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Seattle City Council Sets New Rules For 'Micro-Housing' Development

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Seattle City Council members have moved to regulate so-called micro-housing developments, saying they’ve struck a compromise between allowing these tiny apartments to get built while at the same time allowing more community input on design.  

Micro-housing, sometimes known as aPodments, has become increasingly popular in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and the University District. They’re small, about dorm-room size, but they allow people to live in desirable neighborhoods for about $750 a month — quite a bit less than the average studio apartment.

Those sleeping rooms are usually clustered around a shared kitchen. Many developers exploited a loophole that allowed them to avoid the city’s design review process by basing the number of dwelling units on the number of kitchens. That allowed micro-housing projects to appear less densely-occupied than they actually were.

Council member Mike O’Brien, who chairs the planning and land use committee and sponsored the legislation, says with the new regulations, developers won’t be able to do that.

"They’ll be treated and counted as individual units," O'Brien said. "They’ll be subject to design review and neighbors will have an opportunity to weigh in on those projects going forward."

That dorm-style setup with shared kitchens and sometimes shared bathrooms will only be allowed in certain parts of the city zoned for higher density. Elsewhere, the units will each have to have their own kitchen and bath.

City council members voted unanimously to pass the new rules. Council member Kshama Sawant said micro-housing is not a solution to the city’s affordable housing shortage, but it meets a need that exists.  

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