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Council Creates Regulations for “Small Efficiency Apartments,” Allows for Innovative Affordable Housing Choice

City of Seattle
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 10/6/2014

Council Creates Regulations for "Small Efficiency Apartments," Allows for Innovative Affordable Housing Choice

SEATTLE – City Council adopted regulations today that set consistent requirements on a new type of housing class called "small efficiency dwelling units (SEDU)," formerly known as "micro-housing," or a more trademarked name "aPodments." The legislation prescribes requirements for SEDUs, including design review, minimum unit size, zones in which future buildings can be located, and sanitation requirements as recommended by Seattle/King County Public Health.

"This bill is a compromise that allows these units to be built while addressing some of the concerns Council has heard over their impacts on neighborhoods," said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, chair of the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee. "We struck a balance between preserving an affordable housing choice, making the units more livable for renters and maintaining neighborhood character through design review."

The legislation comes after months of outreach and a stakeholder process where issues from the perspective of builders, renters and neighbors were heard. Work of the group informed recent legislation to establish permanent regulations for this type of in-demand housing.

The legislation replaces the existing model of micro-housing with SEDUs.  Each SEDU would be treated as an individual unit for purposes of counting towards permitting, growth targets, and fire and life safety requirements. The minimum unit size in a building must be 220 square feet.  Congregate housing, where very small units or sleeping rooms share common kitchen and living spaces, can be built, but only in higher density zones in Urban Villages and Urban Centers.

The legislation also prescribes variable levels of design review for SEDUs and congregate housing, based on the square footage of the residences. Design review provides the public the opportunity to share their perspective on how the buildings are designed and fit into the neighborhood. The larger the building, the more thorough the design review process.

The legislation also prescribes parking requirements for SEDUs and congregate housing. In Station Area Overlay Districts, Urban Centers, and commercial and multifamily zones within Urban Villages near frequent transit service, no minimum parking requirements would apply. In all other areas, one space will be required for every two small efficiency dwelling units in a building or for every four units in congregate housing buildings.

The legislation only applies to permits submitted after the legislation takes effect. Current micro-housing buildings are not affected by the newly adopted requirements.

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