of it in smaller chunks. Friends in Ballaed spent 400,000 and now have two million dollar plus houses on their lot which they plan to rent out for big bucks and move to the country. The problem is a few people making huge money while most work for peanuts in jobs soon to be lost to AI.

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