The Department of Planning and Development recently proposed legislation to define and regulate micro-housing in Seattle. You can find a copy of their proposal here.

The proposal opens with a few goals from the City of Seattle Comprehensive Plan that aPodments could potentially help to meet:

  • Housing Goal 4: Achieve a mix of housing types that are attractive and affordable to a diversity of ages, incomes, household types, household sizes, and cultural backgrounds. 
  • Housing Goal 11: Implement strategies and programs to help ensure a range of housing opportunities affordable to those who work in Seattle. 
  • Housing Policy 20: Promote and foster, where appropriate, innovative and non-traditional housing types such as co-housing, live/work housing and attached and detached accessory dwelling units, as alternative means of accommodating residential growth and providing affordable housing options. 
  • Housing Goal 13: Provide new low-income housing through market-rate housing production and assisted housing programs. 
  • Housing Goal 5: Provide for lower off-street parking requirements in locations where car ownership rates are low for resident populations, to help reduce housing costs and increase affordability. 2 
  • Land Use Goal 12: Promote a residential development pattern consistent with the urban village strategy, with increased availability of housing at densities that promote walking and transit use near employment concentrations, residential services and amenities.

The proposal then lists the goals of its suggested legislation for micro-housing, which were developed from concerns expressed by citizens and existing city housing policies:

  • Preserve affordability – continue to support micro-housing and congregate residences as housing options in SeattleEnsure basic health and safety of all housing
  • Provide consistent treatment and classification of micro-housing and congregate residences across all city departments and programs
  • Improve tracking and awareness of micro-housing development
  • Regulate micro-housing and congregate residences similarly to other types of new development as warranted based on empirical performance aspects such as:
    • The scale and design of the buildings
    • Intensity of uses and activities in the buildings
    • Transportation mode choice of residents

The proposed regulations are as follows:

  1. Define “micro-housing” and “micro” under Residential Use within the Land Use Code.
  2. Prohibit micro-housing developments in single-family zones.
  3. Apply a design review threshold for micro-housing and congregate residences by the size of the building (not number of dwelling units).
  4. Update development standards for micro-housing and congregate residences to add a minimum size requirement for shared kitchens and common areas.
  5. Limit kitchen components in individual micros and sleeping rooms to differentiate from dwelling units.
  6. Update development standards to ensure appropriate size of refuse collection areas in micro-housing and congregate residence developments.
  7. Update development standards for quantity of required vehicle and bicycle parking in micro-housing and congregate residence developments.
  8. Clarify eligibility for Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) passes for occupants of micro-housing and congregate residences.
  9. Account for micro-housing and congregate residence sleeping rooms in progress towards residential growth targets.
  10. Deepen the required affordability levels for participation in incentive zoning for affordable housing for projects with micro-housing or congregate residences, and for very small studio apartments.

In following posts, I’ll examine whether or not these regulations actually help achieve the stated goals and the overall goals of the city.

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Owen does servicing and consulting for a software company to pay the bills. He has an amateur interest in urban policy, focusing on housing. His primary mode is a bicycle but isn't ashamed of riding down the hill and taking the bus back up. Feel free to tweet at him: @pickovven.