Legislation to streamline permitting for housing construction and renovation in Washington state passed the Senate unanimously today. SB 5290, sponsored by Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah), improves the predictability and timeliness for review and approval of many residential permits by exempting some projects from permit requirements and providing additional resources for local governments to review permits more quickly and to transition from paper to electronic filing of permits.

“When I talk to builders, they don’t complain so much about the cost of a permit, they don’t complain about having to prove they’re doing everything right – they complain about how unpredictable the timeline is for them to get their permit approved,” said Mullet. “It matters a ton, and a late permit can cause massive cost overruns on a project. By cutting the red tape and giving local governments the resources they need to review and approve permits more quickly, we’re going to help folks who want to build.”

The bill has three major components for permitting reform. First, it would exempt permit requirements for minor renovations to the interior of a building that don’t have impacts to fire or emergency safety or changing the number of sleeping quarters. Second, it would convene a work group to develop a process to transition local governments statewide to electronic permit processing instead of using paper and would help provide funding to local governments to implement that process. Third, and most importantly, it would create a grant program to provide funding to local governments that commit to meeting shorter permit review timelines and add annual performance reporting to check whether jurisdictions are meeting those shorter timelines or not.

“This is part of our larger work on affordable housing this year,” said Mullet. “We’re making our permitting quicker and more predictable. We’re passing bills to increase housing density, especially in urban areas and around transit. We’re going to invest tons of money into directly building affordable housing in the capital budget. All these pieces are coming together to solve Washington’s housing crisis, and this bill is a part of that.”

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.