Growth Management Act.
The Growth Management Act (GMA) is the comprehensive land use planning framework for counties and cities in Washington. The GMA establishes land use designation and environmental protection requirements for all Washington counties and cities. The GMA also establishes a significantly wider array of planning duties for 28 counties, and the cities within those counties, that are obligated to satisfy all planning requirements of the GMA. These jurisdictions are sometimes said to be "fully planning" under the GMA.
Counties that fully plan under the GMA are required to designate urban growth areas (UGAs) within their boundaries sufficient to accommodate a planned 20-year population projection range provided by the Office of Financial Management (OFM). Each city located within a planning county must be included within a UGA. Urban growth must be encouraged within the UGAs, and only growth that is not urban in nature can occur outside of the UGAs. Each UGA must permit urban densities and include greenbelt and open space areas.
The GMA directs fully planning jurisdictions to adopt internally consistent, comprehensive land use plans that are generalized, coordinated land use policy statements of the governing body. Comprehensive plans are implemented through locally adopted development regulations, and both the plans and the local regulations are subject to review and revision requirements prescribed in the GMA. In developing their comprehensive plans, counties and cities must consider various goals set forth in statute.
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 goals.
Mandatory Housing Element.
Comprehensive plans must include a housing element that ensures the vitality and character of established residential neighborhoods. The housing element must include the following:
Planning Actions to Increase Residential Building Capacity.
Fully planning cities are encouraged to take an array of specified planning actions to increase residential building capacity. Specified planning actions include, for example:
In general, ordinances and other nonproject actions taken to implement these specified planning actions, if adopted by April 1, 2023, are not subject to administrative or judicial appeal under SEPA or legal challenge under the GMA.
Technical Assistance and Funding.
Commerce is required to assist cities and counties, both with funding and with technical assistance, in the adoption of comprehensive plans. Commerce's assistance program must include a priority list for funding and technical assistance based on a county's or city's growth rate, commercial and industrial development rate, and the existence and quality of a comprehensive plan, among other factors. Commerce is also required to administer a grant program to provide direct financial assistance to local governments for the preparation of comprehensive plans. Other technical assistance required to be provided by Commerce includes utilizing Commerce's staff and the staff of other agencies to assist in the development of comprehensive plans, including the provision of model land use ordinances, the adoption of procedural criteria, and regional education and training programs.
Homeowners' Associations and Common Interest Communities.
A homeowners' association (HOA) is a legal entity made up of members who are owners of residential real property located within the association's jurisdiction and who are required to pay dues for the upkeep of the association and common areas. An association can also adopt rules and regulate or limit the use of property by its members.
A common interest community (CIC) is similar to an HOA and is made up of member-owners who are obligated to pay for the taxes, maintenance, or other costs of common areas. Like an HOA, a CIC can also regulate or limit the use of property by its members, including by adopting rules to establish and enforce construction and design criteria as well as aesthetic standards. A CIC may generally only be terminated by the agreement of at least 80 percent of the members.
A restrictive covenant or deed is a restriction or limitation of the use of the property that runs with the land.
Fully planning cities meeting population criteria must authorize the development of a minimum number of units on all lots zoned predominantly for residential use. A fully planning city with a population of at least 25,000, but less than 75,000, must allow:
A fully planning city with a population of at least 75,000, and any city within a contiguous UGA with a city with a population above 200,000, must allow:
Cities must allow any combination of middle housing types to be allowed to achieve the required unity density.
To qualify as affordable housing, the unit must be maintained as affordable for at least 50 years and record a covenant or deed restriction that ensures continued affordability. The square footage of the units dedicated as affordable must be equal to the average square footage of the market-rate units on the same lot.
A major transit stop includes:
A community amenity is defined as a public, common, or private school or a designated entrance or pedestrian access point to a park operated by the state or a local government for the use of the general public.
A city may apply to Commerce for an extension for areas at risk of displacement as determined by the antidisplacement analysis that a jurisdiction is required to complete under the mandatory housing element of the comprehensive plan. The city must create a plan for implementing antidisplacement policies by their next five-year implementation progress report.
Middle Housing Requirements.
Cities subject to the density requirements are directed to include specific provisions related to middle housing in their development regulations. Middle housing is defined as buildings that are compatible in scale, form, and character with single-family homes and contain two or more attached, stacked, or clustered homes including duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, fiveplexes, sixplexes, townhouses, courtyard apartments, and cottage housing. Any city subject to the middle housing requirements:
The density and middle housing requirements take effect the latter of six months after a city's next required comprehensive plan update or 12 months after OFM determines a city has reached a population threshold under this section.
The limits on off-street parking requirements do not apply if a city or county makes a determination, supported by empirical evidence and best practices in a study that is prepared by a credentialed transportation or land use planning expert, that the lack of minimum parking requirements in a defined area would make on-street parking infeasible or unsafe for the authorized units. Commerce must develop guidance to assist cities on items to include in the parking study.
Commerce must provide technical assistance prioritized based on need to cities in implementing middle housing and average minimum density requirements. Commerce must develop and publish model middle housing ordinances within six months after this bill takes effect. The model ordinances supersede, preempt, and invalidate local development regulations that fail to allow middle housing within the time frames provided. Commerce must establish a process for cities to seek approval of required local actions, and any local actions approved by Commerce are exempt from appeals under the GMA and SEPA.
