The Growth Management Act (GMA) is the state's comprehensive land use planning framework for counties and cities. The GMA establishes land use designation and environmental protection requirements for all Washington counties and cities, and a significantly wider array of planning duties for the 29 counties and the cities within that are obligated by population-based criteria or choice to satisfy all planning requirements of the GMA.
The GMA directs jurisdictions that fully plan under the GMA to adopt internally consistent comprehensive land use plans that are generalized, coordinated land use policy statements of the governing body. Comprehensive plans must include specific planning elements, each of which is a subset of a comprehensive plan. Planning jurisdictions must implement comprehensive plans through locally adopted development regulations that conform to the plan.
The GMA also establishes 14 goals in a non-prioritized list to guide the development of comprehensive plans and development regulations of counties and cities that plan under the GMA. Examples include urban growth, housing, and economic development.
Comprehensive plans must include a housing element that ensures the vitality and character of established residential neighborhoods. The housing element must include the following:
The housing goal guiding the development of comprehensive plans and development regulations is updated to provide that jurisdictions plan for and accommodate, rather than encourage the availability of, affordable housing.
The Department of Commerce must provide the inventory and analysis of existing and projected housing needs as required in the housing element of the comprehensive plan.
The housing element of the comprehensive plan is updated to require jurisdictions to do the following:
Cities may not prohibit emergency housing, permanent supportive housing, or indoor emergency shelters in multifamily, commercial, or mixed use zones where short-term rentals are allowed. Cities are not precluded from implementing regulations to mitigate neighborhood or community impacts of specific facility types. Cities must allow emergency housing, permanent supportive housing, and short-term transitional or therapeutic housing at the same occupancy levels as short-term rentals permitted in the residential zone.
Cities and counties are directed to consider policies encouraging the construction of accessory dwelling units as a way to meet affordable housing goals. Examples of such policies include not counting residents of accessory dwelling units against existing limits on the number of unrelated residents on a lot, and requiring the owner not to use the accessory dwelling unit for short-term rentals.
The Senate amendment:
(In support) It is incumbent upon cities across the state to look at every aspect of housing when looking at expected growth. House Bill 1220 asks cities to dig deeper into housing needs to see what levels of housing will be needed, including workforce housing, low to moderate housing, and emergency housing. The issue of homelessness will continue after the pandemic and for far too long until cities start building housing for all levels of income. It is important to make sure that the state is getting the information that it needs to properly plan to welcome the citizens of their communities. Jurisdictions have not always been required to plan for all economic segments of the community. The bill addresses racial discrimination in land use zoning, which was made for and built on racial exclusion. Even the Washington Constitution had limits on who could own property. Often times multi-family units and increased density are concentrated in key areas in the city and this is something that should be looked at as well. This is why there is need to prevent exclusion of emergency shelters in cities. We do not want to see homeless folks lose their housing. There is a very brief policy window to make the changes proposed by the bill before cities and counties embark on their next comprehensive updates that must be done by 2024, and many jurisdictions have already launched this process. Over the life of the Growth Management Act, there have been circumstances where it has failed. One of those circumstances has been affordable housing needs affecting people with the lowest incomes. The current housing goal is very soft language with no mechanism for enforcement. We are in an exacerbated housing crisis and we ca not stand by and just encourage housing for people of all incomes. We must include diverse housing, including emergency shelters, and make sure anti-displacement efforts are centered. This bill is a long time coming. It will result in concrete improvement toward housing needs. Some communities really need the push this bill provides through legislation. There is a great number of homeless individuals and the crisis cannot be solved, planned for, or prevented if communities are not required to plan for housing needs. Planning for density alone will not meet those needs. Local government must specifically plan for and meet affordable housing needs. When new development and increased density comes, it forces people from the community and is done by design. Instead, the need is for intentional planning that accounts for diversity of needs.
Growing up in Bothell comes with great privilege. There are great teachers and access to the community. The city just keeps building single family dwellings, which contributes to sprawl, and sprawled communities have caused prices to skyrocket. There are no homes or townhomes in Bothell for less than $500,000. There is a history of exclusion and racial discrimination. In the coming decades as population grows, we simply cannot rely on more sprawl.
In working on affordable housing and homelessness, how jurisdictions address homelessness and low incomes has been looked at. Most solutions focus on market-rate housing while many are cost burdened. There is no planning for shelters for those who become homeless. There has been significant opposition to adding shelters and various other types of housing needed. Without changes to the Growth Management Act, most jurisdictions would not do the required planning for homelessness.
(Other) The bill has a number of key elements, including housing equity review elements. This is the right time to move forward on something like this, but some of the expectations may need to be refined a bit. It will cost some work at the local level but it is the right thing to do. There is support for the expectation to plan for certain middle-income housing types, but there is uncertainty on how to inventory or project emergency shelter or homeless needs. The mandate around authorizing emergency housing is an issue to engage on a bit more. It is necessary to stress the importance of providing funding. Cities are required by the bill to identify policies and regulations, and there is uncertainty around what is meant by "practices." Further clarification is required on what is meant by "investments." There should be consideration for providing funding or consultants to help with the scope of the bill as small cities may struggle with the planning requirements in the bill.
(In support) Land use and zoning practices have historically been exclusionary on the basis of race and income. This bill provides a method for correcting these historical practices. Funding should be provided to local governments to assist in updating their comprehensive plans as they account for racial and economic disparities in housing. The substitute bill helps local governments by shifting some costs to the state. Planning for low- and moderate-income housing options will help address the current homelessness crisis. Every jurisdiction should be planning for emergency shelters and permanent supportive housing. Without adequate shelter, it will be difficult to solve the current homelessness crisis. Some jurisdictions have put in place obstacles to development or bans on shelters and other affordable housing options. Lack of shelter disproportionately impacts people of color, who are more likely to experience homelessness. Requiring jurisdictions to allow for shelters and permanent supportive housing will not cost them money but will result in more efficient land usage and the maximization of state investments in affordable housing and homeless housing.
(Other) Cities fully support reviewing zoning to account for racial and economic inequities. Cities have concerns about being required to authorize shelters and supportive housing in certain zones. The bill would require complex updates to the housing element of the comprehensive plan. Cities will incur costs to complete those updates over a four-year period.