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Micro-Housing

A micro-housing building in Seattle.
Reviewing a new housing option.
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What’s Happening Now?

On October 6, 2014 the City Council Planning Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee voted to pass new rules to clarify permanent regulation of micro-housing, congregate residences, and similar forms of development. The City Council's legislation (Council Bill 118201) reflects input from three stakeholder working group meetings held during the summer of 2014. We are pleased to have new rules in place to help clarify standards for developers and neighborhood groups alike. Key elements of the new regulations include:

  • Micro-housing will be regulated as individual small efficiency dwelling units. A new code subsection will specify allowable configurations of interior spaces. Groupings of sleeping rooms with a shared kitchen within a single dwelling unit (a previous model for micro-housing) will no longer be allowed. Instead, developers may construct small efficiency dwelling units, which are complete dwelling units containing a full kitchen / kitchenette. Small efficiency dwelling units will be required to have a minimum size of 220 square feet.
  • Private, non-special needs congregate residences will only be allowed in some places. Congregate residences that are not owned by or directly affiliated with a non-profit housing provider, college, or university, or that are not licensed to provide support services, will only be allowed in urban villages and urban centers in these zones:
    • Neighborhood Commercial 3 (NC3)
    • Midrise multifamily (MR)
    • Highrise multifamily (HR)
    • Seattle Mixed (SM)
    • Commercial (C1)
    • Downtown zones
  • Special needs congregate residences will continue to be allowed in all zones that allow multi-family development. Congregate residences that are owned by or directly affiliated with a non-profit housing provider, college, or university, or that are licensed to provide support services, will continue to be allowed in all zones that allow multi-family development including:
    • Lowrise zones (LR1, LR2, LR3)
    • Neighborhood Commercial 1 and 2 zones (NC1 and NC2)
  • Design Review will be required. Previously, some micro-housing projects did not go through design review. Under the new rules, congregate residences and buildings with Small Efficiency Dwelling Units, over the below size thresholds will be required to go through design review.
    • 5,000 sq. ft. – 11,999 sq. ft. – Streamlined Design Review (SDR)
    • 12,000 sq. ft. – 19,999 sq. ft. - Administrative Design Review (ADR)
    • 20,000+ sq. ft. – Design Review Board review

Next Steps
The legislation becomes effective 30-days after the Mayor sings the legislation, or 45 days from the date the City Council passed the legislation. So, the new rules will be effective during the first half of November, 2014.

Project Benefits

We recognize micro-housing and congregate residences as an emerging and viable type of housing. This housing can help achieve Seattle's Comprehensive Plan goals and policies by:

  • Reducing the cost of developing new housing
  • Fostering an adequate and diverse supply of housing

The End Result

We will deliver our recommendations on the permitting and design of micro-housing and congregate residences to City Council. After deliberating and holding a public hearing, the City Council will adopt legislation.

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