Evening Fizz: Watered-Down Density Bill Dies in Olympia

Not this year: A bill to allow duplexes and other low-density housing next to transit lines died Tuesday in Olympia.
Not this year: A bill to allow duplexes and other low-density housing near frequent transit service died Tuesday in Olympia. Credit: Nyttend, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By Leo Brine

Legislation that would have allowed denser housing in cities across the state died this week in Olympia. Legislators in the House failed to move Rep. Jessica Bateman’s (D-22, Olympia) denser housing bill (HB 1782) forward before Tuesday’s legislative cutoff.

Bateman wrote on Twitter Tuesday evening that she was “very disappointed” by the outcome, but grateful for everyone who advocated for the bill, which, she said, lays “the foundation for an even stronger policy proposal next year.”

She added that “philosophic beliefs about ‘local control’ are crippling our ability to take this necessary step. There is a real disconnect that limits fully appreciating the impact of our housing crisis & the necessary urgency of taking action.”

In an effort to make the bill passable, Bateman tried to appeal to the House’s “local control” NIMBY representatives by proposing a watered-down version. The (unsuccessful) attempt to satisfy opponents of the bill would have limited density housing to fourplexes and only required cities to plan for them within a quarter mile of frequent service stops—ensuring that most of the state’s exclusive single-family enclaves would remain that way.

Bateman also removed denser housing requirements for all jurisdictions with population under 30,000.

Her original bill would have made all cities with populations greater than 20,000 plan many types of denser housing, including sixplexes, in areas currently zoned for single-family residential housing and within a half-mile radius of a major transit stop. The original would have also required cities with populations between 10,000 and 20,000 to plan for duplexes in single-family residential zones.

And in a near-comical loophole, her revised bill would have also let jurisdictions prohibit all types of denser housing so long as they included in their countywide planning policy how the county and its cities will meet existing and projected housing needs for all economic segments of their community.

8 thoughts on “Evening Fizz: Watered-Down Density Bill Dies in Olympia”

  1. Cities and towns vary so much by local differences in topography, density and economic development. They must allow for wetlands and lack of sewer infrastructure, for example. Sixplexes in SF neighborhoods are an eyesore. More duplexes and triplexes make sense, as do ADUs, a bill that is still moving. Instead of “coming back stronger,” she should listen to all stakeholders. Gerry Pollet pulled together a group of 75 stakeholders to find a middle way. The sponsor should have done this last summer. She obviously doesn’t understand how Olympia works.

  2. Why do the proponents of market urbanist, trickle down ‘solutions’ keep posting photos of attractive, usually older buildings that are NEVER going to be built as a result of any of their proposals?

  3. Rep. Bateman has learned nothing. Her bill does nothing to increase low-income affordablility and would increase displacement of low-income people.
    We can build dense condos and apartments of all price points near transit without destroying single-family, which is still the goal of 2/3 of people, especially families. We definitely need flexibility to build ADUs, with low-interest loans in exchange for rents capped (legally) at 80% of market. We need to protect our tree canopy, which is predominantly in single-family zones. Most of all, we need loads of subsidized housing near transit.

    1. We can’t build anything at all price points without affordable land. Anyone who is talking about housing without talking about land is having a different conversation. Land around transit stations should be developed on land that ST currently controls, with ground rents that will drive dense mixed use development that will create the “urban villages” that elude the technocrats in city hall. As for ADUs? Seattle doesn’t need a whole new crop of landlords, gouging workers in substandard housing. 2/3 of people might want to live in single family assets but that may be because there as so few options. Rowhouses, apartments, du/tri/quad plexes, etc, could fit into neighborhood tomorrow, with the 6-10,000 sq foot lots zoned all through the car-dependent suburbs, giving people a chane to own a home of their own, not a corner of someone’s yard, at the whim of the homeowner.

      But go off, I guess…someone who has lived in seattle even longer than I have told me this is a city of people who want to share as long as they don’t have to give anything up.

  4. On one level, I’m disappointed that the density bill died. On another, I’m not sure state-wide housing policy is wise. Consider that local communities cannot institute rent control because of a state-wide prohibition.

    1. Considering the fact that housing scarcity is statewide, especially for those who can’t afford single-family housing, statewide housing policy is EXACTLY what is needed.

      1. The scarcity you describe is a scarcity of single family homes – these are what people want. The only way to build more affordable housing is if government pays for it.

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