Washington House passes bill to allow splitting of residential lots

Rep. Strom Peterson

The Washington State House of Representatives on Monday voted to require cities to allow residential property owners to split their lots into smaller parcels – the first of many proposals this year aimed at getting more housing built across Washington.

Following a year of significant housing legislation in 2023, lawmakers have again made the issue a priority. The lot-splitting legislation was one of three bills the House approved on the first day of this year’s legislative session. The measure will go next to the Senate.

The same bill, House Bill 1245, passed the House last year but failed to make it through the Senate. On Monday, it passed the House 94-4.

Supporters say the proposal, which has bipartisan support, will clear the way for more affordable housing in cities.

Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, the lead sponsor, said he’s hopeful the bill will clear both chambers this time around and suggested it got caught up in a traffic jam of other housing legislation last year. “It is very appropriate that one of the first bills we hear this year … is referencing our housing crisis that we have here in Washington state,” Barkis said on the floor.

Under the proposal, most large cities could no longer prohibit property owners from splitting lots. There are some restrictions. The new lots would need to be no smaller than 2,000 square feet, at least 40% of the size of the original lot and could not require the demolition or alteration of any affordable housing.

Cities could also not require more than one off-street parking space per lot or more than 20 feet of frontage width per lot. Under the bill, they also could not impose building restrictions on the divided lots that exceed guidelines for neighboring residential construction.

The new regulations would take effect six months after a jurisdiction’s next comprehensive plan update, according to the bill.

Lawmakers are already scheduled to hear a slate of other housing-related proposals this week.

There are pending bills to improve tenant protections and stabilize rent, allow for co-living homes – independently rented, small apartments with kitchens shared among building residents, and create denser housing construction near transit stops.

Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, said the lot-splitting bill will help increase housing stock but that the Legislature will need to look at other legislation to address the state’s housing shortage.

“There’s still much more work to be done in the next 60 days,” said Peterson, who chairs the House Housing committee.

— By Laurel Demkovich, Washington State Standard

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  1. This is something the political class loves. Density equals dollars. It’s all about the Govt getting more revenue. If it ruins the character of your single family neighborhood….too bad. If you believe that this will make housing affordable you will likely be really disappointed.

  2. It’s a fact that Washington has a housing shortage. This shortage is a direct result of the growth management act (adopted thirty years ago). The GMA was well intentioned and meant to contain sprawl but had the unintended consequence of restricting growth by limiting available buildable land (heightened by the personal nature (both financial and emotional) of home ownership) . This lot splitting seems like another bit of well intentioned legislation (it’s a little top down for my liking but we live in a democracy). Who knows what the unintended consequences will be? It still feels like there’s no housing strategy but just a collection of identified problems and hastily assembled solutions madly cobbled together each year. Again, this is highly emotional because it’s tied to our security, our status, and our financial well being. Overall, most people want to live and raise their kids in the same environment they were raised in – that means large yards with elbow room, good neighbours and good fences, etc. Trying to densify in an existing city/town is an almost impossible task – especially without adding parks, increasing public transportation, solving crime/mental health/poverty, and improving infrastructure (which this legislation does nothing to address).

    1. I appreciate your thoughtful comments, Nathan. It’s clunky for sure but I prefer the approach to try than to not try and I agree that politics is a problem. I feel yanked back and forth. When I finally see legislation and action that I’ve been desiring for years, it’s so hard to watch it get reversed, defunded, and obstructed for so many reasons that I find unethical. It’s whiplash. I wish politicians were not influenced by big money, extremism and partisabahip and more interested in working together to come up with solutions. We struggle with expensive medical costs, homelessness, childcare issues, unethical business practices, climate issues, political extremism, etc. Just help us live in peace and model respectful and reliant behavior towards your fellow men as a public servant. I’m done with made up culture wars. All hands on deck, please.

  3. Do we really believe this will solve the homeless problem? Not one tent dweller could afford to rent one of these properties.

