The proposals by GOP state senators include bills that would streamline land-use laws to spur development, make it easier to build tiny houses and give a property-tax break to some seniors and veterans.
OLYMPIA — Gathered at a tiny-house community named Quixote Village, a trio of Republican state senators announced Tuesday a slew of new proposals to address homelessness and affordable housing in Washington.
The collection of proposals — nearly 20 in all — by the minority party in the Senate include bills to streamline land-use laws to spur development, make it easier to build tiny houses and give a property-tax break to some seniors and veterans.
It comes as both the Puget Sound area, and increasingly, Washington’s rural areas, struggle with homelessness and housing affordability.
“I think that we all agree that we have to address these issues, this crisis, from multiple different perspectives,” said Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville.
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Becker’s proposal would give a state-property-tax exemption for the primary residences of seniors and disabled veterans, and freeze property valuations on their homes. That proposal would apply only if the house’s value is below the county’s median value or if the combined household income falls below $100,000. In order to qualify, homeowners would have to have lived in Washington for at least 15 years.
Becker said she wants to fund her proposal with new revenue from the state’s online-sales taxes.
Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, plans to propose legislation to make it easier for tiny houses and manufactured homes to be placed in rural areas. Another bill by Zeiger would allow tiny houses to be placed on land near homes, changing current law that requires so-called accessory dwelling units be attached to the main home.
Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, proposed several pieces of legislation to streamline state land-use laws to spur development. She called the state’s Growth Management Act well-intended, but said rulings on the law over the years have caused it to become inflexible.
Among her proposals, Short would broaden the Growth Management Act to make it easier to build affordable housing within urban areas. Another bill of Short’s would allow certain counties that originally opted into the Growth Management Act to opt out of it.
Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, expected to work on homelessness issues in the Senate Democrats’ expanded majority, said he is open to some discussions about how the Growth Management Act affects some communities.
Though Frockt doesn’t want to jeopardize environmental-planning regulations, “I will agree with them, in general, on the idea of finding a way to cut through red tape,” he said.
Frockt said the state will have to partner with local governments to ultimately find solutions. And more permanent supportive housing is needed to address the homeless crisis, he added.
The GOP senators made their proposals at the site of a 30-unit tiny-house village that offers a dedicated social caseworker and peer mentoring.
Jaycie Osterberg, program manager for Quixote Village, said it provides homes for chronically homeless people, who tend to be 50 years or older.
Two additional tiny-house communities are planned for veterans, according to Osterberg: in Orting, Pierce County, and Shelton, Mason County.
A state report on tiny homes put out late last year said they “may offer communities an additional way to provide people with needed protection from the dangers of sleeping outside.”
But among its findings, the report said tiny homes shouldn’t be considered permanent housing, and funding for their construction shouldn’t be diverted from long-term affordable-housing units.