When Small Apartments are Outlawed, We’ll Just Go Back to Having Roommates

47008.1020.ALast month, I made the argument that, in a transit-friendly city, there ought to be a variety of affordable housing options within walking distance of frequent, all-day transit.

I got some interesting responses, including one from Matt Yglesias, who made the point that you can’t force “family-friendly” housing since a 3-bedroom house would be equally attractive to three roommates whom, by virtue of their three salaries, could outbid a 2-earner family.  That’s sort of true, although I would argue that three early-career roommates won’t necessarily out-earn two mid-career parents.  But that’s a quibble.

Yglesias’ response was on my mind when I read this article in the New City Collegianlinked to by Andrew, about the trouble college students on Capitol Hill are having affording rent:

Amy, an international student from Korea, lives on Capitol Hill and rents a two bedroom apartment for $1,300 a month. The contract says only two people may reside there, but skirting the rules Amy now lives with three other roommates. “It doesn’t make sense. I can’t pay this much. As a result, I have three roommates, which means I live in violation of the contract.” The contract violation has left Amy perpetually anxious of eviction saying her manager checks every unit randomly and is “scared every day…I have to sleep with another girl in the same bed. I can’t have my private room.”

To help ease the spike in housing costs, some developers have been building smaller, more affordable apartments such as the aPodment-style units that Tom Rasmussen may want to put a stop to.  But wouldn’t an alternative solution be to build more 3- and 4-bedroom housing that, as Yglesias argues, could be rented out to a few college kids or recent college grads? And if a young family was also interested in such housing, perhaps they might take advantage of it as well?

Come to think of it, the whole reason these small apartments exist is that they’re technically classified as a single dwelling unit in the city code.  That is to say, the primary difference between 4 “aPodments” and a single 4BR apartment is the presence of locks on all the bedroom doors.

I lived with roommates for a while when I was younger, and it has its ups and downs. It’s less lonely and cheaper than living alone, but yeah, sometimes they leave dishes in the sink and don’t clean the bathroom.  So I get the appeal of an affordable apartment that lets you live inexpensively and still have some privacy. What I don’t understand is what Rasmussen’s moratorium is supposed to solve. Young people will still need cheap housing. They’ll just go back to doing what they’ve usually done and use Craig’s List to find roommates.

Put another way, the underlying demand is still there. Some college kids on the Hill are now fanning out to Beacon Hill and the Central District to find houses they can rent and live in with roommates.  But the number of 3- and 4-bedroom houses with good transit access in those neighborhoods is finite and increasingly expensive.  Hence: aPodments, which are just a snazzy new name for the kind of shared housing that 20-somethings in a city have always gravitated toward. Except they have locks on the bedroom doors, individual rental agreements, and meet modern fire codes.




Comments

  1. Brent says

    When rent is unaffordable, people don’t just resort to becoming housemates in houses designed for families (which is quite commonplace in Seattle), they will even become *roommates* just to have a roof over their head. I know of a few friends of mine who are in that situation. In some cases, they are doing it without the landlord’s permission.

    Those asking who would want to resort to sharing a kitchen space with strangers (something I’ve done most of my adult life) are just clueless about living patterns in this town.

  2. says

    Three early-career salaries could easily outbid one mid-career salary, which is what one is effectively left with after the cost of childcare, which is often more expensive than one’s rent.

    • Adam Bejan Parast says

      And vice versa. It really depends. One mid-career childless person who works at Microsoft could easily outbid three young, less educated people like students or minimum wage workers.

    • adam says

      This is true if owning a property is what is being discussed; how often do groups of unrelated young people go to open houses with intent to bid on one together? (Though how cool would that be??)

      • Frank Chiachiere says

        I actually had a few friends who came together to buy a shared house when they were in their 20s. It was a brilliant idea, and now the house is just blocks from a light rail station. A nice investment.

        I think it’s true for rentals as well, though. The cost of a rental unit is going to be approximately what it costs the owner to buy and mortgage it, plus a bit more. So the two prices tend to move in sync.

      • was carless says

        Normally they are already friends or acquaintances (friends of friends). Or they higher-earning “head of household” member subleases to less financially sound roommates, with or without consent of the landlord.

