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City of Seattle
Seattle City Council
NEWS ADVISORY
SUBJECT: City Council to host second meeting on micro-housing developments
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
5/1/2013  10:15:00 AM
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Brian Hawksford, Councilmember Rasmussen's office, 206-684-8808

Dana Robinson Slote  (206) 615-0061


Councilmember Tom Rasmussen
Council President Sally J. Clark
Councilmember Nick Licata
Councilmember Richard Conlin

City Council to host second meeting on micro-housing developments
Public invited to share feedback with Councilmembers

SEATTLE - City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen today confirmed that a second public meeting on micro-housing developments will be held. The meeting will be on May 6 at 6:00 p.m. at Seattle First Baptist Church on First Hill.

The first meeting was held in April in response to questions and concerns raised by residents of several Seattle neighborhoods where micro-housing units are being constructed.

The purpose of the second meeting is to hear from neighborhood representatives who will give their views and recommendations on the micro-housing projects. Representatives of the developers who build micro-housing projects will be present to describe the projects and the market for this housing alternative and their response to concerns they are hearing from the community.

In addition to Councilmember Rasmussen co-sponsors of the meeting include Councilmembers Nick Licata, Sally J. Clark and Richard Conlin.

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen stated: "A portion of the meeting will include an opportunity for the public to provide comments on what they have heard during the meeting and to provide recommendations on what, if any, regulations should be enacted for this unique type of housing."

WHAT: Micro-housing development discussion

WHEN: Monday, May 6, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Seattle First Baptist Church
Fellowship Hall (downstairs), 1111 Harvard Ave. (on First Hill)

WHO: Seattle City Councilmembers and Council staff
Representatives from communities and neighborhoods
Representatives of micro-housing developers

"I want to see more affordable housing built in Seattle along with our residential neighborhoods accommodating housing options that contribute to their character," stated Councilmember Nick Licata, chair of the Council's Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee. "I think both objectives can be accomplished and I look forward to this forum providing an opportunity to hear suggestions on how to fulfill both."

"I've visited some of these micro-units," said Council President Sally J. Clark. "They provide decent, often attractive housing for a range of people who don't need or want a lot of space. They're also appearing in greater numbers and more rapidly than some in the surrounding neighborhood want. This forum can provide a good airing of people's support, concerns and ideas for appropriate regulation."

"Micro-housing can be an affordable option for people wanting to live close to work or urban amenities," said Councilmember Richard Conlin, chair of the Council's Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee. "They're good for the environment and they can be good for neighborhoods too if we can find ways to preserve their affordability while ensuring that these developments reflect both the letter and the spirit of our land use laws. I look forward to working with stakeholders and the Executive to craft legislation to accomplish these goals."

Background

In recent years, micro-housing has emerged as an increasingly common residential building product in Seattle. Since 2006, DPD has received permit applications for 44 projects. Those completed projects have a total capacity of about 2,000 people. In 2012, DPD received applications for approximately 15 micro-housing projects.

Micro-housing projects are generally comprised of apartment or townhome-style dwelling units, each of which contains several (often seven or eight) smaller living quarters clustered around a shared kitchen and laundry area. Each of the smaller living spaces within the dwelling unit is leased to an individual tenant. These spaces are typically 150 to 200 square feet in size and equipped with a kitchenette (refrigerator, microwave, sink) and private bathroom. Rent levels vary by location but are often in the range of $600 to $700 per month.

Developers have found Seattle offers a strong market for micro-housing, with completed projects leasing up quickly. Tenants often include students, service industry workers, and individuals who divide their time between Seattle and a residence in another location. Geographically, 52 percent of the projects are located on Capitol Hill and 30 percent in the University District, with the remainder spread throughout the city.

Because micro-housing is not well-defined in City codes it also may not be adequately regulated. Some of the issues and concerns the public has raised about Seattle's growing stock of micro-housing include:

  • Within micro-housing projects, DPD currently counts the several small living quarters that surround a common kitchen and laundry area as a single dwelling unit (e.g., one apartment with eight bedrooms and eight bathrooms). As a result, most micro-housing projects do not meet the threshold for design review. Normally the design review process also provides opportunities for neighbors to comment and offer input on proposed projects.
  • DPD's current practice of counting multiple living quarters within a micro-housing project as a single dwelling unit also complicates efforts to measure progress toward adopted growth targets in neighborhoods where micro-housing is located. It also can affect whether a proposed micro-housing project is subject to environmental review under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).
  • Micro-housing may not be an appropriate building type for all multifamily residential zones.
  • Micro-housing projects are generally designed to house 30 to 60 individuals; however, on-site parking is rarely provided.
  • The high cost of this housing on a price per square foot basis.

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