Pierce County is considering a series of amendments to Pierce County Code to reflect the different kinds of housing needed in the community.
The proposal was developed in response to Pierce County Council resolution R2020-125 and includes:
- Updates to 35 residential use terms to recognize modern housing trends, align with changes to state policy and law, and provide clarification between terms that might seem related
- Minor zoning corrections for Senior housing in the Gig Harbor, South Hill and Parkland-Spanaway-Midland community plan areas
- New code language related to employee housing
- New shared housing residential use
Public Comment Opportunities
Public comment opened on the proposed amendments and the SEPA determination on April 8, 2022. SEPA comment period closed on April 29, 2022.
Comments are also accepted at the following public hearing(s):
July 26, 2022 @ 9:30 a.m.
Your informed comments will help our team understand how you might be affected by the proposed changes.
Planning and Public Works staff highly encourage interested parties to review the proposed changes listed below for a complete overview.
People have lots of different needs for housing throughout their lifetime whether they are raising a family, sharing a home with a roommate, downsizing, moving out on their own, trying to get back on their feet, or have special care needs due to age or disability. Pierce County needs code to reflect the different kinds of housing that are needed in the community. This starts by updating County definitions to recognize modern housing trends, align with changes in state policy and law, and to better distinguish between terms that might seem related.
These terms address a broad range of accommodations including permanent housing, temporary housing, lodging for visitors, and housing associated with medical treatment to make distinctions between residential uses and those that are better classified as civic or commercial uses.
Should the proposal pass, changes will be applied Countywide.
Minor zoning corrections for Senior Housing would be applied to correct oversights that removed this use from the zoning table.
- Senior Housing would be allowed in the MUD zone in the Parkland-Spanaway-Midland community plan area.
- Senior Housing would be allowed in the MSF zone in the Gig Harbor community plan area with a conditional use permit.
- Senior Housing would be allowed in the HSF zone in the South Hill Community Plan Area.
*This map was updated in April and June 2022 to more clearly show the areas of proposed change.
Pierce County’s rural areas are an important cultural, environmental, and economic resource. Part of preserving our rural areas is preserving their unique activities and businesses. Some of these activities and businesses need temporary housing for employees during peak season – to bring in the harvest, keep skiers safe, or maintain our forest lands. The balancing act is providing safe, convenient, and sanitary facilities for those workers without encouraging the overdevelopment of rural areas.
To address this balancing act, the proposal for updating Employee Housing regulations includes:
- Flexibility in housing type. Current regulations only allow dormitory-style housing for seasonal employees. This would be updated to allow individual units or housing with shared facilities. The only exception would be in the Upper Nisqually Valley, where an existing community plan policy limits employee housing to dormitory-style housing. That limitation would remain in place. Additionally, changes would allow the seasonal placement of an RV on agricultural sites to house a caretaker.
- Limiting rural growth. Washington’s Growth Management Act (RCW 36.70A) limits the intensity of housing in rural areas to protect these areas for forestry, agriculture, recreation, and rural lifestyles. The proposal is consistent with these limits in two ways. First, it restricts the conversion of worker housing into permanent housing by requiring a notice on title. Second, it proposes to allow new worker housing in rural centers, which are already areas of concentrated development.
- Alignment with state law. Washington state law allows farms to locate seasonal worker housing on site in any zone, subject to a few local controls. These provisions from RCW 70.114A.050 are incorporated into the proposal, allowing housing for farmworkers as an accessory use on any commercial farm.
Should the proposal pass, new areas where employee housing will be allowed include Rural Activity Center zones countywide, the Gateway Community zone (Greenwater), and Rural Farm zones in the Graham Community Plan area.
*This map was updated on April 13 to more clearly show the areas of proposed change and in June to include the RAC zones on the Key Peninsula.
Shared housing provides an affordable option for many kinds of people including students, older adults, singles, and workers who make low wages. With the exception of Group Homes, shared housing is not currently addressed in the Pierce County Code, but it already exists in our community. Pierce County (and many other communities) used to rely on a definition of family to distinguish between housing designed for one household versus shared housing. Recent changes to state law (RCW 36.01) invalidated this approach. By recognizing shared housing as its own use type, Pierce County can better regulate where shared housing is appropriate. By assigning development regulations, it is also easier to address potential impacts related to issues such as increased density or parking.
In the past, shared housing was sometimes called a rooming house, dormitory, or a single-room occupancy (SR0). Today, it may go by other names like micro-units, apodments, co-housing, permanent supportive housing, co-living, or tiny house villages.
The proposal would recognize four types of shared housing in the Pierce County Code:
Rooming Houses: Shared housing within a single-family structure. These are proposed to be allowed in urban areas where single-family housing is allowed. They would be subject to parking and density standards based on the number of rooms for rent.
Group Homes: Shared housing for people who need assistance with daily living (but not medical care). Group Homes are already addressed in the PCC. Only minor language clarifications are proposed for Group Homes. No changes are proposed as to where they are allowed in the County nor to the development standards applied to Group Homes under current regulations.
Congregate Housing: Shared housing within a multi-family structures. These are proposed to be allowed where apartment buildings are already allowed. They would be subject to parking and density standards based on the number or rooms for rent.
Shared Housing Villages: Shared housing villages allow a campus of small, detached sleeping units such as tiny homes or portable housing units. Shared facilities for cooking, sanitation, recreation, or other amenities are available in community buildings. These are proposed to be allowed in urban areas where multi-family development is already allowed. They would be subject to parking and density standards based on the number of sleeping units for rent.