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Sometimes a big surprise, ‘micro-housing’ trend rolls on in Capitol Hill

(Image: CHS)

There’s a lot of dirt getting pushed around this summer to make way for more “micro-housing” on Capitol Hill. A slew of buildings full of the modern, cheap, tiny spaces are in various stages of development around central Seattle. The dorm-style digs have garnered praise for offering actually affordable housing on Capitol Hill, but they’ve also caught some flak for using a loophole in the city’s zoning code to do it.  

A company called Micro Housing is developing two buildings on the Hill. In April, demolition of a single family home at 422 11 Ave. E. (11th and Republican) got underway to make room a micro-housing structure.

Micro Housing is also behind a project at 1806 12th Ave (12th and Howell). The city approved of the project last May. According to city records, an inspector was called out to the building May 31 to investigate a building maintenance or vacancy complaint. The issue has yet to be resolved.

It’s not only Micro Housing pursuing, well, micro housing. Last month, Eagle Rock Ventures was issued a demolition permit for a multi-family residence at 116 13th Ave. E. (13th and John). A permit for a micro-housing structure on the property was issued last year. Eagle Rock properties include the Chop Suey building and Melrose Market.

Micro-housing’s modern incarnation first came on the scene around 2008, with the confluence of the recession and rising demand for housing in central Seattle. A loophole in the city’s zoning code opened the door for densely populated, boardinghouse-style buildings to be built in low-rise residential neighborhoods while skirting the hassle of public reviews and public notices required of similar sized apartment buildings.

Bryan Stevens, spokesperson with the city’s Department of Planning and Development, said most people are unaware of the loophole until a building moves in next door.

“It can be surprising when you have an existing single family home and then something much larger goes up,” he said. “People don’t realize what that zoning allows for, that it could allow for that type of development.”

The dorm-style buildings are relatively new to Seattle — city planners still haven’t agreed on a name. ‘Micro-housing’ or ‘boarding houses’ is the most common; “congregate housing” is the technical term. They’re something akin to college dorms, with single apartment units that have shared kitchens and up to 7 or 8 bedrooms.

And there’s the catch.

Zoning restrictions in residential areas are based on the number of dwelling units (unit occupancy and building size aren’t considered). The loophole has allowed developers to bypass approvals from the Design Review Board and environmental review as these buildings technically come under the dwelling unit threshold for many residential zones on Capitol Hill.

For instance, in lowrise, multifamily areas, design and environmental reviews are triggered for building proposals larger than 8 units (the residential swath from 10th to 15th between Denny and Roy is almost entirely zoned LR3). In areas zoned mid-rise, review boards are triggered at 20-unit proposals (Most of Capitol Hill west of Harvard, aside from Olive and Denny corridors, is MR or LR3). Environmental review is also triggered in LR3 and MR zones for 30-unit proposals within urban centers or station areas.

The economy units are intended for young, single workers or students who travel or don’t have much need for anything but a place to crash. No surprise, demand is high in central Seattle.

Neighbors say this Summit Ave project caught them by surprise (Image: CHS)

Stevens told CHS there are seven projects up or permitted, and 3-4 permits under review, mostly in Capitol Hill and the U-District.

Calhoun Properties were the first to bring micro-housing to central Seattle. Their (trademarked) aPodments, like Terraza aPodment Facility at 11th and Jefferson, another 13th/John project or its first project on 23rd Ave, are compact, modern, and affordable. There are more coming. Paperwork has been filed for a project in the 1800 block of 12th Ave. At the Terraza, rents range from $525 to $775 per month. You can live on 23rd Ave, meanwhile, for $495. Some apartments are smaller than 100 square feet. But you’ll have your own bathroom a refrigerator and, sometimes, a closet.

Stevens said it’s theoretically possible that these structures could be much larger, with larger bedrooms or more bedrooms, and still come into single-family residential zones and skirt public review.

“We didn’t anticipate new units with 7-8 sleeping rooms,” he said. “Existing zoning laws permit it, but they didn’t anticipate it being applied.”

On the building code side, micro-housing is regulated similar to apartment buildings, with limits on the number of people, fire safety measures, and outdoor access.

Stevens said planning department top-brass has directed department staff to look more closely into micro-housing regulations, including the zoning loophole, this year.

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83 thoughts on “Sometimes a big surprise, ‘micro-housing’ trend rolls on in Capitol Hill

  1. I think this is just awful. Why should people have to be smooshed into cheap,tiny spaces? Ugh. My neighborhood is being ruined block by block.

