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Nehring introduces housing affordability legislation in Snohomish County

EVERETT, Wash., September 30, 2021 – Yesterday, Snohomish County Councilmember Nate Nehring presented the final piece of a suite of legislation aimed at promoting housing affordability in Snohomish County. The proposal is the last of four separate housing affordability ordinances and would reduce duplicative review steps as well as the overall cost of housing projects.

Nate Nehring
Nate Nehring, Snohomish County Councilman

“Housing affordability has become one of the most critical issues in Snohomish County and the Greater Puget Sound region,” said Councilmember Nehring. “Skyrocketing housing prices have put home ownership, which is a critical aspect of economic mobility, out of reach for many families. We must take action at the local level to boost home ownership opportunities in Snohomish County.”

To address this issue, Councilmember Nehring has proposed four pieces of legislation that would allow for a more diverse array of housing options and would reduce bureaucratic red tape in the review process which often leads to increased costs to the homebuyer.

The first proposal would make changes to the regulation of detached accessory dwelling units (DADUs) in unincorporated Snohomish County. DADUs, commonly referred to as “mother-in-law apartments”, provide housing options for all ages. This includes young adults as well as elderly relatives who prefer to live in close proximity to family. The draft ordinance associated with Motion 21-297 would ease restrictions on DADUs to make them more attainable for more property owners in unincorporated Snohomish County. The Council referred this issue to the Planning Commission and Planning and Development Services (PDS) on September 15th.

The second proposal would encourage production of more “missing middle” housing by allowing higher building densities in certain urban areas of the County. It also would address displacement issues often caused by development by granting density bonuses for the preservation of existing housing. The Council passed Motion 21-309 on September 15th which refers the issue to the Planning Commission and PDS for their consideration and recommendation.

The third proposal would authorize development agreements for new subdivisions in Snohomish County. These agreements are common in many local jurisdictions and allow flexibility to encourage innovative developments. If approved, the key change would involve adding flexibility in situations where an application meets the intent of the adopted planning policies in a way not anticipated by specific development regulations. The Council passed Motion 21-308 on September 15th which refers the issue to the Planning Commission and PDS for their consideration and recommendation.

The final proposal in this suite of housing affordability legislation would allow for categorical exemptions to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), thereby eliminating a largely redundant part of the permit process. These exemptions would apply in situations where the use is roughly equal to what is called for and already studied in the comprehensive plan. This option was granted to local governments by the State Legislature under House Bill 2673, which passed 98-0 in the House and 43-4 in the Senate. Motion 21-334 was adopted today by the County Council and refers the issue to PDS for their consideration.

Final action on these pieces of legislation will occur over the next six months, following the review process. For more information about upcoming Planning and Community Development meetings and Public Hearings, visit the Council Meetings website.

Content Source: Nate Nehring Press release

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