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City Commits $1 Million to Regional Affordable Housing Fund, Explores Backyard Cottage Expansion

City of Seattle

City Commits $1 Million to Regional Affordable Housing Fund, Explores Backyard Cottage Expansion

SEATTLE – City Council unanimously approved a resolution yesterday committing to allocate $1 million toward a regional fund to expand affordable housing near light rail and transit stations, and also requested the Department of Planning & Development (DPD)to explore the expansion of backyard cottages and mother-in-law units. These efforts are part of the Council’s and Mayor’s ongoing work to expand the availability of affordable housing at all income levels.

The regional fund will be used to purchase properties near light rail and high capacity transit stations while the land is still reasonably affordable. The land will be preserved for future higher-density, mixed-use affordable housing development. Money from the fund can also be used to preserve and rehabilitate selected existing affordable housing buildings that are near transit stops and at high risk of being converted to market rate housing. This fund-referred to as the Regional Equitable Development Initiative (REDI) Fund-is a regional collaboration of public, private and non-profit stakeholders being led by Puget Sound Regional Council as a part of its Growing Transit Communities initiative.

"By buying properties near light rail now, we can ensure greater affordability near transit in the future and help prevent displacement when those land values eventually increase when light rail comes online. Transit-oriented development also means easier commutes and less congestion as well as more vibrant, walkable neighborhoods," said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. "By exploring how to create more backyard cottages and mother-in-laws, we are looking for market-oriented solutions to provide more housing at all levels of affordability."

City Council also requested that DPD develop a report on regulations regarding accessory dwelling units (ADUs or "mother-in-law" units) and detached accessory dwelling units (DADUs or "backyard cottages"). The report would provide analysis of possible new policies or programs that could be implemented to make accessory dwelling units easier to build, including pre-approved, pre-fabricated designs to streamline permitting, incentives like waiving of permit fees for affordable units, reviewing parking and owner-occupancy requirements and more.

The report will inform the work of the Seattle Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee and is due to the group by March 15, 2015.

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