  2. The developers are NOT concerned about cap hill neighborhood- only CASH FLOW! It is unfair that a loophole this big remains unresolved while developers continue to bulldoze their way into neighborhoods without any notice to exisiting neighbors. Proper disclosure is only right for apartment dwellers and owners that are already here on the hill. The fact that they are “under the Radar” should tell you something!!

  3. These things will ruin many neighborhoods if they are allowed to continue. Hopefully, the loophole will be closed soon. The buildings are bound to be cheaply constructed and have a tacky appearance.

    And what about the parking issue? Some of the residents will have cars and this will made parking even more difficult than it already is.

  4. Calhoun Properties is to start construction on a two building development at this intersection, as well. Right now, the former building is a charred skeleton, as the old structure was donated to the Seattle Fire Department for training fires….it’s an eyesore, and at this point, can’t be torn down soon enough!

  5. I think this is a great way to house people who are relatively transient such as students, people doing internships, or just spending the summer in Seattle.

    I hear the complaints, but how does this differ from a bunch of college kids sharing one house?

    As far as parking goes, boo hoo. The city doesn’t owe you free parking. Rent a spot if it is that important to you.

    PS. I’m old and a long time Capitol Hill resident (16 years). Maybe even longer than the people claiming that this is ruining “their” neighborhood.

  6. The parking thing is just a trend of the neighborhood and I don’t think singling out this building type for that reason is fair. The neighborhood is moving to higher density housing and to a certain extent we have to accept that. If you want parking to improve you should support an expansion of public transit and some more extensive tolling to push people out of their cars and into buses.

  7. This issue is really NOT being looked at by city officials in any true sense and by the time they do act, if ever, we will have pods all over the neighborhood.

  8. Emily is right. Why should we allow an affordable alternative for future residents on the Hill? If new people can’t afford the $2,000 a month to rent in new buildings like Joule, Chloe or The Broadway, they don’t deserve to live in our neighborhood. We shouldn’t be allowing these people that think that they can live in less than 800 square feet and without a car. These type of people will RUIN our neighborhood. Keep them out!!

  9. I wouldn’t even call them cheap. at $775 a month for a hundred square feet, that’s too small to be safe, sanitary or cost effective for anybody but developers.

  10. That Place has been an eyesore and drug joint for years. the cops were there several times a week and it was a rooming house with many housing violations. Regulations won’t let you tear them down until the permit is issued.
    There is a need for this or they would not be getting built. 300 sq foot one bedrooms start at $12-1,400 and go to $2,000 pm. If you work for $12ph this is just what you need. Built under safer codes and affordable. what is to complain about?

  11. On a per square foot basis, these units are way more expensive than any of the other new buildings being put up. At Chloe, for example, you can get a decent sized one bed (600 sq feet) for about $1500 a month ($2.50 sf) Yet, at these places, you get a shoebox (150-250 sq feet) for upwards of $600 to $700 a month. In some cases, this works out to well over $4.00 a square foot. Silly.

  12. Providing living units without parking keeps prices affordable and new neighborhood traffic to a minimum. Seems like a great solution. More, please!

  13. I completely agree the loophole should be closed, but I also like idea of these places on a LIMITED basis. I don’t want them on every block, but I think they are a nice cheaper NEW alternative for either transient (aka college, intern) or working poor (non-tech industry types). Lets not kid ourselves, its not government subsidized housing filled with elderly, it will young people with money to burn.

    As with anything, moderation is key. Plus with a variety of accommodations, comes a variety in rents and competition among landlords.

    PS – No, I do not work for the “micro-housing” companies even though my rant sounds like a sales pitch! lol

  14. … not because of the idea, but because of the price and size! As others have noted, the space is WAY too tiny and the price WAY too high. I get that it’s nice to have your own space- and not roll the dice with shared housing, even though it’s a much better deal- but why are these units SO small, and running as high as $775?

    It’d be one thing if they were this size and $300-350, where it was more like a hotel room than an apartment, and the idea was the cost-conscious person would have a cheap, safe, private place to eat, sleep, etc- your own room, bathroom, kitchenette- and better location than they’d get for that price.

    Or if they were the same price as they are listed, but bigger- if well planned, even 400 sq ft is a LOT of space (20×20) especially if using convertible rooms/sleeping lofts, and for a single person if the unit is well-designed you can get a lot of space for less. And since the whole point is the zoning laws cap them at 7-8 units, I find it hard to believe a 3-story building in place of a single-home couldn’t fit 7-8 reasonably sized units. I’ve seen the one on 13th and John, and it looks like it’s wasting space left and right on the property it’s on.

