Senate panel hears Short bills seeking to improve GMA to create more housing

Sen. Short discusses her GMA bills in the Senate Local Government Committee.

State Sen. Shelly Short’s effort to make housing more affordable and available in Washington took an important step when the Senate Local Government Committee held public hearings last Thursday on five bills (SB 5193, SB 5194, SB 5242, SB 5243 and SB 5245) she’s introduced to make adjustments to the state’s Growth Management Act.

Short, R-Addy and the ranking Republican on the Local Government Committee, is one of several Senate Republicans spearheading legislative efforts to address homelessness and housing problems across Washington.

“The issue we have heard repeatedly throughout the state, not just in my communities in the 7th District, is the challenges we’re having with housing shortages,” said Short. “Those challenges certainly didn’t just happen overnight, but we’re seeing increased homelessness and people struggling to find access to affordable housing. These bills are designed to give flexibility to local governments in opening up land that could ultimately become available for housing.”

Short said her bills focus on updating the Growth Management Act in urban and rural communities that can assist in making housing available and affordable in Washington. They also represent a compilation of concerns that local governments and residents have shared over the years.

“What we need to understand is that jurisdictions have unique needs,” said Short. “The land-use decisions in this state have become very rigid, which is due in part to how the Growth Management Act (GMA) has been interpreted over the years. It is critical that GMA be brought back to the guidance tool for planning it was originally designed for and allow local jurisdictions and communities to address the growing population and housing challenges that are in front of us in the 21st century. Unfortunately, groups like Futurewise and Olympia bureaucrats have turned the GMA into a regulatory morass, ‘saving us from ourselves’ and forcing our communities to look like they want us to. My bills bring back the most important voices in land-use planning, that of local citizens.”

Short received support, along with helpful suggestions, from a number of state associations and state agencies during last week’s hearing.