Council passes new code amendments to enable more workforce housing

On January 22nd, City Council approved several code amendments aiming to expand workforce housing options while also respecting the look and scale of Langley. The new code promotes environmentally friendly and efficient infill development by relaxing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) requirements, implementing a “Tiny House” code and removing barriers to boardinghouse approval. The new amendments, also referred to as Ordinance 1051, are the culmination of many PAB meetings, Council meetings, public discussions and an open house.

Back in July 2018, an informal survey was sent to each utility ratepayer within city limits. The informal questionnaire was designed to gather personal experiences and opinions regarding the proposed code changes. From these responses, it is clear that Langley is caught in the midst of a housing shortage. Only 4% of survey respondents believed there was a sufficient amount of housing for renters in Langley. Scarier yet, 38% of respondents reported being “cost-burdened.” According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, those spending more than 30% of their income on housing expenses are considered “cost-burdened.” For more information on the results of this survey, please see the Council packet for the full report and slideshow presentation.

Ordinance 1051 includes new code for ADUs, Tiny Homes, and boardinghouses to promote infill development that is both efficient and affordable.

ADUs

In regards to ADUs, the new code permits more than one ADU on some residential lots depending on sewer connection. In all residential zones, the ordinance allows ADUs as follows:

                      Lots with a Duplex     Lots with a Single-Family Residence
         On Sewer         On Septic          On Sewer          On Septic
  One detached ADU           No ADUs One attached and one detached ADU One attached or one detached ADU
      Maximum: 1        Maximum: 0        Maximum: 2        Maximum: 1

The minimum size of an ADU has now been reduced to just 150sf. This is designed to make ADUs less costly to build and allow dwellings more flexibility with siting. The parking requirements have also been reduced to reduce vehicle dependence and encourage the use multi-modal transportation such as walking, cycling, or public transit. One on-site parking space is now required for 2 ADUs and no parking is required for 1 ADU. Lastly, the new code also establishes a set of conditions to legalize existing but not permitted ADUs. They are also now permitted in Clustered Residential Developments.

Tiny Homes

Although the legality of Tiny Homes is still a grey area in many other jurisdictions in Washington, Langley is one of the first to specifically reference them in the zoning code. Amid western Washington’s largely unaffordable housing market, Tiny Homes of no more than 400sf can be a refuge of affordability. The Tiny House movement has grown dramatically in the last decade out of both necessity and desire for more simple living.

In Langley, Tiny Homes ranging from 150sf to 400sf are permitted as ADUs, multifamily communities, or standalone dwellings on a lot. When constructed or placed on a lot as a single-family dwelling, Tiny Homes must meet the same requirements for a single-family dwelling as regulated for the specific zone.  In Langley Tiny Homes must be on a foundation.

For multifamily communities made up of several Tiny Homes, much of the code is borrowed from the Cottage Community section. The minimum lot size is 5000sf, with one Tiny Home allowed for every 1200sf. The minimum number of units is 3 and the maximum is 12 per lot. Like Cottage Communities, a community green space is required. A minimum of 100 square feet of green space is required per unit. Fifty percent of units must have their main entry face the common space and the space must be centrally located to the development.

Boardinghouses

Boardinghouses have been utilized in cities for decades as an efficient form of housing for singles and small households. Although the term ‘boardinghouse’ may evoke images of formidable multi-story buildings, Langley’s definition of boardinghouse is a single-family residence that houses a maximum of four boarders on a long-term basis. Typically, kitchens and bathrooms are shared. The new code amendment changes the boardinghouse approval process from a conditional use to a permitted use. In other words, it removes the involvement of a hearing examiner from the approval process.

The full code can be viewed here.