    But at $500, $600, even $775 for a 100sq foot cell? That is insulting, and shows these people aren’t cleverly using some design techniques to get more home out of less space, they’re just preying on needy people by gouging them only a *little* less than other landlords, and for FAR less space.

  15. yep, expensive by the square foot…BUT…if you don’t want to roll the dice with unknown roomates, and you can’t afford $1500 for your own larger space, $700 for a private room that is safe seems like a decent option

  16. I like the idea but think there needs to be some work on the actual execution. There also needs to be some thought into the quality of construction. I walk past the Apodments being constructed on Summit every day and notice that the quality is not up to par with multiple other multi-unit construction projects around the Hill. I want these to be successful but also don’t want them to turn into crappy rentals and just get beat up due to the nature of the use (as do a lot of unit/houses/dorms that are used under the same conditions).

  17. No one is twisting anyone’s arm to live in these. Apparently the demand is there and they are filling a market need. Seems like a good low cost alternative if people choose it’s right for them. I almost prefer this to overpriced condos and the type of person that living option potentially brings here.

  18. I think this is great. There’s plenty of people who wouldn’t mind living this way, and allowing a greater diversity of residensts is a good thing.

  19. Maybe I missed something, but I don’t think people are being forced to do anything. When I was in my early 20’s working at a coffeeshop this would have been an ideal arrangement. This is about expanding choices.

  20. You should check one out before passing judgment. The unit I visited made good use of the small space.

    A relevant trend is the large increase in the number of coffee houses over the past decade, and their popularity as common living rooms for folks who want to hang out with friends, study, or enjoy media. There are more options close by that don’t involve booze or dinner.

  21. The aPodiment at 306 Summit Ave East will have nearly 60 units on 6 floors with no elevator – that’s a six-floor walk up tenement, with no parking spaces included in the project. Parking on Summit East is already nearly impossible. The city has not thought this through.

  22. Why do people keep bringing up the cost per square foot? If you are low-income, you don’t care about that, you care about whether you can afford a living space. And sure, young people can share big old houses, but there aren’t nearly enough of those to go around in Capitol Hill. This is an innovative way to provide affordable housing and should be encouraged.

  23. That’s like saying a 60ft yacht is affordable compared to a used bayliner because the sq ft cost of the yacht is less. If you can’t afford the whole thing, you can’t afford it period. You don’t buy half a boat.

  24. 1) There is clearly a lot of unmet demand for housing that costs less than $1000/mo on the hill.

    2) Pricing per square foot is never linear, especially at the low end. 500 square feet usually costs more than half of 1000 square feet in the same neighborhood.

    3) I believe some of these units are furnished, which may also explain the slightly higher price.

    4) I don’t see how this is worse for the neighborhood than old houses being carved into progressively tinier “apartments” and rented out for similar prices. I know a guy who just moved out of his apartment because the small garage he had had with his unit was taken away…to be turned into another, tiny apartment. See (1) above.

  25. When I moved to Capitol Hill in the late Sixties there was plenty of affordable housing, including boarding houses and various types of shared bath apts. Most of these were torn down to make way for yuppy condos and expensive rentals. As for single family housing it was REALLY family housing for blue collar types not four bedroom restorations for affluent couples with no kids or one perfect child.
    Even many apt buildings that were reasonable rentals have become “restored” condo conversions. The real plague of new people on Captiol Hill has been the affluent who could afford to have stayed in the burbs but wanted to become part of the trendy “new unbanism”. They live in spaces that are too big and force everyone else out to the burbs where they cannot afford the transportation costs to jobs in the city. Stupid and inefficient!

  26. They are horrible! The walls are paper thin, the rooms are tiny, and the rent (at $600+) isn’t ‘cheep’. Yes, there is a need for affordable housing, but not if it means building aPODments. My friend who lived in one for three months hated every day of it. The developers are nothing but money grubbing corporate a-holes. Their buildings are eyesores on our community. I’ve lived on the hill for 11 years and have consistently found apartments at the same price or cheaper than those dorm style pits. Don’t rent from them. I sincerely hope they loose their shirts on these things and go bankrupt, but unfortunately I doubt that will happen.

  27. I’m not anti-density. Just that these particular developers cut corners at every turn and build cardboard buildings. Really, they are horrible places to live. If they were well built and not ridiculously sized (really, they are bad), I would be more for it.

