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Snohomish County: Removing barriers to homebuilding

October 24, 2022

Snohomish County recently joined a handful of counties in Washington in removing barriers to homebuilding, taking advantage of a 2020 bill supported by BIAW. The move helps address the critical shortage of new homes in Washington.

Removing barriers to homebuilding

Rep. Andrew Barkis (R-Olympia) sponsored and helped pass HB 2673 during the 2020 legislative session.  The bill allows local governments to adopt an exemption from the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) for infill development in Urban Growth Areas (UGAs). The bill gives counties the ability to reduce the burden of the regulatory process and allow builders to increase the number of new homes available for families in Washington.

While it has been more than two years since this bill passed, only a few counties have put it to use.

Snohomish County adopts infill exemption

Adopted on Sept. 28 and effective Oct. 9, 2022, Snohomish County’s Ordinance No. 22-037 allows residential, commercial or mixed-use development to proceed without the additional burden of SEPA review to fill in areas where density or intensity of use is lower than designated under the state’s Growth Management Act. Opting for this exemption eliminates redundant planning and paperwork, removing barriers to homebuilding.

In urban planning, “infill” refers to the development of lots left after developments and cities have already populated. This might be the development of empty spaces left after old structures were removed, or the development of undeveloped land inside the urban area. For some, infill will mean access to highly desirable locations in an established neighborhood.

HB 2673 helps ease the housing shortage

Washington’s housing market needs 270,000 more new homes to meet demand. At a time when Washington’s median household income is $73,775, 76 percent of households are unable to afford new homes.

BIAW applauds Snohomish County for taking this step to remove barriers to homebuilding. Reducing the regulatory process for new developments in urban areas will help ease the housing shortage our state is facing.

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