Seattle considers cottage industry to ease housing, rent concerns

Jan 19, 2016, 8:36 PM | Updated: Jan 20, 2016, 2:09 pm
backyard cottage...
(Courtesy of Backyard Cottage Blog)
(Courtesy of Backyard Cottage Blog)

Rent in Seattle has become a common woe to locals striving to live in the city. Now the Seattle officials are considering a cottage industry that could remedy the issue.

“Backyard cottages are one of these conversations I’ve found in neighborhoods throughout the city,” said Seattle Council member Mike O’Brien. “When you talk about them, people seem quite receptive. It may be that we’ve matured as a city. It may be, relative to other types of development in our city, this seems less intrusive today.”

The idea for homeowners to build small cottages in their backyards to, in turn, rent to tenants is not new to Seattle. The city has carried out pilot programs in southeast Seattle over the past decade to gauge interest and see if any problems arose. The cottage experiment detailed how large a new structure could be; how close to a property line; and the size of a property which had to be at least 4,000 square feet with a certain amount of backyard space. The option has been considered by homeowners in the past for a variety of reasons.

O’Brien notes that it can be a source of income to help with the costs of owning property in the city.

Related: Mayor’s homeless solution is an example of ‘Freeattle’ at its worst

The city completed a survey of properties in Seattle and found that about 75,000 single-family lots would qualify to build such backyard cottages. There is no current proposal in front of the city council to create codes and zoning regulations for the backyard cottage ideas. But officials like O’Brien have been holding public meetings to engage communities.

There have been concerns, such as limited parking and the affect of a new structure on neighboring properties. And then some homeowners don’t like the idea of living next to renters.

“I haven’t heard a lot about people saying things like, ‘there shouldn’t be any more people in my neighborhood,” O’Brien said. “This gets into something that I’m, frankly, a little uncomfortable with or I’m disappointed with. Half the city rents and people who rent in our city are just as good of citizens as people who own. But sometimes there is that perception that folks are concerned about more renters coming into their neighborhood. I think that is something we can overcome.”

There has been interest from Seattle homeowners in the past, but O’Brien notes that he often hears “the city gets in the way.”

“I also hear from a lot of folks who don’t own housing but are renting in the city that say, ‘I would love to get out of my apartment into a backyard cottage,'” he said.

“What we’ve seen is this housing option in Seattle hasn’t taken off like it has in other jurisdictions, specifically Vancouver, BC, which has approximately 10,000 of these backyard cottages,” he said. “Whereas in the City of Seattle we’ve only seen a couple hundred in the last decade &#8212 in an environment where we are trying to find all sorts of new housing options for people to help alleviate the housing crisis we’re facing.”

Barriers for homeowners largely include city regulations. For example, if a person wants to build a backyard cottage to rent, they have to provide off-street parking &#8212 a difficult feat for many lots.

“So someone without any off-street parking who wanted to build a backyard cottage would have to provide two off-street parking spaces,” O’Brien said.

There is also a requirement that the homeowner reside in either the cottage or the house. That can be difficult for people who move out of town.

It’s those kinds of concerns and barriers that O’Brien and other city officials want to discuss, with the aim of hopefully producing some local legislation to make backyard cottages more prevalent in Seattle. O’Brien attended one public meeting Jan. 19, and plans to have another one in a couple weeks before crafting a compromise that will, hopefully, put more cottages in Seattle’s backyard.

Jillian Raftery contributed to this article

Local News

(KIRO 7)...
KIRO 7 News Staff

35 Marysville teachers receive layoff notices after voters reject levy extensions

Thirty-five teachers in the Marysville School District received layoff notices last week, after voters rejected levy measures that would have funded 14-18% of the district’s overall budget.
22 hours ago
...
Gwen Baumgardner

Car thefts are on the rise in the region

In Seattle, there have been 2,075 vehicle thefts already this year. Seattle police reported that approximately 86% of stolen cars are recovered.
2 days ago
Kirkland, WA (Getty Images)...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Tax hikes to join booming property values in East King County

Property values in select cities in East King County have skyrocketed, leading King County Assessor John Wilson to warn homeowners about noticeable increases in property taxes.
2 days ago
Pike Place...
MyNorthwest Staff

Enraged Pike Place motorist pleads not guilty to assault with a motor vehicle charges

A man arrested for an assault stemming from a Pike Place incident pleads not guilty in King County Superior Court.
3 days ago
tukwila...
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

Prolific Seattle-area smash-and-grab ATM thieves formerly arrested for murder

60 robberies involving trucks driving into local stores to steal ATMs and cash registers may be solved with the arrest of two men at a Tukwila motel Friday morning.
3 days ago
schools...
Dalton Day

Rival to First Student exposes Seattle Schools’ fumbled bidding war

First Student's competition has accused Seattle Public Schools of “arbitrarily and improperly” awarding a district contract to First Student.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Seattle considers cottage industry to ease housing, rent concerns