Mayor’s Memo: Middle housing and what it means for Renton

Renton Mayor Armondo Pavone’s monthly memo allows residents to hear about local government happenings.

This past legislative session dealt with a lot of weighty issues. One of the more complex items addressed was a middle housing bill – and it was signed into law last week. We’ll see a visible effect on Renton. HB 1110 was known as the “affordable housing bill.” However, it has serious side effects that cancel out Renton’s existing middle and affordable housing incentive programs and unintentionally widen inequity in the Puget Sound region.

The City of Renton has been at the forefront of this issue for decades, advancing efforts to zone, incentivize, and advocate for middle housing development. Middle housing is the term for duplexes, triplexes, condos that address the region’s “missing middle” housing. We implemented an adopted Housing Action Plan and even received a grant from the Department of Commerce.

We opposed HB 1110 on its journey through the legislature over the past five months, meeting with legislators and testifying about the bill’s secondary effects – which unintentionally undercut the law’s objective.

The law has some critical failures – it leaves large portions of the Puget Sound region out through exemptions, meaning middle housing will be developed in a just a few concentrated areas — including Renton. It cancelled existing local incentives for developers to build affordable housing, and it has the potential to increase property tax burdens for those that live in non-exempt parts of the county. Increasing housing options is critical to achieving the state’s housing goals, creating opportunities for Washingtonians to live near where they work, reduce household energy use and transportation cost.

Middle housing also helps with the reduction of sprawl, enhanced walkability and more sustainable transportation options.

We already allow middle housing throughout the city, and we waive fees and provide free pre-designed plans to encourage building Accessory Dwelling Units. We permit cottage housing by allowing two and a half times the existing zone density, and we provide an incentive to develop affordable housing by allowing more (or bonus) density.

Here’s what the new law means for Renton:

Less Incentive to Build Affordable Housing. We have very thoughtful development regulations that provide incentives for developers to construct new affordable housing units. The new law overrides our City program and eliminates the need for market-rate developers to construct affordable units to get these “bonus density” building approvals.

Development Happens in Limited Areas of King County – Including Renton. The new law focuses on larger cities, meaning many small towns and cities are exempt. The new law allows Homeowners’ Associations to maintain CC&Rs that limit construction in their communities to only detached single-family homes. This continues historically discriminatory practices.

Gentrification of Older Neighborhoods and Destruction of Existing Affordable Housing. If there are limited places for middle housing, property investors will target older communities and neighborhoods, incentivizing their re-development and reducing existing affordable housing.

These are side effects that I can’t support. Middle housing is necessary – but the new law is not a state-wide solution – and creates more problems than it solves. We should be working together to find a solution, not placing extraordinary burden to provide more infrastructure and services on specific cities.

The City of Renton wants to maintain middle housing incentives and keep developers building affordable housing.

We want to continue to require minimum parking requirements and require the inclusion of EV charging stations at private developments. HOA communities with CC&R’s should not be exempt from middle housing, which makes inequities in our region larger – if more measured and wider development occurred, new housing would be available throughout the region, rather than concentrated in few places.

I’ll be paying close attention as the law is enacted and working with our Community and Economic Development department to keep advocating for fair, equitable and common-sense solutions for Renton. I’ll also be working with Council on another pressing issue, regarding the City of Renton ordinance to address gaps in the modifications passed by the state legislature on the Blake decision.

Do you have thoughts or questions on middle housing? Reach out to the Mayor’s Office at to share your perspective.