Seattle may make it easier to build backyard cottages to allow for more housing options

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SEATTLE -- While Seattle is growing at record rates, the number of affordable places to live is dropping.

The city sees a possible solution in making it easier for homeowners to build cottages in their backyards.

The Seattle City Council is looking at a new proposal that will allow more homeowners to build on their property, which will allow for more housing options.

In the Sunset Hill neighborhood, a small backyard cottage sits on Janice Reebs' property.

“I’m really excited about it. It’s going to be my art studio,” said Reebs.

Reebs' cottage is one of about 200 built in Seattle since 2009. That’s when legislation allowed for these detached buildings to be built on eligible lots in single-family zones.

“We’re facing a housing crisis in Seattle, certainly around affordability but also just about the supply of housing we have as our region continues to grow,” said City Council member Mike O’ Brien.

However, a lot of homeowners aren’t building the dwellings because of the city’s current requirements.

Now O’Brien is proposing legislation to make the process a lot easier.

“By removing some of the regulatory restrictions on backyard cottages, we’ll have a measurable difference on the housing supply,” said O’Brien.

One of the biggest hangups for homeowners currently is off-street parking required for each unit built. Under the new plan, that restriction would be lifted.

The city’s also looking at dropping the minimum lot size to 3,200 square feet instead of the current 4,000 square feet currently in place.

O'Brien believes under that plan more than 80,000 lots around Seattle could qualify.

“I think backyard cottages are good thing, as opposed to a-podments,” added Reebs.

Building a backyard cottage can cost more than $100,000.

The Seattle City Council will talk about the proposal this July and could vote on the plan this fall.