Mayor Ed Murray sent a strong letter addressed to the Seattle City Council yesterday. In it, he dropped a big critique on Council’s approach to regulating microhousing. The mayor communicated to the Council that while he was tentatively supportive of the Council’s most recent microhousing legislation, he was deeply concerned about newly proposed amendments. His reasoning was brief, but clear: more restrictive rules could drastically increase costs to microhousing developments, and thereby future tenants.
According to Publicola, the Mayor’s letter has another dimension to it: veto threat to legislation crossing his desk. Despite the Mayor’s letter, council members still proposed and passed their amendments during yesterday’s afternoon Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee meeting. The full Council is not likely to vote on final legislation until October 18th, so further changes could occur between now and then.
The Mayor’s letter is below in full:
As you know, I sent down legislation, C.B. 118067 earlier this year. My intent was to better regulate the development of micro-housing and congregate residences by defining this type of development within the Land Use Code; prohibiting micro-housing development in single-family zones (congregate residences are already prohibited); applying a design review threshold by the size of the building (not number of dwelling units); and providing notice to neighbors as part of the Design Review process.
These were the concerns I was hearing and that is why I responded quickly with legislation.
Wanting to conduct more outreach, Council convened a working group to dig deeper into the issues that were of most concern. As a result of that stakeholder group, a substitute bill was introduced.
For the most part, I was supportive of the proposed approach of C.B. 118201, to regulate small efficiency dwelling units and congregate residences, though I was mindful about how more restrictive regulations could make these types of developments too cost prohibitive to build.
Several amendments are being considered at today’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee. As you review the proposed amendments to the legislation, I urge you to keep the affordability issue in mind. I am concerned about indirectly regulating density through land use code standards related to storage space and other amenities, and the unintended consequences that may occur as a result.
Regulations are needed for this type of development, but our regulations need to help and not hinder the process and the outcomes we are hoping to achieve. And one of those achievements is more housing. That is a priority.
With that in mind, I look forward to working with you and the Housing Advisory Committee on the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda in the months ahead, and developing a bold and actionable suite of recommendations to increase housing affordability and options and neighborhood livability in Seattle.
Mayor Edward B. Murray