        Don’t forget, us young people are really good at networking. There’s a reason we all use facebook and have smart phones – we keep in touch with people (do you keep tab on 100-400 friends on a weekly basis?).

  3. fletc3her says

    There’s no reason why a family couldn’t eventually rent all the units in an apodment and live in it as a single apartment. Just a matter of shuffling the lease.

  4. Josh says

    Wait, did I miss the memo that everyone is required to live on cap hill? There are plenty of affordable apartments within a reasonable commute of downtown or uw.

    • Chris Stefan says

      There is obviously a demand for apodment type developments or they wouldn’t be built.

    • Frank Chiachiere says

      @Josh, I don’t think I ever said that. The article I linked does specifically refer to housing issues on Capitol Hill because it’s about Seattle Central students.

    • RossB says

      @Josh — If we continue with policies that reduce the number of affordable apartments in one part of town, eventually the entire town becomes unaffordable. It is just simple supply and demand. There is a lot of demand in this town (thanks to the tech sector, UW, Boeing, etc.) but limits are being put on the supply. Less apodments mean that apartment costs go up, house prices go up, etc.

      • keetz4 says

        There are few limits on the supply of apts…..as evidenced by the thousand of units under construction in the city at the present time. And apodments are far from cheap………$500-650 for only 130 sq ft is very expensive. Furthermore, apodments are a new concept……..no one knows their impact on a neighborhood and whether the concept will be financially viable long term.

      • Brent says

        Nobody knows the impact a train station will have on Capitol Hill, either. Should we just mothball the station until we can precisely predict the impacts and clear up the FUD?

      • Chris Stefan says

        Keetz4,
        Hardly new. Apodment type developments were being built in the U-District at least 20 years ago. Even if you think apodments are expensive obviously enough renters think they are worth it otherwise they wouldn’t be built. Long-term financial viability is really a problem for the developer and not something we should attempt to regulate with land-use codes.

    • Brent says

      Wait! Did I miss the memo that poor people, SCCC students, and starving artists should not be living on Capitol Hill?

      • Brent says

        Oh, and if these likely-to-be-carless folks aren’t welcome in Capitol Hill, won’t the welcomed families be more likely to have cars and use up more of the available on-street parking space?

      • says

        Capitol Hill is really multiple neighborhoods. There’s the area around Broadway and west of there to the freeway… and then there’s everything else. I wonder how much of the opposition comes from the latter.

    • Joseph Singer says

      What neighborhoods are you talking about and what do you define as a “reasonable commute?” Commute how by car, by bus by razor scooter?

    • Mike Orr says

      “There are plenty of affordable apartments within a reasonable commute of downtown or uw.”

      People live in apodments because they want to be in the most walkable, transit-rich neighborhoods, not in Beacon Hill or Delridge or wherever. There’s a second group of people who want short-term leases because they just moved to town or just got divorced or want to save money to get a larger place. Then there’s the people who can’t afford anything more expensive. The first group really wants to live on Capitol Hill or the U-District. The other two groups don’t care as much where it is, but that walkability/transit is a convenience that can tip their decision.

    • was carless says

      So… you only think that rich hipster-trustafarians should live up on Cap Hill?

  5. Greg says

    I don’t really have an opinion on apodments one way or the other, but I find it funny that you cite sinks full of dirty dishes as a drawback to living with roommates and and then cite apodments, with shared kitchens, as the better alternative.

    I actually lived in an efficiency studio in the u-district that had a shared kitchen many years ago, and I wonder what the difference is between it and the apodments besides the interior design/cosmetics.

    • Frank Chiachiere says

      Ha! Good point. For some reason nobody uses the shared kitchens in these units, from what I’ve read. No idea why.

      • Kyle S. says

        Because shared kitchens never get cleaned. So they never get used, so ironically they never get dirty.

        Same thing in college dorms. Nobody used the communal kitchen in my dorm because nobody wanted to be responsible for cleaning it. We ate prepared meals at the dining hall instead, even though the prices were massively higher.

        New Yorkers often don’t have room for stovetops in their apartments. Rather than resorting to communal kitchens, they have hot plates and cheap take-out. Seattle, on the other hand, is apparently incapable of sustaining any restaurant that doesn’t cost $20 a plate.

