Legislators file dozens of housing bills

By Paul Gottlieb

For Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA — State lawmakers are attacking homelessness and the housing crisis from various angles as they dive into the state legislative session that began two weeks ago.

Among the more than four dozen bills filed in the House and Senate in the housing category at leg.wa.gov is House Bill 1110, which focuses on creation of “middle housing,” or multifamily dwellings.

It mandates allowing at least four housing units per residential lot in cities of 6,000 or more without identifying the size of the lot.

HB 1110 also mandates six units per lot in all residential zones if two of the six units are affordable, a term defined differently for rental and owner-occupied housing.

Exceeding the population threshold are Sequim, Port Townsend and Port Angeles, the largest of the three.

Port Angeles City Manager Nathan West took issue with the extensive reporting requirements and said Port Angeles homeowners can already build four housing units on lots of 7,000 square feet.

“Breaking 7,000 square feet into six different components, that’s a pretty difficult task,” he said last week.

“I have more questions than answers on that bill right now.

“Our preference is always for local control.”

The bill also mandates six units per lot within a half-mile of a transit stop. It was unclear if the Gateway transit center fell into the category of a transit stop.

A public hearing on HB 1110 was conducted Tuesday at the House Committee on Housing.

The text and analysis of all bills are at leg.wa.gov. Live and recorded committee meetings are at tvw.org and are broadcast on TVW, Channel 74 for Astound Broadband subscribers.

Other housing-related bills include the following:

• HB 1074: Extends the timeline or deadline for landlords to document retaining a deposit from 21 days to 30 days.

It requires landlords to substantiate the cost of damages withheld from a damage deposit with documentation and prohibits landlords from withholding deposit funds for ordinary-use wear and tear, including carpet cleaning, and for other items.

A public hearing before House Committee on Housing was conducted Jan. 12. An executive session is set for Jan. 26.

• HB 1389: Prohibits landlords from raising rents during the first 12 months after tenancy begins, or during any 12-month period, beyond the rate of inflation. A hearing before the House Committee on Housing is at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

• Senate Bill 5016: Cities and counties with populations over 50,000, including Clallam County, would be required to establish and operate at least one emergency overnight shelter site for homeless individuals and make employment, mental health and drug counseling services available at each shelter location.

It was referred Jan. 9 to the Senate Committee on Housing.

• SB 5138: Establishes that a vehicle illegally parked on public property or in a public right-of-way is not a homestead.

The legislation is in response to a court case, City of Seattle v. Long, that characterized illegally parked vehicles as homesteads, encouraging more people to live in their cars, according to the legislation.

It was referred Jan. 9 to the Senate Committee on Housing.

• SB 5060: Requires rental property owners to register rental and vacant housing units and to report, every two years, rental rates with the Department of Commerce, which would maintain a website disclosing rental housing inventory and rental data.

Each property owner would be charged a $70 registration fee for the first rental unit and $15 for each additional unit.

A public hearing before the Senate Committee on Housing was held Jan. 11.

_________

Legislative Reporter Paul Gottlieb, a former senior reporter at Peninsula Daily News, can be reached at cpaulgottlieb@gmail.com.

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