Over the past several months, I have been working closely with county staff and community stakeholders to develop legislation making it easier to build detached accessory dwelling units (DADU’s or more commonly referred to as “mother-in-law apartments”) in rural areas.  

The County Council took action over the summer on a separate comprehensive accessory dwelling unit ordinance, but that ordinance left a couple of significant issues unaddressed. Namely, the ability for many rural residents to build detached accessory dwelling units as well as restrictive regulations regarding the distancing between accessory dwelling units and the primary dwelling structure (home). Ordinance 22-006, which I recently introduced, addresses those two main issues and provides greater flexibility for homeowners. This legislation passed on a unanimous 5-0 vote at our March 9th County Council meeting. 

DADUs are a great option for some property owners as we are facing a housing affordability crisis in the Puget Sound region. Many individuals and families are struggling to find an affordable place to live and some are faced with challenges affording their mortgage. DADUs provide opportunities for both groups. 

For young people looking to venture into the world on their own for the first time, DADUs provide lower cost housing options than what is currently on the market. Older individuals looking to downsize after their children have grown and moved out can also benefit from DADUs by being closer to family in a more affordable unit. Both of these groups can attain affordable housing without losing independence by living under the same roof as family or other communal living situations.  

I am excited that this legislation passed unanimously and thank my fellow Councilmembers for their support of this legislation. I also appreciate the many members of the public who provided public testimony in support of this proposal. Many times, government legislation is driven by politicians and/or staff, but this legislation was especially fulfilling because it was community driven. This is a great example of what we can accomplish when we work together.  

The DADU ordinance is part of a larger suite of housing affordability legislation I introduced earlier this year. In addition to the changes to DADU regulations, I have other proposed ordinances relating to “missing middle” housing, development agreements, and SEPA exemptions working their way through the legislative process.  

Each of these ordinances seek to help address the lack of housing supply that is contributing to the housing affordability crisis we are currently facing. While none of these proposals are a “silver bullet”, it is my hope that they will create opportunities for more individuals in our county to find affordable housing.  

As we move forward with the update to the Snohomish County Comprehensive Plan in 2024, housing affordability will be top of mind. The comprehensive plan sets land use and housing policies for our long-range planning. If you would like more information about the suite of housing affordability legislation or the comprehensive plan update, please feel free to contact my office.

Nate Nehring is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1 which includes Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood, and unincorporated north county. He can be reached by email at Nate.Nehring@snoco.org or by phone at (425) 512-4810.

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