October Planners’ Newsletter

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oct. 25, 2023

October Planners’ Newsletter

Housing update

Urban density through the Multi-Family Tax Exemption program

All cities in Washington may now adopt a local Multi-Family Property Tax Exemption (MFTE) program as an effective tool to help incentivize private multifamily housing development in communities. With new planning requirements for housing under the Growth Management Act, and state-provided projections of housing need, MFTE could be a useful tool to help reach your housing goals.

MFTE is a property tax waiver program, codified in Chapter 84.14 RCW, to encourage the development of new multifamily housing. Using the program, local governments provide property tax exemptions for new construction, conversion and rehabilitation of multifamily residential improvements within residential targeted areas. For market-rate, mixed-use development, developers may receive property tax exemptions on the residential portion of the project for up to eight years as an incentive to build new housing.  For developments with rent-restricted units, developers may receive property tax exemptions for 12 years. Property owners still pay tax on the land and the value of non-residential improvements, such as the commercial portion of a mixed-use building.

The recently published 2022 MFTE annual report shows 52 jurisdictions offered an MFTE program, and 18 authorized tax exemptions for 91 projects, representing 7,643 housing units, and over $2 billion of investment.  This represent a consistent growth trend for the MFTE program, and suggests that MFTE is one way local governments are incentivizing the development of new housing in their communities.

Middle housing model ordinance process includes virtual open houses

HB 1110 (2023) requires Commerce to publish model ordinances to implement middle housing no later than January 23, 2024. In addition to stakeholder meetings, we are offering virtual open houses for city staff, elected and appointed officials, and the public to learn about new laws around middle housing and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

We offer meeting times that will accommodate most schedules.

Join a Zoom Meeting: Public webinar - Nov. 9 at 1:30 p.m.

For more information, see our Middle Housing Web Page.

Climate Update

Commerce seeks public comments on its climate element planning guidance

The Washington Department of Commerce is seeking public comments on its draft intermediate climate planning guidance for developing a comprehensive plan climate element.

We will provide a 30-day open comment period starting ending Nov. 20 for the public to review and comment on the draft intermediate guidance. Per HB 1181 (2023), Commerce must publish “intermediate” guidance by the end of 2023.

Please submit written comments by Monday, Nov. 20, 2023 at 5 p.m.

You can learn more about our draft climate guidance and access additional resources on our climate program webpage.

Commerce held two workshops in the past two months on climate requirements for periodic updates under the Growth Management Act (GMA). You can review the information shared at those workshops on our periodic update webpage.

News from outside Commerce

Floodplains by Design 2025-27 Funding Round

Dept of Ecology logo

The Floodplains by Design 2025-27 funding round opens Nov. 1, 2023. The Funding Guidelines and pre-application will be posted on Ecology’s website at that time. This program provides grants to complete multi-benefit projects that reduce flood hazards while restoring the natural functions of floodplains.

Ecology will host two webinars for prospective applicants in early November: one for existing grantees and recent applicants, which will focus mainly on changes from the last (2023-25) grant round; and one for new applicants or anyone who would prefer a more comprehensive overview of the Floodplains by Design. To register for a webinar, please click one of the links provided below:

Pre-applications will be due Jan. 12, 2024. After review, Ecology will invite selected applicants to submit a full application and present their projects to an evaluation team. Presentations will be held the week of Feb. 12-16, 2024. Full applications will be due May 1, 2024. 

Floodplains by Design is a public-private partnership led by Ecology, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and American Rivers. Over the past decade, Ecology has awarded $283 million in Floodplains by Design grants.

Aggregate Resource Mapping in Washington Fact Sheet – Washington Geological Survey

Department of Natural Resources Logo

The Washington Geological Survey has updated the Aggregate Resource Mapping in Washington Fact Sheet! First produced in March 2022, the updated fact sheet includes new information and graphics about aggregate resources and mapping of the aggregate resources in Washington.  

Planning for aggregate needs and use is required under the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 36.70A.131 and the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 365-190-070. Counties and cities must identify and designate Mineral Resource Lands of long-term commercial significance. Aggregate resources are included as part of Mineral Resource Lands.

Events and Training

2025 Workshop Series

Thurston Regional Planning logo

Webinar: the 2025 Workshop series will focus on HB 1717 (2022), tribal collaboration in planning, case studies and guidance in November.

When: Nov. 9, 2023, 10 a.m. to noon

Where: Online via Zoom.

Commerce is partnering with the Thurston Regional Planning Council and the Municipal Research and Services Center to bring you workshops on various planning topics to support jurisdictions with updates due in 2025.  You can read more about it with our November Workshop Flyer

Each workshop in the series will feature a different periodic update topic. Stay tuned to the periodic update webpage for future workshop information and registration.

Questions? Contact Suzanne Austin, Senior Planner, at Suzanne.Austin@commerce.wa.gov.

FRIDAY! PAW Boot Camp Oct. 27

Planning Associatiion of WA logo

Planning Association of Washington (PAW) is hosting a boot camp for planners on Oct. 27, 2023. The all-day event will feature sessions on clean energy projects, water banking, and more. Sponsored by PAW, the city of Yakima and Yakima County.

  • When: Oct. 27,  9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • Where: Yakima County Emergency Management, 2403 S. 18th, Union Gap, WA
  • Boot Camp Agenda (PDF)

Fall Planners’ Forum schedule

The regional Planners’ Forums are quarterly events sponsored in partnership with the Washington APA and the Planners Association of Washington. Each forum features guest speakers discussing planning related topics in association with the guidelines set down by the American Planning Association. While regionally focused, the forums are typically available for statewide attendance on Zoom.

Learn more on the Planners’ Forums webpage.

  • TOMORROW! Oct. 26, 9 to 11:45 a.m. SW Washington Fall Planners’ Forum  Register
  • Nov.  9, 9 to 11:00 a.m. NW Washington Fall Planners’ Forum  Register

Remember, folks needing American Planning Association (AICP) credits will receive credits for attending based on topics covered. Learn more about Commerce’s regional forums at the Growth Management Planners' Forum webpage.

The Short Course on local planning

The Short Course on local planning offers an overview of land use planning laws in Washington, an introduction to comprehensive planning and plan implementation under the Growth Management Act (GMA), and a review of roles in planning and mandatory training on the Open Public Meetings Act for local government officials. All courses are online, free and open to the public.

Online (Zoom) courses:

Ask about local presentations

Commerce also offers e-visits to local planning commissions or other meetings. Topics include, but are not limited to, comprehensive plan basics and roles in the planning process.

Contact your regional planner (PDF) to request a presentation.