For Release: January 19, 2023

MEDIA CONTACT: Dan Bertolet, Director, Housing and Urbanism Program, Sightline Institute,  

OLYMPIA, WA Washington’s housing shortage and soaring housing costs have leaders throughout the state eager to develop and deploy solutions. The state’s Department of Commerce estimates Washington needs one million new homes within the next 20 years to make up for decades of underbuilding. 

The problem requires a suite of policies to open up lower-cost options for the hundreds of thousands of families and individuals who need them, so they can live closer and more affordably in the places they work, learn, and access services. 

“This conversation has been building for years, and the coalition behind it is stronger than ever—from conservation and climate groups to economic development and social justice advocates to those addressing homelessness,” says Dan Bertolet, Director of the Housing and Urbanism research program at think tank Sightline Institute. “This is the year. Washingtonians understand that we have a massive shortage. Their leaders understand it. It’s time to meet the need for the kinds of homes people can afford, and the added housing options in our cities, near jobs and transit, that will control rents and prices.”  

Among the bills proposed so far to do so are:

Middle Housing Bill 

HB 1110, sponsored by Reps. Bateman (D-22) and Barkis (R-2); Companion bill SB 5190, sponsored by Sen. Yasmin Trudeau (D-27) 

Washington’s 2023 middle housing bill would allow a range of lower-cost, more moderately sized home options like duplexes and townhomes within Washington cities, ending widespread bans on every kind of home except detached houses on large lots—the most expensive and resource-intensive kind of housing.  

Within a half-mile of frequent transit, it would legalize up to six homes per lot; and in cities with a population of 6,000 or more, or cities of any size within the contiguous urban growth areas surrounding Seattle or Spokane, up to four homes on any residential lot. The bill also includes affordability incentives, anti-displacement safeguards, technical support from the state, and reduced or eliminated parking mandates. Read more in Sightline’s explainer. 

Transit-Oriented Development Bill 

SB 5466, sponsored by Sen. Liias (D-21) 

The transit-oriented development (TOD) bill would help foster vibrant, mixed-use communities and the building of hundreds of thousands of new homes, including moderately-sized and -priced options like small apartment buildings, by taking advantage of shared priorities between land use, transit, and housing needs in cities and towns across Washington.  

  • Within a “transit station hub” (1/4-mile radius around fixed rail stations), it would require a zoning that allows about an 8-story apartment building, on average. 
  • Within a “transit station area” (3/4-mile radius around fixed rail stations, bus rapid transit, bus stops with 7-day service, and ferry terminals), it would require a minimum average of about a 5-story apartment building. 

These requirements include significant flexibility for how cities and towns implement them. The bill also includes affordability incentives, anti-displacement safeguards, technical support from the state, and reduced or eliminated parking mandates. Read more in Sightline’s explainer. 

Bill to Ease Parking Mandates 

HB 1351, sponsored by Rep. Reed (D-36); Companion bill SB 5456, sponsored by Sen. Frame (D-36) 

HB 1351 is the first bill introduced in Washington to focus specifically on reducing parking mandates—local rules that force every new building to include particular amounts of parking, regardless of how much residents and visitors use. Parking raises rents and prices because its expensive to build, often prohibitively, and also because it takes up space that could otherwise house more people. The increased flexibility would let areas well-served by transit to add more housing choices and business opportunities, allowing cities to grow more like they used to.  

The bill would strike down local parking mandates across the state for properties that are within a half-mile of stations served by transit that operates every 15 minutes at peak weekday hours, and a quarter-mile from stations with 30-minute peak service. 

Washington cities would still be able to impose parking requirements on a case-by-case basis, subject to a few conditions. Read more in Sightline’s explainer. 


Dan Bertolet, Director of Sightline Institute’s Housing and Urbanism program, researches, writes about, and speaks about housing and urbanism. He has a background in urban planning and electrical engineering, and his passion is to help create cities that will thrive amidst the challenges of the 21st century. View his latest research, and follow him at @DanBertolet. (Last name pronounced BER-də-lay.) 

Sightline Institute is an independent, nonprofit think tank providing leading original analysis of housing, democracy, forests, and energy policy in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, British Columbia, and beyond.  

January 19, 2023