WA lawmakers consider backyard solution to state's housing crisis
- Written by Eric Tegethoff
Lawmakers in Olympia are looking for a solution that can fit in people's backyards to help ease the state's housing crisis.
AARP Washington set up a demonstration of an accessory dwelling unit near the Capitol in Olympia. (AARP Washington)
A bill in the Washington state Legislature aims to increase accessory dwelling units, small homes that can fit on already existing lots.
Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, said accessory dwelling units are a vital piece to creating more housing.
"The benefit is this is one of the quickest ways to get at our housing-supply issue in the state of Washington," Barkis contended. "These are inexpensive, they're easy to get on as a rental, as a second unit for your family, for aging in place, you name it."
The bill would reduce regulations such as parking mandates and height requirements for the units. Barkis pointed out accessory dwelling units will help as the population ages. According to an AARP survey, 70% of Americans would consider living in these units if they needed help with everyday activities. Critics countered the measure could be costly for counties and cities.
Rep. Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac, said regulations on accessory dwelling units vary across the state and the bill would change it.
"We've got to reduce the cost to do that," Gregerson asserted. "And then, of course, have streamlined permitting processes so that once a family or a person wants to permit and build one, they're not having to push through a ton of red tape, and they can actually get the job done."
Gregerson added it is a racial-justice issue.
"We have a lot of communities of color, particularly Black and brown families, that deserve to have more creative solutions on how to stay on their property and not be disenfranchised or pushed out of the city because they can't afford it due to other pressures," Gregerson observed.
AARP Washington is holding an accessory dwelling unit demonstration on the Capitol campus February 16, 2023.