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Nov 12, 2021

Increasing Residential Building Capacity

Cities across Washington are experiencing a housing crisis due to unprecedented growth, especially across the Puget Sound Region. A lack of affordable options has left households financially strained with limited opportunities to improve. Cities, particularly smaller ones, find themselves in a unique predicament. They’re tasked with striking a balance between the critical need to increase capacity without displacing existing residents and disrupting the community’s unique identity. To help cities address these challenges, the Washington State Department of Commerce has rolled out funding programs to ensure that everyone is housed in their communities.

In 2019, the Department of Commerce introduced a grant program funded through House Bill 1923 that allowed cities to adopt a housing action plan or implement policies that would help increase residential building capacity. These plans and policies would create allowances for more multifamily housing types within single-family zones, authorize accessory dwelling units, or allow for more flexible development of single-family lots through clustering or lot size averaging. The grant program provided funding to 66 cities, and Blueline had the pleasure of working with four of them to either implement code provisions or write a housing action plan.

In 2021, Commerce announced another round of funding for cities planning under the Growth Management Act to adopt new housing action plans or implement strategies from previously adopted housing action plans. The grant is known as HAPI (Housing Action Plan and Implementation). Cities over 20,000 in population can apply for up to $100,000, and cities under 20,000 can apply for up to $75,000. This grant opportunity has excellent timing, as cities are gearing up for their 2024 Comprehensive Plan Periodic Update. Parameters for the housing elements have become more intensive, and more analysis of a city’s housing needs is required under HB 1220, among other studies. Cities that apply for the HAPI grant will have the opportunity to kickstart this process backed by funding.

Blueline has played an extremely active role in these two grants programs. We’ve completed two housing action plans, one for the City of Arlington and another for the City of Black Diamond. We also completed code amendments for the City of Algona and the City of Sultan. Currently, we are working on completing HAPI grant applications for 12 different jurisdictions. While these two grant opportunities have ended, there is always next year!

In the meantime, if your city needs help writing and implementing code provisions to increase residential building capacity, conducting a housing needs assessment for your 2024 Housing Element, or any other housing assistance, please contact our Director of Planning, Eric Jensen.