Olympia’s proposed zoning changes to increase housing options are needed and long overdue. They are good for homeowners, good for neighborhoods, and good for our city.
As a homeowner, I ran up against our outdated laws when I purchased my current home, which included a half-finished, semi-detached “mother-in-law” apartment. Because of the requirement that the homeowner must forever-after live in either the main home or the attached unit, I changed my remodeling plans. (The only difference was not having a kitchen; I look forward to adding a kitchen if this law is revised.)
Since I moved here in the late ’90s, housing prices have far outpaced wages. We lack one-bedroom and studio housing options for singles and couples, and I know several young families who have struggled to find an affordable rental. The Missing Middle changes would increase availability of the homes they need at more affordable prices.
In 2003 I lived for a year in California’s Bay Area. Contrary to naysayers’ beliefs, residential neighborhoods with backyard cottages and multi-family homes were beautiful, walkable, full of families, and far more affordable than they would have been if the city had followed a outdated code like ours. The multitude of housing options encouraged multi-generational neighborhoods where students, families, and retired people lived and visited with each other, strengthening the fabric of the community as a whole.
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The proposed changes are sensible updates that will improve our neighborhoods while giving homeowners more options, too. We should adopt them without delay.