  28. The people renting such spaces will be young enough to walk up a few flights of stairs. Indeed it will be good exercise for them, as they will not need to walk far to catch a bus. There is one route that goes right by and a few more on Olive.

  29. The high end for these tiny spaces is apparently $ 775? This seems terribly expensive for such tiny spaces. Although 100 square feet might be alright for the short term, it seems hardly humane or a bargain at $ 525 a month.

  30. To be clear, note I hate that they are both tiny *and* not particularly inexpensive; I’d be fine if these units were much cheaper, OR if they were the same price but larger (even 300-400 sq ft). That they are marginally less expensive than a full-fledged studio, or shared housing, yet offer MUCH less space, is the sticking point (and why some people are harping on the $/sq ft comparisons).

    A few other commenters are throwing around “two THOUSAND dollars a month for a STUDIO!” but… that’s just not accurate. You can still get a studio on the hill for $600-700/mo, give or take; yes, getting a 2 bedroom at the Joule is more than that, but what I’m describing is how these aPodment style places seem almost *predatory*.

    Someone below mentioned the “No one is twisting anyone’s arm” but actually, the market is twisting people’s arms: if you have to choose between $550/mo for a 11’x9′ room, and $700 for a studio that’s literally 4-5 times larger… that doesn’t seem like an efficient market. This is why libertarian supply/demand viewpoints are simplistic when dealing with things people need, like housing, food, water, etc.

    Had the aPodment people made beautifully efficient studios for reasonable prices- say, $400/300sq ft- I’d be a huge champion of their work. But I’ve looked at the pictures on the aPodments website in the past, and those places are insanely TINY. You couldn’t even have *guests* over, unless they all sat on your weird built-in prison-cot.

    It’s one thing to say, turn 258 square feet into an interesting, livable space like this:

    It’s quite another to see Seattle start to turn into Manhattan, with things like a 90-square-feet “microstudio”… for $700/month. aPodment is a step in that direction, and I hate it.

  31. That’s where the poor in this country is going. They already have something similar in Japan. I think they called them “pods” too.

  32. It matters because if these guys can get $7/SQFT for their development, building owners that are only getting $1.00 – $2.00/SQFT for larger units may see this as an invitation to make sharp rent increases, which can make Capitol Hill even that much more unaffordable for lower income people, but middle income people as well.

  33. I rented one of the apodments because I am new to Seattle and I don’t know a soul. It’s nice to have a furnished spot for a few months while I get myself situated. The alternative would be staying at an extended stay hotel or a furnished apartment which could run me over $1200 a month which is the equivalent of 3 months in an apodment.

  34. I hope that the people creating these dorms and boarding houses let their prospective tenants know that there is little to no parking available. If the landlords lie about the parking situation would that be deceptive advertising?

  35. This is not a comment on whether or not apodments are “good” or “bad”. They are probably a little of both.

    I would say this about DPD’s position that these buildings can avoid design review, for example, because of a “loophole”. DPD has taken the position that a buidling that has no more than seven food preparation areas has, therefore, no more than seven dwelling units. This is its position even though there may be, say, fifty or more unrelated people living in the building. In taking that position DPD has ignored a DPD Director’s Rule, — an official interpretation, if you will,that’s supposed to provide guidance in areas of the Code that may appear to be ambiguous.)

    That Rule, known as Director’s Rule 7-83, states that existence or non-existence of a food preparation area (kitchen) is only one factor to be considered in determining whether or not a room is a “dwelling unit”. Other factors include lockable entrances to rooms, and separate rental agreements for the rooms.

    Do the units in apodments have lockable interior entrances? Do the tenants have separate rental agreements?

    If DPD “top brass” is looking more closely into this matter “this year” one place to look might be its own Director’s Rule.

  36. Just because it’s trendy doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. It doesn’t make sense to complain about inefficiency on the one hand, and then wish these people would travel back to the burbs on the other. If you want to improve efficiency, let even more people move into the region. Bus and other public services will improve, more businesses will spring up to serve these people, and the environment is better off to boot. I’m for it, and these aPodiments are a great answer to the big condos springing up everywhere. Choices are good!

  37. Something that became a little more clear after reading this is that, for many people, I don’t think these apartments are long-term housing. They seem great for people just moving to the region who know few if any people, because it gives them the opportunity to meet others in a similar situation and because they’re not stuck with a 6-, 9-, or 12-month lease before they know anything about where they’d really like to live.

