Bossy Uncle Sam

It turns out people don’t like being told what to do. That, in a nutshell, is what I learned yesterday in Olympia.

tony homes

…Okay, that sounds worse than it is. Perhaps I should start from the beginning. House Bill 1085 is currently making its way through the 65th Legislature of the State of Washington. It’s known by some as the “Tiny Homes Bill,” others as the “Mother-in-law Bill,” and still others as the “Micro-housing Bill.” In reality, HB 1085 removes a state-mandated restriction upon the minimum required size of single-family residences. Great idea, right? Well, HB 1085 has hasn’t made it out of the House…in 4 years.

In the span of a ten minute discussion with Representative Brian Blake, Aberdeen Democrat and author of HB 1085, I learned more about the fickle intricacies of politics than any high school civics class could cover. Having served since 2002, Rep. Blake has authored bills, voted for and against them, and sat on dozens of committees to revise and re-write them. HB 1085, though, is a thorn in his side. Over the course of four years, he’s heard dozens of concerns from colleagues and constituents alike: the need for regulation to ensure healthy living conditions and structural integrity of tiny homes, the fear of promoting population growth in “already overpopulated” areas, the ownership of liability…this goes on. He’s faced resistance from large cities and rural counties alike, all with different concerns about removing the residential size restriction. What started as a bid to allow folks in rural Grays Harbor County build small homes on large lots has turned into a state-wide war over housing codes. But it has also taught us a lot. In 2014, Seattle representatives ensured the bill went nowhere because their constituents were worried about a tiny home free-for-all. In 2015, the bill was re-written to exclude major metropolitan areas, but that also missed the mark. The came Representative Blake’s revelation: leave police powers to the local authorities.shared-responsibilities

Where a local government is no longer restricted by binding state codes, they are
empowered to tailor regulation to their respective constituents. By authoring the bill to be permissive rather than binding – to eliminate the state mandate, without requiring localities to adjust their codes – we accomplish just that.

So, HB 1085. Do you like the idea of tiny homes? Think micro-housing is a solution to Seattle’s housing crisis? Call your representative about HB 1085. It’s still alive, and rallying support is the first step towards a very real solution.

Perhaps more importantly – want to sell someone on an idea? Make it their idea. Discuss the why’s. Address the concerns. Share the responsibility to find a solution. And ultimately, lead them to draw their own conclusions (– your conclusions). Responsibility is a powerful thing, but knowing when to abdicate it can be truly transformational.


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