Homelessness has become a crisis in towns and cities across the nation. If you talk to 100 unsheltered folk, you will hear 100 different reasons for being unsheltered. They include mental illness, addiction, loss of employment, domestic violence, etc. But, there is one underlying cause of homelessness: a lack of affordable housing and the related lack of buildable land. However, there are a couple of solutions and they are related to each other. Both require changes to current zoning laws.
One is middle housing, a transformative concept that provides a way to provide more housing and housing choice in sustainable, walkable places. These building types, such as duplexes and fourplexes provide diverse housing options and support local retail and public transportation options. Although they were common in the 1920s and 1930s, they have typically been illegal to build since the 1940s because zoning laws require single family dwellings. Middle housing helps solve the mismatch between available housing stock and growing demand.
Another solution is accessory dwelling units or ADUs, also known as in-law units. These small homes — separate from the main home — tend to be low impact and energy efficient. Where legal, they can add housing to a neighborhood, while causing less disruption than constructing new apartment buildings.
I am pleased that the Longview City Council is considering changes to its zoning codes. The board will remove the minimum requirements for the size of a lot on which a detached unit can be built. Getting rid of that requirement would more than double the number of properties that are eligible to build an ADU on and expand them into most of Longview’s single-family neighborhoods. These ADUs will add to the supply of available housing, help solve a major factor of homelessness, and provide an opportunity for growth.
I have urged the Longview City Council to approve these zoning changes and I ask the City of Battle Ground to do the same.
B Jo Brewer,
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