As of July 25, cities in Washington state are required to allow transitional housing and supportive housing in any zones in which hotels are allowed. Woodinville recently adopted an ordinance to put in place interim development regulations in order to be in compliance with the new law, which was passed as a way to address homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. 

On July 20, Woodinville City Council voted to update its zoning rules to allow social services, which includes transitional housing or permanent supportive housing, in areas zoned as tourist business, general business and tourist district overlay. The ordinance passed with six council members in favor and Councilmember Al Taylor abstained. 

“I’m wondering what this change really looks like for the city of Woodinville,” Mayor Gary Harris said at the meeting. “Are we likely to see a number of churches that have people staying in there overnight on a somewhat regular basis? Can a residential person say, ‘Okay, I’ll let six tents sit on my front lawn,’ and what if the neighbor doesn’t like six tents on the front lawn?” 

Development Services Director Robert Grumbach said the new ordinance will not affect the temporary shelters that Harris described, such as Camp Unity. These temporary facilities that rotate around fall under the city’s temporary use provisions, Grumbach said, which are regulated differently. 

“We didn’t read the Senate House Bill affecting those provisions,” he said. 

What the law does affect, he said, are permanently established shelters that may offer temporary shelter or transitional housing. It also relates to permanent supportive housing, which is defined as subsidized housing with social services on-site and no limit on the length of stay. 

By Sept. 30, the law will require cities to allow indoor emergency shelters and indoor emergency housing in zones where hotels are allowed. 

Although the zoning laws may not specifically prohibit these uses, the law doesn’t specify the form or density of them, according to the staff report, and it is presumed in the new city ordinance that the housing would still have to comply with underlying zoning regulations. 

Because the ordinance passed on July 20 created “interim development regulations,”  they will be effective for six months but can be renewed if more time is needed, the staff report states. A public hearing is required to adopt the updated regulations, and one will likely be held in August or September. 

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