Planning Responsibly and Equitably in Pierce County

May 10, 2023

Pierce County Transit Bus on a sunny fall day

Futurewise has appealed a new zoning regulation in Pierce County that would allow shared housing developments and modify the density bonuses in the Residential Resource zones in the Parkland, Spanaway, and Midland subarea. This zoning amendment would allow large shared housing developments, including those for people experiencing chronic homelessness, to be constructed in isolated, environmentally sensitive areas, far away from the resources and services necessary to adequately support our most vulnerable neighbors.

Futurewise appealed this zoning amendment to the Growth Management Hearings Board because we believe these changes are not compliant with the goals of the Growth Management Act, or with our goals to work for sustainable, equitable and long-term solutions to end homelessness.

Futurewise is deeply committed to finding short-term and permanent housing solutions for our houseless neighbors. That’s why we worked in 2021 to pass HB 1220, an update to the state Growth Management Act that requires local jurisdictions to allow homeless shelters and permanent supportive housing in any neighborhood that is zoned for similar residential uses. HB 1220 also requires local jurisdictions to adopt housing plans that accommodate homes for people at every income.

We believe that everyone in our state deserves to live in a community where they are connected to jobs, schools, and the resources they need to survive and thrive. We understand that the root cause of homelessness is a shortage of places for people to call home, and we are working at the state and local levels to adopt new policies that increase the supply of housing. All our housing work is grounded in our commitment to ensuring that we’re planning responsibly for growth, and adding new density in areas that are best suited to accommodate more people.

Unfortunately, the zoning amendment adopted by Pierce County doesn’t reflect these values and goals. First of all, we believe that new housing needs to be built in areas that are well-connected to jobs and services. We especially believe that people experiencing homelessness deserve to have permanent homes in neighborhoods where they can easily access the resources and services they need to thrive long-term. Instead the amendment adopted by the Pierce County Council incentivizes increased density in the lowest-income area of unincorporated Pierce County, prioritizing sprawl over connectivity. Additionally, the zoning amendment applies to the Residential Resource zone which includes aquifer recharge areas, streams, wetlands, and fish and wildlife habitats. Allowing large, higher density in these areas negatively impacts on the environment and because of the necessary mitigation, also increases the costs of construction of more affordable housing.

Futurewise is committed to being a partner in our state’s fight to end homelessness. We look forward to working with local non-profit and government partners in Pierce County to find an equitable solution.