      • djw says

        Seattle, on the other hand, is apparently incapable of sustaining any restaurant that doesn’t cost $20 a plate

        ???

        There are lots of cheap, delicious restaurants I routinely frequent for takeout in Seattle–if we discount the “greasy spoon diner” genre, there are far more and better low cost restaurants in Seattle than in my other home (Dayton). There are complaints about Seattle I understand and agree with, but this one makes no sense in the city as I experience it.

      • Orv says

        I obsessed over Dinegerous for a while, but really…if the health department didn’t think the food was safe, the place wouldn’t be open. I’ve eaten at little hole-in-the-wall places all over the U District and haven’t been sick yet.

      • Groan says

        ” I’ve eaten at little hole-in-the-wall places all over the U District and haven’t been sick yet.”

        What is interesting are some of the fancy places that get popped.

      • says

        I would sometimes cook frozen pizzas in the oven in my dorm when I lived in one.

        Isn’t Dick’s a stone’s throw away from wherever these apodments would be? I can get a basic burger, fries, a medium drink, and a thing of ketchup for the fries for five bucks there.

      • Chris Stefan says

        Myself and 15 of my friends got very sick Friday night at a somewhat fancy restaurant that got 0 demerits on its last inspection. On the other hand one of my favorite ethnic places manages to barely stay this side of being shut down by the health department but I’ve never gotten sick.

      • Mike Orr says

        “There are lots of cheap, delicious restaurants I routinely frequent for takeout in Seattle”

        Food is more expensive in Seattle than in most of the country, both in restaurants and at the supermarket. The closest to ubiquidous cheap eats we have is pho restaurants, and even Thanh Brothers has crept up from $5.50 to $6.50. I wish we had the cheap kebab and curry hole-in-the-walls that England and Germany have, but instead all our Indian restaurants cater to the tablecloth $10 model. Or the $1 pizza slices that Vancover has — until 1am even. In Oklahoma City the price of restaurants is unbelievable: $5 for a complete meal. The problem seems to be that we have so many affluent people willing to fill up the more expensive restaurants, and there has been no “first person” willing to pioneer the inexpensive model so that others would follow.

      • Eric says

        Having moved from the Midwest a few years ago, I remember that food in supermarkets is a little more expensive here, but not by that much. This makes sense. We have just as much agriculture in Washington as in the middle of the country, it’s just that the stores themselves cost more to build and operate because of high real estate prices.

        There is a more noticeable difference in restaurant prices though. I would bet most of that difference, besides the higher real estate cost, is related to labor costs. Washington’s minimum wage of $9.19/hr applies to restaurant workers before tips. In Oklahoma, restaurants can pay their employees as little as $3.63/hr as long as tips average at least $3.62/hr (to meet the total $7.25/hr minimum wage). That makes a difference.

      • Nathanael says

        I’ve lived in a shared living situation at college where the shared kitchen DID get cleaned. It had a few characteristics:
        (1) It was a club house. We voluntarily chose to live in the same place as a group due to common interests.
        (2) The amount of social pressure you can put on someone who doesn’t clean up in that situation is pretty severe.

        I do wonder why boarding houses don’t exist any more. They provided food as well as housing. Permanent B&B, and avoids the “shared kitchen” problem because the landlord is doing all the cooking.

  6. Eric H says

    The point that’s being missed is that there’s significant demand for solo housing in close-in neighborhoods. This is presumably why developers are trying to build it.

    Yes, people can and do share rentals. This is what people do when the legacy housing stock was built to meet demand characteristics of a different era. It’s also what people do when it’s nigh-impossible to build new small apartments.

  7. Weston says

    YES! Roommates are key. Seattle historically had a nearly similar population to what it has today with a fraction of the housing stock (resources). Our people per dwelling unit ratio is our of the main problems we have with transit.
    How about we incentivize roommates as opposed to having so many darn guest rooms, home offices, and tv rooms? Tax code doesn’t have a lot of options for incentives at this scale, but what about utilities, transit passes, parking – lets get creative.

