On Tuesday night, the Seattle Planning Commission held an open house at GGLO to unveil its Affordable Family-Sized Housing Action Agenda. There was a brief presentation followed by a discussion/Q&A from the audience on a variety of topics.
A couple of notes:
- One participant (not me!) brought up the roommates problem: how to you ensure that a 3BR house goes to a family and not a couple of roommates looking to save on rent? There weren’t any clear answers here, except to say that increasing supply of 3BR units will lower costs overall, which should help roommates and families alike (and adding family amenities like playgrounds and day care on-site may make such units unappetizing to 20-somethings).
- An idea with some merit: exempting 2- and 3BR units from current FAR rules.
- A slightly wacky, but intriguing idea: mandating that apartments have removable walls between them, so they can grow and shrink with demographic change.
- While single-family zones account for 60% of Seattle’s surface area, that number is fixed. Meanwhile, the 70,000 or so units that are projected to be built will go primarily into low-rise or other multifamily zones. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that 2- and 3BR units get built in multifamily zones first and foremost.
- Single-family zones near transit are most appropriate for an upzone to lowrise (3-15-15, anyone?)
- I still can’t get an answer to a question I’ve had for almost a year: why do small multifamily units almost always end up as town homes, and not small condos? Is it a hangover from the lawsuit-happy 80s? Consumer preference? Any developers with answers, contact me at frank@stb.
One obvious topic that got a good deal of attention is the political challenge in implementing any of these ideas. SPC has said that the report is intended to “start a conversation” and that the political battle of when and where to change zoning law would have to happen next.