Overlooking Lake Washington and the neighborhood filled with trees. A sunset is in the background with downtown Seattle.

We Can House Everyone and Be Environmental Stewards

Our region—and the state of Washington—has a critical housing shortage.

A recent public opinion survey conducted by the Puget Sound Regional Council named housing and homelessness as the top two most significant issues facing our state, and respondents in King County said housing costs and availability are problems that impact them directly. Beyond that, our region will need an estimated 800,000 additional homes by 2050 to accommodate our growing population.

When planning for current and future housing needs and expected growth, our region needs to be grounded in our Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA). Local governments, homebuilders, and other community partners currently work within the GMA. The framework for growth is designed to protect our open spaces and most pristine natural areas by requiring growing counties and cities to plan new housing development near job centers, transportation hubs, and areas where many people already live.

For the GMA to work as intended, local zoning, permitting and land use regulations—including tree policies—need to align with a broader plan for meeting our housing and environmental goals. By using our limited land efficiently, our region can accommodate housing needs while maintaining and growing a healthy tree canopy.

Trees are essential to our communities. They filter our air, prevent flooding, and provide energy-efficient cooling. Measuring existing tree canopies is one effective tool in determining a city’s broader tree coverage. Using tree canopy coverage goals in local policies is one way to help maintain healthy tree canopies while also providing flexibility for those working to accommodate housing needs.

Communities in our region have already seen success in tracking tree canopies. Since implementing a less restrictive tree canopy ordinance, Snohomish County has seen both retention and expansion of tree canopy in urban residential areas.

Housing and environmental stewardship are critical priorities for our region and state. We can have common sense policies that make room for both and support sustainable, thriving communities with housing of all types for everyone in our region.

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