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Published on Friday, January 20, 2017

Major homelessness funding and GMA buildable lands bill up for hearing on January 26

A proposal we have been expecting and talking to proponents about for months has now been introduced and will be heard on January 26. SB 5254 contains many issues of importance to cities. This is a complicated bill and a complicated issue. We have been soliciting feedback from our members and we would like to hear from more of you. Please contact Carl Schroeder if you want to participate in our team that is working on this issue, or if you just want to share your ideas and feedback.

On the positive side, this bill extends the funding for homelessness services that is currently set to sunset in 2019 for eight more years. The funding comes from Document Recording Fees. Preserving and increasing these fees is an AWC priority this year as part of our strategy to address homelessness.

On the more challenging side, this bill proposes a series of changes and expansions of the buildable lands work required by some cities and counties. The feedback we have received so far is that the proposed changes are problematic because they represent significantly more data that may be too subjective and unmeasurable and could lead to a significant overstatement of needed land for development. There are also concerns that this analysis is heavily focused on single-family homes to the exclusion of multifamily which represents a significant portion of planned for capacity in many communities. The timelines are unreasonably short as well.

There are also problematic proposals that limit the ability of Regional Transportation Planning Organizations to manage their own affairs – an attempt to address the recent controversy over conditional approvals of some cities comprehensive plans by the Puget Sound Regional Council.

There are also significant changes to city responsibilities under the GMA housing element.

In many parts of the state significant housing and growth challenges are on the on the horizon. It is possible that there is a place for some attention to how our communities get ready for those challenges.

We are sorting through how to engage on this proposal in an attempt to find common ground on a smart and balanced approach. We would greatly appreciate thoughts on how to wrestle with these challenges and we encourage participation in our working group on this issue.

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