Washington State Housing Crisis
Housing availability and affordability is top-of-mind for most people these days. In fact, a 2022 state-wide1 survey identified that people believe the top three most important problems facing Washington are (1) housing costs/rents, (2) homelessness, and (3) overall cost of living. One specific issue that comes up in conversation is the lack of housing options. In the same survey, 61% of Pierce County residents agreed that their communities need more diverse and affordable housing types, while only 20% felt that current housing costs and types are satisfactory.
Long Range (Comprehensive) Planning
Under the Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA), cities must “Plan for and accommodate housing affordable to all economic segments of the population, promote a variety of residential densities and housing types, and encourage preservation of existing housing stock.”
During the 2024 Comprehensive Plan Periodic Update, the City of Edgewood will be reviewing goals and policies to establish “adequate provisions” to provide housing that meets the needs of all income levels and special needs in a manner that is consistent with State law. Pierce County adopted updated population growth targets in June under Ordinance 2023-22s; Edgewood housing unit targets are shown below. The City needs to demonstrate adequate capacity to meet the existing supply plus the allocation.
Missing Middle Housing
When looking for a home, people typically have two options. The first option is to rent an apartment in a larger building. The second option is to buy a house on its own lot. This begs the question of why there aren’t more housing options in the “middle” for people to choose from. In 2010, Opticos Design originated the term “Missing Middle” housing, which refers to structures like duplexes, triplexes, cottage housing, townhouses, and accessory dwelling units (ADUs). To be clear, middle housing refers to the middle range of density between detached single-family houses and mid-rise apartments. It does not specifically mean housing that is only affordable to middle income households.
Most people are familiar with middle housing types but may not see them in their daily life. Middle housing is commonly found in neighborhoods built before 1940. These historic neighborhoods are often very walkable and highly desirable. However, subdivisions built after the 1940s typically only allowed detached single-family houses to be built. This means as people’s lives and needs change over time, they are often forced to find an entirely new community to live in. Middle housing caters to a growing demand for walkable and diverse neighborhoods. Particularly, millennials and seniors desire homes in dense areas with access to public transportation, businesses, and community gathering places. This diagram shows how middle housing types can fit into established residential neighborhoods next to detached single unit houses.
The City of Edgewood was awarded a Washington State Department of Commerce grant program to evaluate where middle housing could best fit in the community and how to encourage the preservation and production of middle housing. The City partnered with Pierce County South Sound Housing Affordability Partners (SSHA3P), BERK Consulting, and other four other cities on this important work. The final reports from this evaluation are provided below:
- Community Engagement Report
- Middle Housing Suitability Assessment with Recommendations
- Racially Disparate Impacts and Displacement Analysis
Pierce County South Sound Housing Affordability Partners SSHA3P
Established in 2021, the South Sound Housing Affordability Partners (SSHA3P) is an intergovernmental collaboration between the Cities and Towns of Auburn, DuPont, Edgewood, Fife, Fircrest, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, Milton, Puyallup, Sumner, Steilacoom, Tacoma, and University Place, Pierce County and the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, working together to create and preserve affordable, attainable, and accessible housing throughout our communities.