    The price does seem high, but you do have to take into account the fact that (as noted by a previous commenter) it’s not a linear cost, and to build a 600 sq foot apt will usually cost less than double what a 300 sq foot apartment will, due to efficiencies of scale. And if the leases are so short, they also probably have a greater than average number of vacant days per year, which has to be made up for somehow. It’s a tradeoff, but I can see it being a great short-term option for a certain demographic.

  38. There _are_ still cheap apartments on the hill. I used to live in one. The building was originally built as a motel for the 1962 World’s Fair, concrete block construction with a camper-van size kitchen and ancient aluminum-framed windows. Very modern–fifty years ago. How could there possibly be a market for even smaller similary-priced apartments in brand new buildings built to 2012 standards? That’s like saying that people would pay more for a newer expensive mini car, instead of getting a perfectly servicable 1989 Pontiac Sunbird. We should change the auto code so that greedy manufacturers don’t take advantage of deluded people who think they need modern safety technology, driving dynamics, and stylish design in a small package! An old beater was good enough for me, it’s good enough for you.

  39. Seattle needs to follow the example of New York City, where a gentle ballet of careful urban planning and polite market forces has preserved stylish inexpensive apartments with ample free street parking for all. A young waitress only needs one roommate to afford a huge apartment with a yard for her horse.

  40. This same dynamic is also driving up the cost of art. Young artists see big names pulling in big money as an invitation to sharply increase the price for their work as well. Low income art collectors are being driven out of the market!

  41. As one of the podpeople who commented here said, new to town, didn’t know a soul, this was a good way to get their bearings.

    What I can see happening is there are 7 podpeople in a unit, you make friends with at least one, you strike out and try to find a 2 br. place. I think these fill a need in our community.

    Having said that, this development needs to be on the up and up, and go through proper review. Our community does welcome density. What I’m reading though, I’m sensing we don’t welcome diversity of people. The fact is we’re the most dynamic neighborhood in the city (eat it Queen Anne) and we’re insanely close to downtown. In 4 years, when the light rail opens, we’ll be able to be downtown in 2 minutes, or the UW in 4-5 minutes. We need to accept that this neighborhood is changing, and market forces may force some of us out of here. Pretty? No, but it is the economic model we’ve adapted in this country.

  42. I am sorry, but it is disturbing to me that we are ok now with just expecting low-income people to live in a shoebox, while “normal” sized apartments are reserved for all the upscale engineers living on the hill now? You know what, I WANT MY BARISTA TO BE ABLE TO AFFORD A NORMAL SIZED APARTMENT. Housing for lower-income people should not sacrifice quality. Period.

  43. 60 units and six floors!? Are you sure?-I’ll have go take a closer look at the thing. Yeah, replacing a single family home (or was it split into 4-6 apts?) w/ SIXTY new households will have a pretty noticeable effect on the immediate area. Maybe not more than crowded bodegas. =) And c’mon, some (many? dunno, but some) of those folks *are* going to have cars and parking is bad already. You can rent your own spot but that doesn’t help anyone visiting you. All in all, something that has the potential to have a significant effect shouldn’t come into being via a loophole.

    I find it hard to believe that they’d build a 6 story building without an believe. Obviously it’s not a concern about people being “fragile”-it just seems really weird. Makes you wonder where else they cut costs. I walk past the thing all the time but, not being a contractor/construction worker I have no idea if it’s good quality or not.

  44. I certainly agree with the need for review just like anything of similar size/impact, my comments were just regarding the function and potential value of the the apartments themselves, which seemed to work well for you as I’m sure it can for others in the right circumstances. Providing a few hundred of these units spread over an area with tens of thousands of residents doesn’t seem like it should be met with as much rancor as it has been.

    Somehow–and this seems true of everything development/parking related here–people aren’t able to separate “I wouldn’t want to live there” from “they’re forcing people to live there against their wills!” If there weren’t people who wanted to live in this situation, or at least found it the most appealing option given their circumstances, it wouldn’t be built. As I said before: choice is good. People can decide for themselves where they want to live, it’s not our responsibility to make that judgment for them. Nor should it be.

  45. “Housing for lower-income people should not sacrifice quality. Period.”

    Lousy lower-income housing in my youth is what has driven me as an adult to get a decent career and make things better for myself. Make no mistake, as a poor kid, I took a lot of advantages from government programs that have been taken away from todays poor people. I would rather pay my taxes on education grants and subsidized tuition so poor people can better themselves than to subsidize their housing so they are warehoused.

    Sometimes adversity can give you drive to better yourself.