    • Bernie says

      On the news this morning was talk on Capitol Hill, the one in D.C., of reduction in the mortgage deduction from $1M to $500k loan amoun. That would put pressure on the McMansion market with oversized theater rooms. Also talk of eliminating the deduction for a second home. Neither proposal has a chance in hell as written but there is sentiment that something might get done to ratchet down the billions of dollars claimed each year. Someone from the real estate trade group (i.e. lobbyist) mentioned that this will hit the coasts the hardest as that’s where houses are most expensive.

  8. John Bailo says

    Alternatively we would have had planners in Olympia with foresight who could have spent the last two decades building fast regional transit so people could live in low cost, low density areas and be able to travel quickly to jobs, education and entertainment.

    • John Bailo says

      now fanning out to Beacon Hill and the Central District to find houses they can rent and live in with roommates. But the number of 3- and 4-bedroom houses with good transit access in those neighborhoods is finite and increasingly expensive

      I really don’t know what to say except we’ve been spending billions for systems that don’t address the critical transportation needs of people so they can make these, and even further, these neighborhoods work.

      • John Bailo says

        Normally I wouldn’t bother, but in the spirit of St. Jude (hopeless cases), here I go:

        When Sounder regional rapid rail runs in Kent, a lower density area than many parts of Seattle, it works well.

        When it is not running, even if supplemented by something that is neither rapid, nor rail, such as the 150 bus, I cannot judge the effectiveness.

  9. RossB says

    So, please correct me if I’m wrong, because I’m not sure if I understand the zoning code. In certain neighborhoods, I can build a single family house that is a certain size, a certain distance from the edge of the lot, etc. But if I build the exact same size building but configure the inside to serve numerous people, then it isn’t OK?

    • Bernie says

      That is correct and there are a number of very good reasons for it; sewers, fire safety, parking, etc. A group in Kirkland a few years back installed bathrooms with something like 20 toilets because what they were trying to pass off as single family was actually designed to be a church. You can build it with a mother-in-law apartment and you can build it boarding house style. Many couples that take in foster children modify the home to meet the needs of a large family. But requirements for things like garbage pick-up are vastly different if there are 20 people living in a building vs. 2.

    • RossB says

      OK, now that I know the facts, I can begin my rant.

      For the most part, this is about reducing the number of people in a neighborhood, or about requiring parking. That is it. It isn’t about preserving the style of a neighborhood. There is nothing preventing someone from building a really big ugly building next to me, as long as it is designed to be single family. As the article mentions, it doesn’t prevent someone from renting out the place to dozens of roommates. This happened in my neighborhood (a single family one).

      Frankly, I can’t help but conclude that this part of the zoning law is terribly unfair. It forces people to be roommates. It doesn’t improve the quality of neighborhood.

      I know from my own (single family) neighborhood that this is the case. I’ve seen nice old little cottages that have been bulldozed to be replaced by huge (single family) houses. Meanwhile, I had a neighbor who rented out their house to huge number of kids. They were nice and all — but if your point was to reduce the number of cars in the neighborhood, you failed. Meanwhile, the apartments aren’t getting any cheaper.

      I have some sympathy from folks in the Capitol Hill area who want to preserve the look and feel of their wonderful neighborhood. But they are fools at best. There is nothing stopping anyone from building the same ugly building as an apodment, but putting only one family in it. Given that, unless the opponents are just plain ignorant, the opposition disgusts me. It is selfish and uncaring. Preserve parking and limit the number of people in your area not because you like the looks of your neighborhood, but because you don’t want people (and their cars) moving in. Shame, shame, shame.

      Alright, maybe that isn’t fair to the neighbors who haven’t really thought it through. But as for Honorable Representative Rasmussen, he has either not thought through the obvious ramifications of the law, is catering to folks who are likewise ignorant, or is unsympathetic to folks who simply want a place to call home. Whatever the case, he has ceased to be honorable in my book.

      • Kevin R says

        The law in Seattle prevents more than 8 unrelated adults from living together in a single housing unit. If someone has dozens you should report them to the City.

      • RossB says

        OK, change it to a dozen. I think you miss the point. It is a really easy law to break. Do you think I (or anyone) will police the neighbor and check to see if they are breaking the law? Of course not. On the other hand, it is extremely hard to break the law when building. Therefore, the law is not only unfair (as the rest of my comment says) but foolish. As the article in the Stranger mentions, restricting development leads to more people sharing a house, even if it is illegal. By the way, this illegal sharing of housing can easily lead to abuse (of the renters).

