House Bill 1110 was one of the marquee accomplishments of the Legislature’s “Year of Housing.” Sponsored by Jessica Bateman, D-Olympia, the law allows towns and cities to build two- to six-unit homes in zones previously restricted to single-family houses.
Cities with fewer than 25,000 residents can build duplexes everywhere. Those with 25,000-75,000 residents can build duplexes everywhere and fourplexes within a quarter mile of major transit stops (defined as a light rail, commuter rail, or bus-rapid transit stop). Cities with more than 75,000 residents can build four-unit projects everywhere and six-unit projects within a quarter mile of major transit stops.
There’s also an affordability bonus that allows developers in cities with more than 75,000 residents to build six-unit projects farther from transit if at least two of the units are subsidized affordable housing. Cities with 25,000-75,000 residents can build four units anywhere if one unit is subsidized affordable housing. Experts don’t think many for-profit developers will use the density bonus, but say it could be useful for nonprofit groups working on affordable homeownership.
“It’s a really big deal. … It used to seem impossible to see change at this scale,” said Alex Brennan, executive director at the nonprofit advocacy group Futurewise. “We’ve come a long way politically to get to the point where we’re able to see this happen in most cities across the state.”
The changes aren’t imminent for Seattle. The law states that cities must implement the new missing middle zoning allowances within six months of the passage of their next comprehensive plan update, which for Seattle won’t be until fall 2024.