  46. sure! for the single transient population that apparently is the “new urbanist” ideal for Seattle. Of course, when the transients move on to the suburbs because there’s no larger living arrangements left in town, and the pods deteriorate into institutional homes and such, it will be another bonanza for (re)developers!

  47. Yes, I agree, the issue is that rising property values turn urban neighborhoods into feasts for the wealthy rather than places where many types of people can afford to live. This is a stupid system, and the more we can do to ensure that our neighborhoods stay mixed, the better. Homogenizing urban neighborhoods that are easy to get around using sustainable forms of transport into enclaves of wealth is unfair, and frankly quite boring. I imagine Capitol Hill was more interesting before it became a sea of status bags and people in “Mad Men” costumes complaining about the lack of parking. There was such a before-time, right?

  48. Not sure where you’re getting your information from about Chloe. I just moved out of a tiny 400 sf closet that I paid $1400 for. Fucking price gougers. Plus there’s no sound barrier between the floors. Awful property managed by greedy Blanton Turner.

  49. If they are getting that much more than other places on the hill, why would anyone rent from them? They much either be better in some way, or no one will rent from them at those prices. The market in action.

  50. and bigger per person……
    There you share a 150 sq foot room with at least one other person and have a shared bath down the hall.

    these average like $20 per night.

    also most of the apts built in the 30’s,40’s and 50’s have little to no parking- that is why we have public transit. just like european cities

    find another bone to chew on

  51. I understand that there must be a range of housing on Capitol Hill to enable all incomes to co-exist here. This enables the Hill to maintain its diversity which is the reason many of us choose it for our home. However, I don’t think the Apodment micro-housing model is one that works in this case or one that works for the long term.

    I don’t think it is accurate to suggest that the “Apodment” model is being built with the altruistic motive of providing affordable housing to those that need it. Development, like all things private sector, is about making money. The high price per square foot on these units prove this point. They are being built because they can make developers and their investors the most money. These people, and I’m being generous calling them that, are only interested in the dollars they will make in the short term and are not interested in finding out the real impact these structures are having or going to have on the local community where they are being built. Or, for that matter on the quality of life they are “providing” for the people they are renting to. I just bet that the developers that are producing these SUPER-SIZED tenements are not going to be living in these buildings nor do I believe they want these buildings next to their homes in the Eastside or out of state communities where they most likely live.

    Some areas of the Hill, already densely developed, may be able to accommodate densely inhabited structures however many areas of the Hill cannot. The City Council and those that are allowing these buildings to be built, via a LOOPHOLE in development regulations, are not doing their due diligence to see where such density is welcome and can be accommodated and where such density is going to permanently damage, existing, well-liked and working neighborhoods on this hill. Let’s use our heads and realize that one size, in this case SUPER-SIZED, does not fit all.

    I’m not surprised to read that most of the comments posted from people who have lived in these units are negative. Ask yourself, would you thrive living in a thinly-walled (cheaper to build equals more return on developers dollars), small box sharing a good portion of your intimate living space with a total stranger not of your choosing? Let’s not kid ourselves, it can be difficult to get along with roommates and takes some effort to make it work and those are people that we choose to live with. We have to share our communities, that’s why they are called public space but private space, our home that we choose to live in, is not public space. I’m afraid these micro-apartments are to a living space what sweatshops are to a working space. Should we encourage sweatshops merely because people need jobs?

    These buildings while seen as a panacea to some, no doubt those who have not lived in them, suggest post-war project communities which were built in many cities across the nation as a solution to house the poor. These communities have failed or are failing and have become something closer to prison for their inhabitants rather than the healthy neighborhoods they were originally envisioned becoming. Do we want these “projects” on our blocks? Do we want them as our next door neighbor? How about asking the residents on blocks where these developments are being considered if they want these buildings as their neighbor? I think there are better solutions out there for healthy affordable communities which the City Council should be looking into and making LEGITIMATE permits for. The loophole (Doesn’t that alone suggest something is wrong here?) needs to be closed before these developments are allowed to permanently damage our liveable Hill.

  52. I think the city does owe you parking. The design of the city and construction should be such that there is not too much congestion. And I speak as someone who does not own a car.

    27 year resident of the hill. I moved to my patch specifically because it wasn’t full of apts (like near Bellevue & Denny). I’m unhappy about the new construction. More people means more noise, more trash, more crime.

  53. Brad, I think you would feel differently if you lived in a home or apartment building where parking was not a possibility. Many people need free street parking, and your advice to “rent a spot” is pretty callous.

