December 11, 2014
Seattle Developers Face New Microhousing Regulations
In October 2014, the Seattle City Council unanimously adopted legislation establishing new regulations governing microhousing, otherwise known as “aPodments.”
In October 2014, the Seattle City Council unanimously adopted legislation establishing new regulations governing microhousing, otherwise known as “aPodments.” The City Council became interested in regulating microhousing in 2013, after neighborhood activists complained that developers were exploiting a loophole in land-use law that allowed each floor of a building to count as a single “unit” for design review and permitting purposes, even if that floor included up to eight individual living spaces. The new legislation requires each living space to count as an individual unit. It also divides future projects into two categories. Developers will build either “small efficiency dwelling units” or “congregate units.” The first type is permitted anywhere other apartment buildings are allowed and treated much the same. These units will be between 220 and 400 square feet and must contain at least two sinks. Congregate units, on the other hand, are permitted only in Seattle’s densest neighborhoods and may be as small as 70 square feet as long as they are built in tandem with common kitchens. The City Council decision follows an August 2014 superior court ruling that individual bedrooms with private bathrooms and food preparation areas within a proposed microhousing project were configured for use as separate dwelling units and should be regulated as such, with environmental (SEPA) and design review thresholds calculated accordingly. See The Harvard Dist. Neighbors v. 741 Harvard Ave. East, LLC et al., King Co. No. 14-2-05319-3 SEA (Aug. 13, 2014). Combined, the City Council decision and court ruling change the landscape for microhousing and may make permitting and construction more expensive and difficult for developers.