WA House approves bill to expand dormitory-like housing

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Small, independently rented residential units with shared kitchens and common spaces may soon be allowed in cities and counties across Washington.

The state House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously passed House Bill 1998 to allow “co-living” in most large cities and counties.

Co-living housing units are similar to dorm rooms, with each sleeping quarters independently rented and other parts of the building shared. The bill does not specify whether these units should have individual or shared bathrooms, but it can vary by building.

Housing advocates say co-living is one of the best ways to increase the amount of affordable housing in Washington.

This type of housing is often much less expensive than a similar-sized studio apartment, said bill sponsor Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia.

“We have been looking at every possible opportunity to create housing supply in Washington,” Barkis said on the floor. “This is one bill I’m most excited about.”

Under the proposal, cities and counties must allow co-living housing on any residential lots where buildings with six or more residential units are permitted. The requirement would begin in January 2026. The units can include options like boarding or rooming houses, or residential suites.

Co-living housing was once common in cities across the country but local governments have restricted it in recent decades.

“Sometimes good policy is not brand new policy,” bill co-sponsor Rep. Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac, said.

She added that co-living units are good for housing and good for the environment.

The bill also includes some limits on minimum parking requirements for these buildings, eliminating them for all buildings within a half mile of a major transit stop and limiting the number of spaces required for other buildings.

In public hearings on the bill, counties and cities expressed some concern about removing parking requirements, which they said would then put the burden of creating parking spaces on local jurisdictions.

On the other hand, the proposal drew support from low-income housing advocates, business groups and seniors who said it is an important step toward adding affordable housing in Washington.

Barkis said seniors make up a large population of those renting these kinds of units, but that they draw people of “all ages and all walks of life.”

The bill has a companion in the Senate, Senate Bill 5901, which is also awaiting a vote in the full chamber.

by Laurel Demkovich, Washington State Standard

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  1. Co-living is an efficient way to house people who have similar values and interests. It requires HUGE cooperation and respect for others who are all sharing space. I lived in a smaller dorm like the one described for 3 years during my hospital nursing school program in Chicago. We (female) nursing students had much in common during that time, our ages generally 18 to 21 and eager to learn and cooperate. Being young, we coped well with the lack of privacy and shared space, and we respected each other’s needs for quiet time to study and rest. I am so grateful to have been fortunate in life and would find this arrangement very hard to do today in my late 70’s and very far away from that 3 year (co-living) dorm experience.

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