|2000 Count By Units in Structure||2000 Percentage By Unit in Structure||2010 Count By Units in Structure||2010 Percentage By Unit in Structure||2000-2010 Count Change||Change in Percentage of Housing Units|
|3 or 4||12,178||5%||12,383||4%||205||-0.4%|
|5 to 9||18,935||7%||19,615||6%||680||-0.5%|
|10 to 19||23,852||9%||25,485||8%||1,633||-0.4%|
|20 to 49||33,991||13%||36,030||12%||2,039||-0.7%|
|50 or more||31,708||12%||49,072||16%||17,364||4.5%|
A while ago in response a piece that Roger wrote, commenter BGCity wrote this:
“People like the quiet neighborhoods that they live in and the fact is that most of our city consists of, and most people live in these single family zones that resemble the suburbs in oh so many ways. The Urban faction, of which I count myself one, is in the minority…. Can anyone accurately claim that Seattleites want their quiet neighborhoods to be as urban as Belltown?”
Not to pick on BGCity, but I find this a common and inaccurate refrain when talking about density in Seattle. Let me unpack why I disagree.
First, if you actually look at US Census housing statistics for 2000 and 2010 above, a majority of housing units in Seattle are in fact multifamily, not single family*. Housing units don’t directly correlate to residents, as single family houses have higher average household size, but the fact is that Seattle is not dominated by single family housing as many people think. I personally found this data surprising. Just because a majority of the city is zoned for single family housing doesn’t mean that it makes up a majority of housing, which makes sense when you think about what density actually means, more housing in less area.
Second, the housing trends over the last ten years have seen growth in the medium/large multifamily housing (50+ units) and townhouses (1, attached), which make up 4.5% and 1.4% more of the housing stock in 2010 than they did in 2000. This growth in their market share came overwhelmingly at the expense of single family housing (1, detached) representing 3.4% less of the housing stock in 2010 as it did in 2000. More importantly, this trend will never reverse, because Seattle essentially has no new buildable land for single family housing. As the city continues to grow, single family housing will continue to represent a smaller and smaller percentage of the city’s housing stock.
Third, denser housing doesn’t necessarily mean more noise. In most cases increased noise is the direct result of increased commercial activity or more specifically “nightlife” related noise, not residential density. Commercial activity outside of downtown primarily occurs in Neighborhood Commercial (NC) zones and are an explicit goal of creating a vibrant, active, 24-7 city. However, just because some density is noisier doesn’t mean that all density is noisier. Seattle has many examples of dense neighborhood which are peaceful and quiet, mostly located in historically dense neighborhoods such as north Capitol Hill (north of John), First Hill (between Boren, Pike, Broadway and Madison), Lower Queen Anne and areas north of Central Ballard. These areas are zoned for Low-Rise (LR), Mid-Rise (MR) or High-Rise(HR) housing and either don’t allow or limit commercial activity. So no, more density doesn’t equal more noise.
* This data has margins of error since it is based on the American Community Survey and not permit data, so don’t dwell on the specific percentages, just overall trends. For example I don’t think ~5,000 new detached homes were built in the city over the last 10 years. The other data looks generally of the same magnitude with DPD permit data, which shows an addition of rough 36,000 units between 2000 and 2010 in Urban Centers and Villages, most of which would be multifamily.