        Oh, and the folks you are concerned about left. But there is no way I would tell anyone about them even if I felt they were exceeding the limit as specified by law. Besides, I have no idea who is related to whom.

      • Nathanael says

        “The law in Seattle prevents more than 8 unrelated adults from living together in a single housing unit.”

        There are a lot of cities with laws like that…

        (1) These laws are unenforceable.
        (2) People don’t WANT these laws to be enforced.
        (3) These laws, by being bigoted in favor of the “related”, are quite likely unconstitutional. They date from the 19th century and have never been properly challenged in the modern era.

        This is not a sane way to regulate anything. For another thing, they’re easy enough to get around: a cult member could easily move 30 people into a house and explain that it was all his family. It’s not even that hard to make that true legally.

      • Nathanael says

        It’s not even legal in most of the country to ask whether people are related when renting. So how do you enforce a 19th century law against unrelated people cohabiting? Answer: you don’t.

      • Eric says

        The town where I went to college has a law against more than three unrelated people cohabiting in a single-family zone (it was fine in apartment zones). This law was actually enforced rather frequently. Landlords would rarely start the process to kick people out. As you mention, it’s illegal for them to ask prospective renters whether they’re related (though few college students would know that or have the practical ability to challenge it). Furthermore, the landlord can charge higher rent if they’re able to rent their five-bedroom home to five people rather than three.

        No, the enforcement was usually triggered by the neighboring homeowners who wanted to have utter silence in their neighborhood even though it was within a short walk of a major university. If a house had too many people and too many parties, someone would complain to the city, someone in the city would look into how many people lived there (there’s no law against them asking about relatedness), and the supernumerary residents would have to leave.

        For that reason, in cases where landlords had reason to suspect that the four or five people renting a house were not related, they would ask for no written record of that illegal arrangement. Only three people would actually sign the lease. The others would be “guests” of the official residents. Some even went so far as to have mail delivered to a PO box, since they thought the city might use mail addressed to the house as evidence to evict an extra person. Having to live on the sly was really not a good situation to be in, but it was a popular option for college students looking for the cheapest living options available.

        With the limit so much higher in Seattle, I can imagine that law is rarely (if ever) enforced. I would bet, however, that the apodment owners have strict rules against renting an apodment to more than one person. Since they’re using the letter of the law to their advantage in building their units, they should expect neighborhood opposition to do the same.

  10. Brendon says

    Other big advantage to micro housing vs. roommates in a house: private bathrooms. Also, each unit has an efficiency kitchen (small sink and a bit of counterspace). Finally, there’s a cleaning crew that takes care of kitchen cleanliness, and I would guess there’s official house rules about not leaving your dishes in the sink. There’s a big advantage to having a neutral third-party enforcer.

  11. Sam says

    In Single White Female, what was the living arrangement? Didn’t Bridget Fonda live in a two bedroom apartment, and rented out the other bedroom to Jennifer Jason Leigh? Also, what about Pacific Heights? Wasn’t that a large home, where the owners decided to rent out a room in their house to Michel Keaton?

  12. Kerrie says

    Having had my share of roommates in my younger years, I would infinitely prefer my own teeny space to lavish accomodations shared. I have been ripped off, left without notice with most of my prized possessions leaving too, roommates who don’t have their share of the rent, utilities, groceries, etc. I was fortunate to find ONE in 10 years of roommates that didn’t shaft me in one way or another. Give me a 150 sq feet (i.e. 10×15) knowing no one else is wearing my clothes, using my toiletries, eating my food or hitting on my boyfriends than all the space in the world.

    • Orv says

      When I was a new college graduate, I actually woud have jumped at the chance for a cheap but nice apodment-type apartment. I didn’t have much stuff yet, and my ability to cook for myself was tenuous at best anyway. I mostly needed a cheap place to sleep and keep my stuff.

      The housing shortage for students at UW is very real. I know of a couple cases where students attempted to set up housekeeping in out-of-the-way parts of campus buildings they had access to, for lack of any other options.

