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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?

Proposed Changes

We’ve monitored micro-housing and congregate residences* in Seattle for over two years. We've evaluated our rules and are now proposing changes that will ensure we have clear and consistent regulations in place. These new regulations make sure micro-housing and congregate residences receive the right level of permit review – especially Design Review. We believe these proposed regulations will improve how this type of housing fits into neighborhoods and make the housing more livable for renters, while continuing to support innovation in housing design to create affordable choices. Mayor Murray delivered the legislation to the City Council in March of 2014. The City Council will review the code changes this spring and consider whether to adopt them into law.

Our proposed legislation is based on our research and responds to concerns raised by the public and elected officials. You can read the new regulations on the Project Documents page and find out how to make comments about them in our Get Involved section.

We're using the following guiding principles to shape our recommendations:

  • Preserve affordability — continue to support micro-housing and congregate residences as a housing option in Seattle
  • Ensure 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 in a way that correlates to that of other types of new development

Some highlights of the proposed new rules include:

  • Establishing a definition of micro-housing
  • Requiring Design Review for micro-housing and congregate residences based on square footage rather than number of dwelling units
  • Setting a minimum size for common areas in micro-housing and congregate residences
  • Increasing bicycle and car parking requirements for micro-housing
  • Clarifying affordable housing program requirements for micro-housing and congregate residences

* Congregate residences are group housing arrangements with more than 9 sleeping rooms such as dormitories and some types of senior housing. They have some similarities to micro-housing and are addressed in the new rules.

Why Are We Doing This?

We have seen an increasing demand for, and construction of, micro-housing, particularly in 2012 and 2013. This emerging form of housing is typically:

  • Small sleeping rooms (usually 100 – 285 square feet) with private bathrooms
  • Grouped together in arrangements of up to 8, with a shared kitchen or common area
  • Located in urban center and urban village neighborhoods, particularly in Capitol Hill and University District
  • Available at lower rent than standard studio or one bedroom apartments

We have also seen more development of the congregate residence arrangement – a similar type of housing.

You can browse examples of micro-housing on flickr.

Project Benefits

Based on our evaluation so far, 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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