Mayor Ed Murray delivered proposed new regulations for micro-housing to the City Council in late March. The regulations would clarify how zoning rules apply to micro-housing and congregate residences. Regulations would also require design review of new projects. The City Council will review the proposed new rules, beginning with the first briefing of the Council’s Planning Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee, tentatively scheduled for April 18, 2014.
Micro-housing is emerging in Seattle and across the U.S. as a form of housing that responds to demographic shifts toward a high percentage of single-person households, and strong demand for living in urban neighborhoods with services and amenities. Micro-housing in Seattle usually consists of small living spaces with about 100 to 300 square feet and a private bathroom, in groups of up to eight, with a shared common kitchen or lounge.
Along with micro-housing, more congregate residence developments are being proposed. Congregate residences are larger group living arrangements similar to dormitories or senior housing, and they are addressed in the new rules as well.
DPD monitored the micro-housing trend in Seattle for about two years, and found that Seattle is one of the cities seeing the most demand for micro-housing. Over 3,000 sleeping rooms are already built or in the permit pipeline.
Almost all micro-housing permitted in Seattle is located in designated Urban Centers or Urban Villages, areas that tend to be more walkable and have access to frequent transit service. Capitol Hill and the University District have the most micro-housing, but other urban neighborhoods such as Ballard, the West Seattle Junction, and Eastlake have some proposed micro-housing.
Micro-housing can help meet a number of the City’s goals and policies for a range of housing options, affordable housing, and compact development in Urban Centers and Urban Villages. However, there are strong opinions about micro-housing, and many people question how it can fit into Seattle’s neighborhoods.
DPD observed that the evolution of micro-housing in Seattle over the last several years was not fully anticipated by existing land use regulations, which led to some complications. Based on these factors and input from the community, the following changes are proposed:
- A new definition for micro-housing so DPD can accurately identify, track, and apply regulations during the permitting process
- New design review thresholds to ensure Micro-housing and Congregate Residence projects of an appropriate size undergo design review (this can improve design, and gives neighbors more notice and better opportunity to comment on projects)
- New standards to ensure common kitchens and shared spaces are large enough to meet residents’ needs
- Increased requirements for secured bicycle parking, and increased vehicle parking requirements if the project is located outside of an Urban Center or Urban Village
New rules for Micro-Housing could be adopted in June of 2014. For more information, visit our website, http://seattle.gov/dpd/codesrules/changestocode/
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