A city that adopts the density and middle housing regulations is deemed to be in compliance with the mandatory GMA element of making adequate provisions for existing and projected needs of all economic segments of the community until June 30, 2032.
Alternative Local Action.
Commerce may approve actions for cities that have, by the effective date of this bill, adopted a comprehensive plan and development regulations that are substantially similar to the requirements of this bill. In determining whether an alternative local action is substantially similar, Commerce must view favorably plans and regulations that authorize an overall increase in density throughout the city, in units allowed per single-family lot, that is at least 75 percent of the overall single-family density throughout the city, in units allowed per lot, if the specific provisions of the bill were adopted.
Cities may apply for extensions of the timelines established. Extensions may only be applied to specific areas where a city can demonstrate that water, sewer, or stormwater services lack capacity to accommodate the increased density, and the city has:
A granted extension remains in effect until one of the following occurs:
A city may apply for an additional extension with its next periodic comprehensive plan update or five-year implementation progress report. The extension application must include a list of infrastructure improvements necessary to meet the required capacity. Commerce must provide the Legislature with a list of those projects identified in a city's capital facilities plan that were the basis for the extension. A city with an extension for a specific area must allow the required density of development if the developer commits to providing the necessary infrastructure.
Homeowners' Associations and Common Interest Communities.
Governing documents of HOAs and the governing documents and declarations of CICs within cities subject to the middle housing and density requirements that are created after this bill takes effect may not prohibit the construction or development of the types of housing or density requirements that must be permitted within such cities.
The substitute bill modifies the minimum density requirements and population thresholds as follows:
The substitute bill removes Washington State ferry terminals and a stop for a bus with minimum service requirements from the definition of major transit stop. The substitute bill also adds the term community amenity, which is defined as a public, common, or private school or a designated entrance or pedestrian access point to a park operated by the state or a local government for the use of the general public.
The substitute bill requires any combination of middle housing types to be allowed to achieve the required unit density and requires the square footage of units dedicated as affordable to be equal to the average square footage of the market-rate units on the same lot.
The substitute bill modifies the maximum parking that may be required for middle housing to one or two off-street parking spaces per unit, instead of per lot, and provides an exemption from the parking provisions if the city or county makes a determination, supported by empirical evidence and best practices in a study that is prepared by a credentialed transportation or land use planning expert, that the lack of minimum parking requirements in a defined area would make on-street parking infeasible or unsafe for the authorized units. The substitute bill also requires Commerce to develop guidance to assist cities on items to include in the parking study.
The substitute bill changes the deadline by which cities currently meeting the population thresholds must comply with the minimum density requirements to six months after a city's next required comprehensive plan update, instead of 24 months after the effective date of this bill.
The substitute bill exempts population associated with permits for middle housing units from the threshold of an OFM population projection to a county or a county population allocation to a city.
The substitute bill requires Commerce to publish model middle housing ordinances no later than six months after the effective date of this bill, instead of 18 months after the effective date of this bill.
The substitute bill specifies the criteria by which Commerce may approve alternative local actions to determine compliance with minimum density requirements, including viewing favorably plans and regulations that authorize an overall increase in density throughout the city, in units allowed per single-family lot, that is at least 75 percent of the overall single-family density throughout the city that is required under this bill.
The substitute bill allows cities to apply to Commerce for an extension in implementing the bill's requirements in areas at risk of displacement and removes provisions related to the antidisplacement measures in the mandatory housing element.
The substitute bill modifies requirements for cities to receive an initial and subsequent extension for water, sewer, or stormwater deficiencies, including requiring a city to include any needed improvements in its capital facilities plan to increase capacity or identify which special district is responsible for providing needed infrastructure. The substitute bill also requires Commerce to provide the Legislature with a list of those projects identified in a city's capital facilities plan that were the basis for the extension under this section.
(In support) The housing shortage is creating a housing crisis. The state needs 1 million new homes in the next 20 years, half of which need to be affordable at 30 to 50 percent of area median income. Working families are being priced out of the housing market, and the housing shortage is disproportionately impacting people of color. Homeownership for first time homebuyers is only affordable in three counties. Students also need walkable housing and communities. This bill will help us bring homeless people inside. There is no single solution to the housing shortage, but it has to get easier to build new housing. Builders are ready to build. Eliminating volunteer design review boards will help reduce the time it takes to get a permit. This policy is the fastest and most scalable way to increase housing production. Many people are better served by housing that is not single-family, but one study found that middle housing is prohibited on 75 percent of city land. Some cities have already implemented middle housing provisions, but every jurisdiction needs to do its part to tackle the housing shortage. It is less costly for cities to accommodate growth in a smaller, dense area. Even with growth management, cities are continuing to grow onto some of the state's best farmland. Middle housing reduces vehicle miles travelled and emissions.
(Other) Cities are ready to support a bill with minimum density requirements and believe density requirements should be centered on certain amenities, such as transit, parks, and schools. The uniform application of requirements does not recognize the uniqueness of each city. The parking requirements will create many issues. Even in Seattle, 81 percent of households have cars. Some cities are trying to eliminate the number of cars on the road but are not well-served by transit agencies. More people would just create more traffic. The bill needs some technical changes. Using the same environmental permitting process as single-family housing will put cities out of compliance with shoreline permitting and environmental regulations. Applying middle housing provisions to common interest communities is unconstitutional, and they do not have the infrastructure to accommodate middle housing.