30 days after Mayor Jenny Durkan signs it, new legislation passed Monday by the City Council will give Seattle a start at catching up after years of delays on making it easier to build backyard apartment units on single family home properties across the city.
“The vote caps an epic process during which obstructionists abused state environmental laws to drag things out for four years, as pro-housing affordability forces built up steam and finally won out over the objections of a tiny minority of anti-housing activists,” pro-growth and affordability nonprofit Sightline wrote on the passage, calling the new rules “the most progressive ADU policy in the US.”In part, the new “accessory dwelling unit” regulations are being applauded simply because of the volume of new housing territory they seem to open up — the new rules will allow two ADUs on a given property.
The most progressive element in “the most progressive ADU policy in the US” won’t be in place for another six months, however. That’s when another key component approved Monday will take effect. To encourage ADU development, the legislation limits the allowed size of new houses in Seattle but ADUs won’t count against the cap. That provision gives developers the option to maximize the value of a property by adding in-law style apartment or separate backyard cottages.
CHS reported here on other aspects of the legislation and the long, hard fought battle against anti-growth efforts in the city to see it through.
Even with its progressive framework, the new ADU rules may not spark a building boom of new, small-scale, hopefully affordable backyard units and basement apartments. Permitting and utility work is still prohibitively slow and expensive in the city.
Council member Kshama Sawant says there should be public financing for low income people who want to add the units to their homes.
“We’ve been listening to community and there remain considerable obstacles to speeding the development of backyard cottages and in-law apartments,” Mayor Durkan said in her statement on the council’s approval of the legislation. “The permitting process is too complex, takes too long, and there are financial barriers keeping many low and middle-income homeowners from bringing these housing solutions online and into their neighborhoods.”
“If we’re serious about providing more housing choices across the city, it’s incredibly important that we take this opportunity to get this right.”
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