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Spokane already ahead on expanding 'middle housing' as Gov. Inslee signs statewide legislation

The new law allows townhomes, duplexes, up to six-plexes to be built in more places.

SPOKANE, Wash. — "Happy to sign this bill. Congratulations to everybody," said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee as he put pen to paper, signing House Bill 1110.

Monday's moment, met with cheers in Olympia, came after more than a year of work in the legislature. The new law aims to fill the state's 'missing middle housing.'

"We've had a million new Washingtonians move into the state in the last decade and we simply have not built enough housing for them to live in," Inslee said.

The state has said about a million new homes need to be built within the next two decades to keep up with demand. This new law now allows the state to meet that need by expanding where certain multi-family units can be built.

HB 1110 allows townhomes, duplexes, triplexes, up to six-plexes to built built in areas typically zoned only for single-family homes. It prioritizes more affordable options and placing them along transit routes.

"So people have choices for different types of affordable housing at their price point," said bill sponsor Rep. Jessica Bateman, (D) 22nd District.

It's something Spokane is ahead of the state on.

In August 2022, city council approved an ordinance allowing up to four-plexes citywide. 

City council member Zack Zappone says Spokane is running out of lots to build on; this new law allows more to be done with less.

"We can create more units in a smaller amount of space it becomes denser, which creates better use of infrastructure like sidewalks and bike routes and access to our local business districts," Zappone said.

Since Spokane's local legislation, there are nearly 300 new units in pre-development, according to a report issued in April. That same report shows since August 2022, 19 units have gotten permits and are ready to be built.

Zappone says there was fear the new law would mean tearing down existing homes to build multi-family dwellings. That's simply not the case, he said, adding it's not cost-effective anyway. 

Instead, these units will be new development or converting homes that were once fourplexes back into multi-family homes.

"These are slow changes," Zappone said. "But it provides another tool in the toolkit for people to use to address our affordable housing."

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