2024 Housing Reform Progress Report

Babak Shamsi Edmonds Lawyer

Washington State has recently undergone significant changes in housing legislation. My previous blog posts herehere, and here, outlined some of the most substantial reforms pertaining to housing density adopted in 2023, which specifically related to multiplexes and accessory dwelling units. While 2024 has seen additional housing reform stall by comparison, as outlined in my blog post here, the legislature did pass some news laws this last spring that could leave a lasting impact on housing in Washington State. The first three bills addressed in this post all have a common goal: simplifying the process for developers to build properties that meet housing needs. A fourth bill, which also may still affect developer options, otherwise addresses housing density from a different path, by widening the availability of co-living arrangements. 

First, The legislature passed House Bill 2071 which aimed at addressing a gap in the previously adopted House Bill 1110. House Bill 1110 required cities and municipalities to allow the development of duplexes, fourplexes, and sixplexes depending on population and other considerations. The law, which cities and municipalities must adopt by their next comprehensive plans, however, faced a big challenge in that most jurisdictions in Washington State require triplexes, fourplexes, and sixplexes to comply with the commercial building code, a far stricter standard for development than the residential code. In other words, in most jurisdictions, a developer could construct a duplex under the simpler residential code but would have to follow the commercial building code whether building a triplex, fourplex, or a two-hundred-unit apartment building.

Sensing that this would have a chilling effect on the desired goals of House Bill 1110, namely, the development of more housing density, because of the undesirability of building a triplex or fourplex under strict standards required for large scale projects, the legislature passed House Bill 2071. House Bill 2071 applies the residential building code to middle housing of up to six units. This will allow developers more flexibility to meet housing demands. Separately, House Bill 2071 also requires the State Building Code Council to consider reducing minimum square footage requirements for studio living spaces, a secondary attempt at increasing the availability of dwelling.

Second, the legislature then adopted Senate Bill 5792, which excludes buildings with 12 or fewer units, and which are no more than three stories high, from the definition of a multi-unit residential building so long as the building utilizes one of those stories for parking or retail space. The legislature expects this law to expand homeownership by allowing for an ease on the construction requirements pertaining to small apartment-style condominiums.

Third, Senate Bill 6015 created uniform standards across Washington State into what cities and counties should consider legal parking spaces, allowing developers to, among other things, count gravel parking spaces, tandem parking spaces, and parking spaces with grass block pavers towards minimum parking requirements. This will allow developers more flexibility in how they meet parking requirements when building new dwellings. 

Finally, House Bill 1998, has created a statewide standard for allowing co-living homes. Co-living homes are multifamily housing where each resident has private sleeping quarters but share the kitchen and other spaces. Different cities in Washington State have traditionally had widely divergent allowances for co-living housing. House Bill 1998 seeks to create uniform standards by, among other things: (1) requiring cities and counties to allow co-living homes in any area that allows sixplexes; (2) prohibiting a sleeping unit from counting as more than 25% of a dwelling unit for density limits; and (3) capping sewer connection fees per sleeping unit at half of that for a standard dwelling unit. Cities must comply by the end of 2025. Although targeted at increasing co-living arrangements, this bill also creates alternative options for developers building housing. 

Housing laws in Washington State continue to change as the legislature seeks to make efforts toward housing reform. We will continue to monitor those changes as they occur. The lawyers at Beresford Booth have significant experience in addressing a variety of real estate issues, including those involving construction. If you are a property developer, contractor, or homeowner looking for assistance with any matters pertaining to real estate and construction, the lawyers at Beresford Booth remain prepared to assist you.

To learn more about the 2024 Housing Reform Progress Report, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@beresfordlaw.com or by phone (425) 776-4100.

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