    I’m lucky to own my little home, with a driveway where I park, but I feel for those who must search for a parking spot when they get home from work. It’s only going to get worse if your opinion prevails.

  54. Can you elaborate on your smarmy epithet “type of person”? Most people who can afford to buy condos on Capitol Hill are perfectly ok, and will care about the neighborhood, to the point of taking some action when there are problems. And they will have invested such that they will live here for awhile, as opposed to transient residents who could care less about the state of the neighborhood, because they will soon be moving on…

    Seems like you are expressing some “class warfare.” Too bad…Capitol Hill is made up of all socioeconomic groups, so get used to it.

  55. What about all the buildings owned/managed by the Capitol Hill Housing Group? Aren’t these reasonably sized and a reasonable rent? Why is there a need for these closets at $700/month?

  56. I have to agree with Carl. My house (a small 1.5 story 112 year old farmhouse) borders the new development on 12th ave. My understanding is the apodments are going to be 2 separate 6 story buildings. I agree that we desperately need low income housing on Capitol Hill and that the price of rent on the hill is ridiculous. And to be fair I actually like the look of the apodments on 23rd and Madison (13th and John is another story). I also really like the idea of street level retail space. However I think that there needs to be some consideration for the look and feel of the neighborhood. This particular part of the hill still has some really nice mixed-use going on; corner stores, cafes, small houses, low rise pre-war brick aprts, Anhalt condos, small shops. Does a poorly built 6 story human sardine can really equal good density? Most of the single family homes that have been torn down in the last ten years in this particular part of the hill have been pretty dilapidated (and the two houses on this property are no exception) but so many of the structures that have gone up in their place have been done quickly, cheaply, and thoughtlessly. I can only imagine these will be the same since they’ve refused to do any sort of design review to give the neighbors some idea of what’s being built. It all feels very..sneaky.
    As for the developers the few times I’ve spoken with them they’ve been extremely evasive and at other times just hostile. After they evicted all the tenants from the two houses a year ago they seemed to simply let the property go… They’ve been full of garbage, graffiti,people smoking crack. They’ve been cited twice because of the condition of the property and their attitude seems to be “it’s Capitol Hill, what do you want?” Well how about an apartment that’s bigger than a parking space and a stove so that the low income tenants can actually cook instead of having to eat out every night? I’m pretty sure providing good, solid housing for the “working poor” has very little to do with the motivation behind this particular development.

  57. @Adam Parast

    There’s an available studio in the building I manage, two blocks from this development, that is the same price as the one mentioned above ($775) for units in the Apodment complex, and that’s without having to share a kitchen and living area with a bunch of other people. I don’t think prices on the hill are so steep across the board that this is honestly a more economical option.

  58. Sadly, urban sardine housing is an expected loophole in the zoning code. It is Mayor McGinn’s incompetence that allowed developers to eliminate parking requirements. Providing at least one on-site parking space per unit has been a crucial requirement for at least the past 30 years.
    We all are public transit/live-close-to-work advocates. But we are fools to believe residents in any western American city of any economic condition will not own vehicles. Lower income folks tend to be more transitory and will not forego personal transportation because of a short-term housing situation. Not driving daily is the goal. So the goal suggested the higher need for off-street parking — take the bus, leave the car home.
    These Motel McGinn developers are inflicting outrageous on-street parking impacts on the neighborhoods and loopholing entry-level rental housing to 19th Century tenement standards.
    The healthies urban zoning code would require one on-site parking space per two bedrooms and allow the leasing tenant to rent back whatever parking is unneeded.

  59. And if you do the math by square foot, it does not end up cheap for the renter AT ALL! Developers are making out on this loophole. It is disgusting that these developments are even considered low income housing! They are substandard housing at best.

  60. You are not seeing that the only group that these are good for are the developers and the owners of the buildings. They bring in more monthly revenue on one of these development than if they were to develop luxury apartments on these lots. Do the math. So you can argue that there is a population of people that will rent these but the truth is these developments are highly profitable.

