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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 September 16 the City Council Planning Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee voted on new rules to clarify permanent regulation on micro-housing, congregate residences, and similar forms of development. The City Council's proposal (Council Bill 118201) reflects input from three stakeholder working group meetings held during the summer of 2014. Once the full Council votes to pass the new regulations (expected on October 6), all future developments will have to meet the new rules.

Please send comments about the final version of the proposed regulations directly to Councilmember Mike O'Brien at mike.obrien@seattle.gov. Send your comments by October 6 for consideration before the Council's final vote.

We look forward to having new regulations in place to help clarify standards for developers and neighbors groups. Key elements of the proposed 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 full City Council is expected to vote on the PLUS Committee’s recommendation, possibly on October 6, 2014. There is a 30-day period between when City Council votes on legislation and when new regulations become effective.

Project Benefits

We recognize small efficiency dwelling units and congregate residences as emerging and viable types 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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