Housing Affordability

The cost of housing has skyrocketed in recent years in Snohomish County. Upwards pressure from the housing market in the Greater Puget Sound Region and a lack of supply has driven home prices out of range for many families in our county. 

Councilmember Nehring has made housing affordability a priority and has introduced multiple ordinances to address housing affordability and housing supply in Snohomish County.

Read more about this legislation below and Councilmember Nehring's ongoing efforts to make housing more affordable.

Housing Development

Allowing More Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

On March 9th, the Snohomish County Council passed Councilmember Nehring's proposed ordinance to expand the ability of property owners to build detached accessory dwelling units (DADUs) on their property. Specifically, Ordinance 22-006 amends the code to allow DADUs on substandard lots and changes distance requirements from the main structure, creating more flexibility for the placement of DADUs in rural areas.  

DADUs, commonly referred to as “mother-in-law apartments”, provide housing options for all ages. This includes young adults as well as elderly relatives who prefer to live in close proximity to family. 

The Lynnwood Times reported on the ordinance and you can read about it by clicking here

Increasing "Missing Middle" Housing

On May 4th, the Snohomish County Council passed Ordinance 22-016 to encourage the production of more “missing middle” housing. Councilmember Nehring introduced this ordinance as part of a suite of housing affordability legislation aimed at creating more housing options for Snohomish County residents. “Missing middle” housing refers to townhomes and other housing that is denser than traditional single-family developments but less dense than mid-rise apartments. Townhome-style housing can be a good option for first time homebuyers looking to enter homeownership when other options are less affordable. 

SEPA Exemption Ordinance

Ordinance 22-037, which was adopted by the Council in 2022, allows for categorical exemptions to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) in situations where the use is roughly equal to what is called for in the comprehensive plan. This option was granted to local governments by the State Legislature under House Bill 2673, which passed 98-0 in the House and 43-4 in the Senate. 

Streamlining the Permitting Process

In 2017, the County Council adopted Ordinance 17-045 which helped to streamline the final plat approval process. When the legislature passed SB 5674, they allowed local governments to streamline this process by allowing administrative approval rather than the final plats needing to be approved by the County Council. 

This change helped shorted the timeline for these approvals and maintained the ability of Planning and Development Services (PDS) staff to do the necessary reviews which are administrative in nature.

In early 2023, Councilmember Nehring hosted a series of panel discussions at the Planning and Community Development Committee to discuss barriers to home ownership in Snohomish County. The panelists consisted of industry leaders, local elected officials, county and city planners, and other stakeholders. The panel series culminated in a report outlining the findings of the Committee and proposals for increasing housing affordability and homeownership attainability. You can read the report here.

2024 Comprehensive Plan Update

The Comprehensive Plan is a policy and planning document that guides the County in the topic areas of land use, transportation, parks, housing, capital facilities, and the natural environment. The plan undergoes periodic updates (usually every 8 year) with minor updates on an annual basis. The next major update to the plan will be adopted in 2024.

The update to the Comprehensive Plan will determine the County's direction for the next 20 years especially in regard to housing supply, density, and type. The updated policies and plans will have a significant impact on housing supply moving forward and, in turn, affect the affordability of housing in Snohomish County. 

If you would like to provide comments to help guide the County in the Comprehensive Plan update for 2024, visit this webpage to learn more and find out how to provide your comments.