  61. I’m posting this anonymously because I have a temporary job working for a developer that builds these… These are developer driven cash cows that are poorly built and code driven… There are a thousand code loopholes that are abused to increase bottom lines…. there’s a lot of bait and switch going on by very shady people… I know I’m basically biting the hand that feeds me by posting this but its wrong…

  62. So, with 7 or 8 people sharing a kitchen, signing a 3 month lease for $450 to $750 a month in 100 square feet, no parking, what does this give the neighbors? First of all, the developer makes out well: the apodment structure is paid for in a few years, and they recoup all of their inventment money. Then it is an incredible cash-cow. So, the developer – who incidentally gets a tax-credit for providing low-cost housing, goes on to build more and more and more of these in any lot they can snap up. Are these units where people commit energy and respect to their communities? With a three month lease and 100 sq. feet? No. You would not want to stay there, just to transiently live there until you could find someone for a roommate and move somewhere else, to get more space and privacy. So when people are not committed to the location, there is no pride of place. We saw this in the big housing ventures in Russia, in Detroit, killing a city from the inside. Picture the unquiet desperation of the people’s lives who cannot move on, and how they may wreak their irritation on their surrounding structures in litter, graffitti, and disrepair. Do you want to raise your children here? And who willingly shares a kitchen with 8 strangers?

  63. You’re absolutely right… People who look at these as a means for social justice, or who argue that its a pure market response to a demand are mistaken… Having now seen the inside working of this scheme and code manipulation and outright fraud, I can tell you there is nothing good coming out of these…Shady developers are gaming the revised code and cashing in big time…. They are poorly designed and built… Partof the code loophole allows them to avoid design review and more stringent environmental requirements. If you’re a neighbor of one of these and want it stopped, put pressure for more scrutiny… Get inspectors to walk already built examples and compare against the permit drawings…. Examples are
    required common rooms that are converted post construction to additional rental spaces. People directly affected by these need to speak up and push back!

  64. Apodments are not “low income” housing, they are “affordable” housing. If you have income to afford the rent, you can apply. This is not section 8, public, or subsidized housing. All 3 buildings that I have lived in have “quality” tenants”. I’m a full-time, working professional and could easily live in a normal apartment building at $1500 plus a month. I moved from out of state in 2010 and did not want the expense of furnishing and time maintaining a full-sized apartment. I live in a 130 square foot apodment unit for about $620 a month. It is not a “sleeping room”. I have my own bathroom, kitchenette (no cooktop) w/ appliances built in shelving, nice carpeting, tile, blinds, etc… I have access to a full-kitchen, and modern washer/dryer right outside my door. ALL utilities included, even high speed Internet! Compared to what I have lived in before, I’m saving over $1000 a month…that’s money I’m now spending on other things in the neighborhood. I’ve lived in 3 apodment buildings so far and cannot say enough positive things about the the management company. The management is the best I’ve experienced in any building I have lived in. So, for concerned neighbors, the buildings are very well maintained, landscaped, have strict rules for tenants to follow, prospective tenants are screened and the buildings are quieter than you might think. The management is very attentive and responsive. Any issues/problems are usually addressed quickly and swiftly. They don’t mess around. My building has over 40+ residents, but in/out traffic is very minimal and I hardly hear anything, even in my own unit. I’ve lived in regular apartment buildings that are much noisier and higher traffic that this. So, neighbors should not be concerned with this and support quality and “affordable” housing, not necessarily low income/subsidized which people seem to associate microhousing with. I made a choice to scale down and apodments helped me achieve that.

  65. Okay, so I know this might sound utterly bizarre but do we know if anyone has ever considered “community parking”? Neighborhoods could pool together to put underground parking underneath them. Have the entrance to the parking near a main street so that there wouldn’t be a noticeable increase in traffic. Everyone who belongs to the neighborhood would automatically be given a free parking spot or two and then they could mark some as “guest” and rent the remainder. If the parking structure were gated you wouldn’t need to worry about vandalism, theft, or strangers camping out in it.
    It would decrease neighborhood traffic and allow for the conversion of driveways into yards.

    Because, no, the city does not “owe” you free parking. You choose to own a car, you chose where you live, and you chose where you work. You could carpool, or use public transportation, or use a service like zipcar but you choose to own your own car because it is convenient.

    However, I see no reason the city should not help support neighborhood projects that would help to increase the amount of private open space in our neighborhoods, hell some entire residential streets could be turned into neighborhood parks/communal yards.

    Also if you can put a foundation under a pre-existing house I think you would be able to put a parking garage.

    The other alternative would be to park outside of the city. Create more secure, cheap, semi-longterm parking near existing transit centers.

  66. When you are unemployed for two or three years and savings are gone. This is a great stop gap to being put on the street. I made 65,000 a year. Now I need EBT and a food bank to survive. I have a roommate also to survive, but for people with children that is not an option. The recession is not over.

    Quit bitching about.. oh my neighborhood is being affected! People are on the street, THAT is worse…..