Commerce awards nearly $3 million to help cities plan for increasing middle housing options

Grants will support adoption of local actions that aim to accommodate projected housing needs at all income levels through different types of units, providing more affordable housing options

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Department of Commerce today announced nearly $3 million for 54 cities across 16 Washington counties to support the adoption of local comprehensive plan policies and zoning codes to allow more middle housing in residential neighborhoods. Increasing the availability and variety of different housing types is essential to address the shortage that continues to drive up home prices and rents, threatening the potential for homeownership and financial security of many Washington residents in communities throughout the state, not just urban centers.

“Middle housing” is defined in Washington state law as buildings that are compatible in scale, form, and character with single-family houses and contain two or more attached, stacked, or clustered homes. They may include duplexes, fourplexes, townhouses, courtyard apartments, cottage housing or other configurations – the same types of housing that exist in many older neighborhoods.

“Middle housing and accessory dwelling units can increase homeownership opportunities, add to the diversity of rental housing, and allow families at every stage of life to stay in the communities they call home,” said Washington Commerce Director Mike Fong. “Data show we need a million more homes in our state over the next 20 years to address the growing challenge of housing affordability, and middle housing is a critical piece to reach that goal.”

All communities planning under Washington state’s Growth Management Act are required to adopt policies for these types of moderate-density housing.

HB 1110, enacted in the 2023 legislative session, requires 77 communities to revise their zoning codes to allow middle housing buildings of two to six units per lot in residential neighborhoods. This is in addition to the requirement to allow two accessory dwelling units (ADUs) per lot within urban growth areas.

Recipients of this first round of Middle Housing Grants represent jurisdictions of diverse size, geography and need. This includes communities not required to plan for middle housing and which are choosing to do so. A second round of funding opened for additional applications on Oct. 31, with up to $1.5 million in grant funding available in support of jurisdictions’ efforts to meet the state’s housing goals. Award amounts can range from $35,000 to $75,000.

“We are in a significant time of action to meet our state’s housing needs,” said Dave Andersen, managing director of Growth Management Services at Commerce. “These grants will help local governments to change local land zoning to allow appropriately-scaled infill development in residential neighborhoods.”

View the list of grantees and amounts (Box PDF). Visit the Planning for Housing website to learn more about middle housing. Another round of middle housing grants may open for application in the first quarter of 2024.

Supporting more affordable housing throughout Washington

Commerce also provides funding to communities to help cover the upfront cost of connecting affordable housing projects to municipal systems. The Connecting Housing to Infrastructure Program (CHIP) offers competitive grants to help local governments reduce the per-unit connection fees for multifamily or infill projects, encouraging more of these types of developments and making more efficient use of costly infrastructure improvements.

In addition to supporting the work of communities to plan for and encourage future affordable housing development, Commerce administers the state Housing Trust Fund, a key source of funding for developing and maintaining housing serving low-income and vulnerable populations. Since 1986, the Housing Trust Fund has invested over $2 billion in capital funding and helped build or preserve more than 58,600 affordable housing units statewide. These investments leverage tens of millions more in federal, local, private and philanthropic funds each year.

Commerce has an application open now for more than $20 million available for existing Housing Trust Fund projects that are at risk of losing affordability. The funding is limited to units already in the state Housing Trust Fund portfolio that are in need of an infusion to preserve them for the intended populations they serve.  Learn more about this multifamily housing preservation funding opportunity, open now until noon, Jan. 22, 2024.


Media Availability TOMORROW

Friday, Nov. 17, 9:00 a.m., Pt. Townsend. Commerce Director Fong will join Jamie Maciejewski of Habitat for Humanity East Jefferson County, Rep. Steve Tharinger, local officials and others to tour several projects in the area. Pt. Townsend, one of the Middle Housing Grant recipients, provides an example of how communities are encouraging the types of infill development that is needed to achieve projected need for housing affordable to all income levels. Director Fong will take questions about this, and affordable housing investments by Commerce generally.

For complete details on the Friday media event, contact Penny Thomas, (360) 704-9489.


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