    1. From my experience , not everyone who is homeless is a tent dweller and I find this characterization dehumanizing, which I feel is part of the problem. This attitude, held by many, are the concerns I have for the health of my society. Such apathy and even cruelty. Being homeless isn’t a sin. People end up homeless for many reasons: divorce, disability, sickness, old age, lay-offs, abuse, etc. For many, the obstacle to gainful employment is a lack of housing, stability. We lose access to services, such as, water, electricity, technology. We lose opportunities. Most jobs are found through computers and cell phones now. We need to be able to groom ourselves, feed ourselves, sleep. These are just our basic needs. I hope someone understands. I know when I am helped, I thrive. I am grateful, hard working and I extend help when I’m stronger.

    2. I agree. First we need to define the problem we’re solving. In this case, I think the problem is that there’s a housing shortage (caused for a host of reasons, including the GMA). This is aimed to solve that singular problem. Homelessness, housing affordability, etc are related but separate problems that need solutions. Ideally, we’d put together a single strategy to resolve a host of related issues (instead of a piecemeal solution – which will be clunky) but that doesn’t seem possible with today’s politicians.

  4. I think the point is being missed. We need creative options. I used to own a ranch home in Bremerton on 1/3rd acre. I easily could have built a large garage with a shop and an upstairs 2 bedroom apartment with plenty of parking. I was a single mom with 4 kids and needed additional income so I could keep my home and create stability. As a child, I grew up near housing projects in the 70s and 80s before they were defunded and shut down. I knew kids who grew up there. My mother grew up in a housing project. Her mother died when she was one year old and her dad was an abusive drunk. She and her big sister were raised by an older grandmother and raised with good morals. I still believe low income housing is needed and should be part of our options. As a mother who has been homeless, I need options other than the street. I believe projects failed because they weren’t built smart and they were underfunded, intentionally. A place becomes crime-riddened when a people don’t feel cared about. When they recognize that a society doesn’t care about where they sleep, what they eat, where they can wash their clothes, use the bathroom, study, work and play. I’m tired of this can’t do, won’t do attitude.

    1. Veronica,

      We do need creative options, but this bill and other housing bills will not result in affordable housing. All new housing built, under HB110 and on split lots, once this new legislation is integrated into our Comprehensive Plan, will be market rate. In our legislators’ town hall on March 18, 2023 https://myedmondsnews.com/2023/03/21st-district-legislators-respond-to-questions-on-single-family-housing-gun-control-and-more-at-saturday-town-hall/ Strom Peterson stated “we’ve never claimed that HB 1110 will make housing more affordable, and it won’t stop anyone from building a single family home.”

      Our state legislature has mislead citizens into thinking that affordable housing will be created with up-zoning. It will not. The definition of affordable housing is that the renter pays no more than 1/3 of their income towards rent. Even HASCO (Housing Authority of Snohomish Cty)owns an Edmonds property with rents that greatly exceed this criteria. Section 8 recipients pay one third of their income towards rent, but qualifying is difficult.

      For more information on why these bills won’t result in affordable housing, see my Reader View: https://myedmondsnews.com/2023/02/reader-view-house-and-senate-bills-will-not-build-affordable-housing/

  5. I’m neutral on this but i can share my story and what helped my husband and i. Lewis county had a program and as long as we could afford rent they paid first last and deposit. We were found an owner who was willing to have a property inspected for suitability, which we did. Sometimes, all people need is that original helping hand. We’ve been in our home nearly eight years , love our landlords, and cannot Express the gratitude we feel towards that program… this should be looked into for working people who’ve just landed on hard times. Just a thought.

  6. Look at the domino effect before the plans to allow residential properties to be subdivided are implemented.
    Those being:
    Is Edmonds prepared to double or triple the population of our town in a few short years, (worst case scenario)?
    Can our current water and sewer system handle thousands more people, (again worst case scenario)?
    The Tree Board and our city talk about increasing our tree canopy to prevent climate change. How would you propose to do that if you take away green space by allowing the proposed 1200 sq ft dwellings in our backyards? It seems to me that you would be removing trees, grass, plantings, shrubbery, etc. to allow for a ADU or DADU to be built.
    It seems that more thought needs to go into this plan before implementing it.

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