  13. East Coast Cynic says

    How about constructing apodments w/ stoves, like the ones in NYC? Potentially just as popular even if they are a little more expensive. Some people who like their solitude and don’t like the static of strangers/bro-mates, etc but like to cook. It’s good to have the convenience of roasting a duck, a pork, or a chicken without stranger bogarting the oven for their own purposes.

    • Matt the Engineer says

      I believe one of the main identifying features of a “unit” versus a “pod” is whether it has a kitchen. So you can build 8 pods per unit if you only have one full kitchen. But if you put a kitchen in each, that’s 8 seperate units and you’re on your way to expensive and slow design review, etc.

      This is a feature of our codes. The good news is, a hot plate is nearly as good as a range, and costs around $15.

      • Nathanael says

        It makes it clearer and clearer that the zoning code is an obsolete joke and should be scrapped and rewritten from scratch. This is apparently true in most cities.

    • Chris Stefan says

      Some people don’t cook. You can be too busy, not like the task, not know how, not want to cook for one (which is actually somewhat hard without waste) or whatever. Most single people I know do just fine with a fridge and a microwave.

  14. Kate Martin says

    I lived in a variety of shared houses on Capitol Hill over the course of 7 years back in the early 80s. I moved from my $300 1 bedroom on the corner of Olive and Melrose which I landed in when I moved here and which I could barely afford (it was 1979 and I was making 5.25 an hour at an entry level job in architecture). I found it in The Weekly. About half of the roommates from those years are still my friends 30 years later. Where I had been alone, new in Seattle and a bit lonely in my apartment, I found myself in a great house with great folks – musicians to play with, dinners to cook, parties with friends. I was so lucky.

    I’ll plan to go tour an apodment. Generally, I support affordability and diversity in the housing stock, so they seem like more of those things to me. I’m not sure why the kitchens don’t get used if they come with someone who does regular cleaning of the common areas.

    I rebuilt my single family house a while a go and made a “flex house” that can be configured for a multigenerational family or room mates. I took up most of the allowable building envelope in doing it. My husband and I and our two adult sons live here and we also have 2 housemates. My son’s girlfriend is often here, too. We’re usually 7 or 8 folks, 4 of us related, on a 5000 sf “single family” lot. We hope to build a backyard cottage in a few years and a few more people can live there. It’s been a great experience and it creates a level of density that makes the “single family” house sustainable as far as units per acre. We enjoy the interaction of the different people and sharing a glass or wine or dinner.

    It’s hard to get developers to build apartments with multiple bedrooms at this point. It would be good to break the ice on that and get more of them so families or room mates could live in them. I really do think the social piece of having room mates is underrated. Even your spouse and kids can (and do) leave the kitchen messy, so ultimately many folks will have to face that anyway. :-) It’s not just unrelated room mates, it’s probably most of us sometimes.

    • Frank Chiachiere says

      I agree with all of this. I think developers (and the DPD) could radically rethink what a 3-bedroom “urban” living unit could be. There’s so much potential there, but all we have now is the six-pack townhouse or nothing. There’s got to be some innovation in this space, even if it requires modifying the codes.

  15. Groan says

    Another thought is that apodments may actually an option for single elderly folks who don’t need full “assisted” living but having a shared kitchen that is cleaned…

  16. Benny Bicycle Dude says

    It just dawned on me. Why I (sometimes) get so upset at STB. I will tell you in a future segment. lol.

  17. Thad Curtz says

    “aPodments, which are just a snazzy new name for the kind of shared housing that 20-somethings in a city have always gravitated toward. Except they have locks on the bedroom doors, individual rental agreements, and meet modern fire codes.”

    Except for the fact that the typical apodment building looks dramatically different sitting in the middle of a neighborhood than a typical single family home does…

    • Brent says

      Maybe we need to tear down all those four-story monstrosities, bulldoze the colleges, tell GroupHealth to go somewhere else, and then all move into longhouses. Oh, to go back to the golden days of longhouses…

    • RossB says

      How so? According to the law, I can build a single family home that looks identical to an Apodment. I can build an Apodment that looks identical to a regular apartment building. That apartment building can have seven kitchens (with posh three bedroom units for each unit) or 21 kitchens (with a studio for each kitchen). They can all be the same from the outside, but if you add more than seven kitchens, you need a review. If you have more than one unit, you need additional parking. Yet, from the outside, they can look identical. Identical: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khXgPOLefGc

