Micro-housing debate in Seattle is no small fight

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SEATTLE — There’s a big fight brewing in Seattle over micro-housing.  These are extremely small apartments — some as small as 100 square feet — and more and more are being built around the city.

Opponents argue that micro-housing is ruining neighborhoods by putting too many people into one building and adversely affecting parking and quality of life.

“They haven’t been monitoring it,” said Bill Bradburd of the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition. “They’ve allowed over 50 of these projects to get into the pipeline on this.”

But supporters argue that these tiny apartments are the only way to keep the city affordable.

“It’s a choice that people are making to say, I want a smaller space, pay less for it, in a hotter, transit-friendly, cool neighborhood in Seattle,” said Roger Valdez of Smart Growth Seattle.  “The only complaints are from people that don’t live in them, that want to control and determine how other people live.”

While a typical micro-housing unit is cheaper than a regular apartment, it can still can go for $800-$1,000 a month.

The Seattle City Council is debating a law that would tighten the rules for micro-housing, including that they be an average of at least 220 square feet, which would mean fewer units per building.

Data pix.

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  • Keep Thinking...

    But C.R. Douglas this IS subsidized housing. 37 of the over 60 buildings, permitted or built, are receiving the Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE) which means the developer/owners do not have to pay property tax on these structures. Instead, property taxes are raised on the rest of us to support this housing type. Which coincidentally, is the most lucrative form of housing currently being built. Why should ordinary tax payers be subsidizing wealthy developers of these money making projects? These buildings need to be subjected to the same regulatory processes, design review and environmental review that other forms of multi-family housing are subjected to. If we don’t force that, then we are in effect providing incentive for more of this substandard, not section 8 compatible, can’t get financing for them from ordinary financial sources, housing to be created. Furthermore, they are not “all the rage” as you state. There is a housing shortage. People move out of them, due to their inadequate amenities, faster than they are moving in. Why else would the need to plaster those obnoxious “for rent” signs on the side of the building? Ordinary apartment buildings rarely have to promote their units as aggressively.

  • awestruck

    Ping back-
    Where did you get the stat of 37 out of 60? they stopped that over a year ago and I think that only 15 or so had been built.

    FYI they all have waiting lists to get in. Regular apartments have websites and for rent signs too. Lenders require heavy promotion of the properties they finance. Section eight requires a full kitchen to qualify for subsidy

    A lot of these people would be living in bootleg pats or under a bridge instead of a safe fire alarmed and sprinklered ‘Green” building. my “20 something” kids want to live in one!

    • Keep Thinking...

      Yes, 37 buildings. That stat came from Seattle’s very own Office of Housing. Give them a call. They may have stopped that program but not before 37 buildings applied and were accepted. Seattle property taxes went up for all of us so that the developers of these very profitable buildings (renting at $6+ sq ft or nearly 3 times the average) would be able to pay less tax. Seattle should revoke this subsidy that few want to admit exists for these buildings.
      Regular apartments on Capitol Hill might have a modest sign with a phone number not a 8′ sign posted over the doorway. While I am at it, I have to ask, what’s with that standard metal fence surrounding many of the buildings that makes these places look like medium security prisons?
      BTW… at $850 per unit average rental price this housing is not for those that would otherwise be living under bridges. This is not a solution to the homeless problem so please don’t make that assertion. This is not affordable or low income housing; it is nothing more than more market rate housing. Bad value market housing when you consider the price versus the size and amenities. The “green” building that you mention was the existing one they tore down to make these eyesores.

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