Is Seattle about to say goodbye to single-family homes?

Friday, December 11, 2015 by

To pressure more people into moving into apartments and other types of multi-family housing, Seattle’s city council seriously considered doing away with the city’s single-family zoning.

Had Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Advisory Committee’s suggestion been approved, Seattle would have gotten rid of its single-family zoning, which, for more than a hundred years, has been the defining feature of the city’s strong neighborhood feel.[1] In addition, it would also have allowed the construction of multi-family housing, such as apartments and duplexes, in all of the city’s neighborhoods.

“We can still be a city for everyone, but only if we give up our outdated ideal of every family living in their own home on a 5,000 square foot lot,” a letter from the co-chairs of the HALA stated.

“Seattle (single-family) zoning has roots in racial and class exclusion and remains among the largest obstacles to realizing the city’s goals for equity and affordability,” the letter read. “In fact, (the committee) recommends we abandon the term ‘single family zone.’”[2]

HALA apparently did not involve the public in its planning process until the Seattle Times did a report on the matter and published the now incriminating letter.

Seattle is currently in the middle of a housing crisis, with many working people unable to afford to live in the area, given the city’s rising rental prices. Currently, it costs around $1,501 a month to rent a one-bedroom apartment in the city, according to The Stranger.[3]

As published in Government Slaves, the most controversial suggestions by HALA included:

  • Allow the construction of six-story wood buildings in some areas.
  • Make it easier for property owners to subdivide existing houses into apartments.
  • Allow more high-rise apartments in some neighborhoods.
  • Allow property owners to build cottages and other structures in the backyards of existing single family homes.
  • Abolish a regulation that requires all residences to have off-street parking.
  • Abolish an ownership requirement that keeps many owners from renting out their property.
  • Increase the maximum height of buildings in residential areas to allow for more apartment houses.
  • Make zoning more flexible so it will be able to redevelop properties into multi-family rentals.

After facing public backlash due to the HALA suggestion, Mayor Ed Murray backtracked on his initial support of the proposal.

“I will no longer pursue changes that allow more types of housing in 94 percent of single-family zones,” he said, bowing to pressure from homeowners who were upset at HALA’s recommendations.[4]

Sources:

[1] SeattleTimes.com

[2] GovernmentSlaves.info

[3] TheStranger.com

[4] SeattleMet.com



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