Missing Middle Housing Bill Fact Sheet
The Missing Middle Housing Bill (WA House Bill 1782 in 2022) was much debated and amended in the Local Government Committee, passed Appropriations and paused in House Rules. Seattle Fair Growth brings you this Fact Sheet because the prime sponsor says it will “come back stronger” in 2023 without any of the 17 amendments. Therefore we’ve based this on the original bill.
- More than 80% of the needed 250,000 units of housing in WA are low-income, subsidized housing, and that will not be addressed by upzoning; subsidies and incentives are needed.
- In the five years before the pandemic, King County added 88,000 units of housing, but 36,000 units of affordable low-income housing were demolished in the same period.
- The bill would require all cities over 20,000 to authorize the development of all “middle housing” types (including six-plexes, townhouses, and flats) on all lots currently zoned for detached single-family residential use within one-half mile of a major transit stop regardless of the lot size. (See Seattle Times map below).
- All other areas beyond one-half mile of a major transit stop would be allowed to have duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes (in addition to Accessory Dwelling Units - ADUs) on all residential lots regardless of lot size.
- The “Missing Middle” has nothing to do with income. It refers to the forms, or residential types, more dense than single-family zones (with or without ADUs) and less dense than midrise apartments five+ stories.
- All new construction is more expensive to purchase than existing buildings.
- Townhouses are the most profitable type of housing being built in low-rise zones, therefore almost no other missing middle types including duplexes, triplexes, stacked flats or courtyard buildings are being built without subsidies or incentives not allowed in the bill.
- Townhouses are one type of starter home; however, they are not good for people with mobility disabilities, seniors over 50 with potential knee problems or families with toddlers, because of stairs.
- New townhouses and row-houses are not inherently “affordable.”
- Townhouses are an inefficient use of floor space because as much as 20% of each unit are stairs, whereas in a three-flat, the stairs are common areas.
- Townhouses are an inefficient use of heating because the heat can’t be adjusted per floor, except by opening windows.
- In Seattle, for example, a new townhouse in low-cost Lake City is selling for $700,000. Townhouses are not affordable, and no affordable rentals are being built, without subsidies.
- This bill is backed by the free-market Master Builders. Their business plan is to sell, not to rent; this is why almost no small rental buildings are being built.
- Seattle’s experience with legalizing ADUs in 2019 is that the Builders will demo the existing older house and build a new house with an attached and a detached ADU, form an HOA and sell each separately.
- Some Seattle homeowners are creating their own ADUs, as envisioned, for rent or use by family members, but this is not the norm. No incentives are available to help homeowners.
- Increased density results in loss of tree canopy and increased runoff; low-income and BIPOC areas typically have fewer trees and are often heat islands.
- This bill does not address affordability or displacement.
Please do not sponsor or endorse any Missing Middle Housing bill unless it includes anti-displacement provisions and subsidies for low-income rental housing below 50% of Area Median Income.
(1)(a) Any city with a population of 20,000 or more …must provide by ordinance and incorporate into its development …zoning regulations… authorization for the development of all middle housing types on all lots zoned for detached single-family residential use and within one-half mile of a major transit stop.
[ In other words, allow six-plexes, townhouses, and flats just like Seattle’s revised LR2 lowrise residential zoning ]
(b)(i) Such cities must also allow development of duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes on all other lots zoned for single-family residential use.
(b)(ii) As an alternative to the requirements of this subsection
(1)(b): (A) Any city with a population of 500,000 or more may alter local zoning to allow an average minimum density equivalent to 40 dwelling units or more per gross acre across the entirety of the city's urban growth area.
[ In other words, 40 units per acre is roughly 5 townhouses on a 6,000 sq. ft. lot., just like Seattle’s recently revised LR1 lowrise residential zoning ]