Seattle seeks input on backyard cottages, in-law apartments amid affordable housing crisis

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SEATTLE -- The City of Seattle wants to know if you support the development of more backyard cottages and in-law apartments as one possible solution to the affordable housing crisis.

The Office of Planning & Community Development is reviewing a proposal by council member Mike O'Brien which aims to make it easier for property owners to build what are called Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

The policy changes on the table would increase rental housing options in areas where housing is unaffordable for most residents. The cost of an average single-family home in Seattle has climbed to a staggering $820,000.

Since ADUs were first allowed back in 1994, Seattle homeowners have created 1,591 in-law apartments (inside a single-family home) and 579 detached backyard cottages.

Last year alone, the city issued 263 total permits to homeowners who wanted additional housing on their property.

An environmental impact study released by the city offers three options:

  1. No action; current rules maintained.
  2. One in-law apartment and one backyard cottage allowed on the same lot; parking no longer required for ADUs; the homeowner may live elsewhere.
  3. Two ADUs allowed per lot (either two in-law apartments or one apartment and one cottage); an additional parking space is required only if two ADUs are built

The proposal comes on the heels of the Seattle City Council's unanimous decision to impose a $275-per-employee yearly tax on companies that make more than $20 million annually in Seattle. It includes a sunset clause after five years, with renewal requiring a council vote in 2023.

The tax is expected to raise about $48 million a year to pay for affordable housing and homeless services. Other cities have implemented similar taxes, but Seattle's is by far the highest in the nation.

Which option do you support?

Seattle is seeking public comment. You can give your opinion online or by email -- -- through 5:00 p.m. on June 25, 2018.

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