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MBAKS Shares Comp Plan Recommendations to Meet Seattle’s Housing Needs

Posted on May 10, 2024 in:
  • Advocacy
  • Industry Issues
  • Growth Management

Seattle’s Draft Environment Impact Statement (DEIS) and Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan) Draft serves as a roadmap for land use and development in the City, guiding how it will grow over the next 20 years. It also contains the beginnings of the City’s middle housing standards. With the adoption of House Bill 1110 in 2023, cities statewide are now required to make residential zoning reforms to allow middle housing—such as duplexes, triplexes, townhouses, and courtyard apartments—more widely. HB 1110 sets Washington cities on a course to adopt meaningful and substantive housing policies in this year’s Comp Plan process.

Seattle’s Draft Comp Plan declares all the right values to deliver on this opportunity. However, the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS) found multiple areas where the brass tacks of the Plan will systematically produce less density and fewer affordable choices than promised and needed to lift Seattle from its growing housing crisis.

Most critically, MBAKS is concerned the Comp Plan won’t deliver the density or diversity of housing required by HB 1110 in Seattle’s residential neighborhoods. The new law requires cities like Seattle to allow for at least four units per lot in all residential zones (and at least six near frequent transit or with the inclusion of affordable housing). Moreover, cities must allow at least six distinct types of middle housing in residential zones. Seattle officials, though, have shared an expectation that most residential lots will accommodate a maximum of either three or four units, and that many types of middle housing will be impractical to build. This figure falls short of new State density requirements and Seattle’s stated goals and directly contradicts the new housing diversity requirements.

Unfortunately, the current Plan requires a critical distinction be made between types of housing and levels of density permitted in Seattle and those that can be realistically produced within city regulations. Design standards (like setback requirements), utility improvement requirements, and permitting costs are controllable factors the City has recognized as obstructions to producing sufficient housing numbers. MBAKS’ comment letter stresses the importance of complying with the intent of HB 1110, noting Seattle’s supposed “floor” of 100,000 new housing units expected over the next 20 years will prove to be a ceiling without significant revisions to the Comp Plan’s neighborhood housing strategy.

More details on our assessment and recommendations to the Seattle Comp Plan can be found in our full comment letter. Please contact with any questions.


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