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WA House passes bill that would ban single-family zoning

The measure is intended to increase the state’s housing supply without adding to urban sprawl

The Washington State House of Representatives this week passed a bill that would ban single-family zoning statewide if passed by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee, according to the Seattle Times and state legislative filings.

Proponents argue that HB 1110 would increase the density of housing without adding to urban sprawl and would be critical in addressing the housing shortfall contributing to a high level of homelessness.

“Young people are being priced out of the opportunity for a future,” said Rep. Jessica Bateman, lead sponsor of the measure, in a speech on the State House floor. “They are being priced out of putting down roots. They are being priced out of building equity. They are being priced out of starting a family.”

The bill passed by a wide margin of 75-21.

However, opponents argue that zoning decisions should be made at the local level. While the measure would not ban single-family construction in the state, if enacted, it could result in more neighborhoods not being exclusively comprised of single-family homes.

A Senate version of the bill is currently being deliberated in committee.

The passage of this bill follows a pattern of what has occurred in states and cities across the nation. In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul is pushing the state’s government to override local zoning laws and mandate more housing to be constructed in the state’s suburban counties.

Hochul’s support for the measure — which is also championed by housing advocates — has set off opposition and challenges from state Republicans, which made gains in elections for state and federal positions in 2022. However, Hochul said she is unconvinced by the arguments of opponents and unconcerned about potential political ramifications, according to Politico.

Late last year, city commissioners in Gainesville, Florida voted in favor of eliminating single-family zoning throughout the city, despite public opposition. However, city commissioners reversed the decision in January 2023 and reinstated single-family zoning ordinances.

The first major city in the nation to entertain the idea was Minneapolis. In December 2018, Minneapolis city council adopted a measure called “Minneapolis 2040,” which temporarily ended single-family zoning in an effort to address issues of supply and housing inequality.

However, the measure suffered a setback in mid-2022 when opponents argued the measure should be blocked due to environmental concerns, which a judge agreed with.

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