      It’s all a trade-off. Basically, we are asking renters to pay more to rent so that we have more parking spaces and fewer kitchens (which will likely mean fewer people). If the law changes (and we ban Apodments) then we will ask renters to pay more so that we have fewer units. In other words, we will ask renters to pay more so that we reduce the number of people who can live in one shared building. By renters I mean everyone in the area who rents. By area I mean everyone effected by rental prices in the area, which basically means everyone, but the effect trickles outward. The closer you live, the more it increases your rent. I doubt folks in Brazil will care, but some folks in Portland might and everyone in Ballard should.

      It has nothing to do with looks. I can build a god awful, ugly, nasty looking building as long as only a few people live there.

    • Matt the Engineer says

      “than a typical single family home does” Here’s an important point: aPodments are only legal in multifamily zones.

      • Eric says

        The existing apodments sort of hack the zoning code by grouping eight bedrooms, one kitchen, and one parking space together as a single “unit” for legal purposes. You can connect 3-4 of these units together on a low-rise lot to make a pretty well-packed apodment complex.

        I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t apply the same basic concept to a single-family zone. You would build what technically is an eight-bedroom house. Suppose you had a 5,000 square foot single-family lot. Based on the requirements for single-family zones, the “house” can have 35% lot coverage, which works out to a 1,750 square foot footprint. It can be 30 ft tall, plus 5 ft extra if the roof slopes upward. That’s easily tall enough for three full stories, or 5,250 square feet of floor space to split up between the eight apodments and shared kitchen/hallway/utility space. These units could probably then be built to almost double the per-unit size of current apodments, which seem to max out at around 200 square feet.

        Maybe there’s another market niche to be tapped here, or maybe such a building couldn’t be operated at a profit. Either way, I don’t see why it would be any less legal to put a “house” with eight individually locking bedrooms in a single-family zone than it is to put “townhomes” with eight individually locking bedrooms in a multi-family zone.

    • Nathanael says

      Thad: there’s no legal rules requiring the apodment building to look any different from a single-family home (or vice versa), as RossB points out.

      What you want is an AESTHETIC code for buildings. Or perhaps neighborhood aesthetics review. The current ZONING code does not do your goal any good at all.

      • Thad Curtz says

        I’d like that, and I think that might make a big contribution to reducing neighborhood opposition to a lot of proposals for increasing density. But we don’t have those things, and the fact that apodments might legally be built to look quite different doesn’t change the fact that they aren’t generally built that way…

  18. Brian says

    They are all welcome to Beacon Hill and Columbia City and so on. Although transit from those areas to Cap hill is not at all long or difficult.

    • Brent says

      Yeah, and buses are faster than trains. I doubt few who ride the bus between Capitol Hill and Rainier Valley will concur.

    • Mike Orr says

      Apodments would probably work in Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley, and will probably appear within a decade. Even if some people would only live on Capitol Hill, there are other people who would like the convenience of living near any Link station, and are satisfied with or even prefer a smaller neighborhood or more ethnicaly-mixed neighborhood.

  19. Commuter says

    I am, shall we say, a “late career professional” with a single family house. The SO is even older, and itching to retire. We have talked about downsizing and buying a country place, but we’d have to sell this house, and I’d have a hateful commute. However, I could go to a compressed work week, and live in an apodment during the week. Sure, I’d be that creepy old guy down the hall, but I really think I could do it four nights a week, and we’d have a little city place, if I chose to hold onto it after retirement,

  20. was carless says

    Back in college, we called apodments “dormitories.” A scant 10 years ago, you were able to rent a dormitory unit as a non-student adult, but they have largely gone away and were sold off as condos during the condo boom of the ‘aughts.’

    However, living in Portland, the roommate phenomenon is still very much alive. In fact, I know dozens and dozens of young families – married couples in their 20s or early 30s who have kids AS WELL AS ROOMMATES.

    It is very common, actually. Saves a ton of money, and is completely different than the nuclear-family living situations of the 80s/90s (I’m 32, native to the NW).

    • was carless says

      I should clarify that many of these young families are either in college, or recent graduates. Many/most of these people I know do work professionally, however.

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