Packed In: Big changes could be coming to Washington’s zoning laws

SPOKANE, Wash.– Low inventory and high demand for housing have prices skyrocketing as more people pack into the Inland Northwest.

Some lawmakers say it’s time to deal with the housing crisis at the state level, and the key to do so is to change zoning laws.

State Representative Jessica Bateman (D-22nd Legislative District) is introducing a bill that would do just that. The governor-backed bill would make major changes to the types of zoning cities allow.

Bateman says housing is a statewide issue that requires a statewide response. Washington is short nearly a quarter-million homes. To address the growing issue and take the pressure off families, Bateman wants to take the focus away from single-family developments.

“What we’re currently doing, the status quo, is not working,” Bateman said.

What Bateman says she would like to see is more density in cities.

Here’s what that would look like:

Cities with 25,000 people or more: 

  • Quadplexes could be built anywhere there’s a single-family home
  • Any lot within half a mile of a major transit stop could have a sixplex

Cities with 10,000-25,000 people:

  • A duplex could be built on a single lot

Cities with fewer than 10,000 people: 

  • No changes would be required when it comes to updating their zoning laws.

Local realtors see the pressure rising home prices have on families.

President of Spokane Association of Realtors Eric Johnson says local buyers can’t compete with cashed-up offers. Those are usually coming from people moving into the area.

He says Bateman’s bill could help the issue.

“There’s some really neat examples from across the country to show where they’ve done this successfully and taken 50 units and turning it into 250 and still maintained the sense of community, green space and all of those things,” Johnson said.

Bateman says her bill was modeled after similar changes that have already been made in California, Oregon, Minneapolis and New Zealand.

RELATED: Packed In: Here’s what could help with Spokane’s housing crisis

RELATED: Packed In: Spokane and Spokane Valley fall onto list of hottest housing markets for 2022

Bateman says the time to act is now. Waiting will keep more people renting and force them to put off family planning and putting down roots in Washington.

“We have to address this issue. 2022 is the year to do it,” she added.

Johnson is hopeful the new year will bring more homes in Washington. He just wants to make sure it doesn’t change the character and feel of the neighborhood.

“I’m absolutely for it as long as it’s not ruinous to our neighborhoods,” Johnson added.

You can connect with Bateman, submit public feedback and comment on the bill’s goals HERE.