Ordinance will pave way for more affordable, accessible childcare
SEATTLE — Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6, Northwest Seattle) and Chair of the Land Use and Neighborhood Committee, alongside his Council colleagues, passed the Childcare Near You Ordinance, which changes Seattle’s land use code to allow more childcare facilities in across our city, lowering the cost of building childcare centers to make them more affordable, accessible, and closer to homes and transit across Seattle.
“Childcare touches on so many different issues: from the affordability of our city, to how equitable our neighborhoods are, to how we support working parents, and particularly working moms, who disproportionately bear the impact of our childcare shortage. This bill is not a single solution to the affordability and accessibility challenges we face, and is an important step in the comprehensive effort to address our childcare crisis. Overall, the land use code should not be an additional barrier to quality childcare and this bill fixes that by removing unnecessary red tape. This legislation will encourage more childcare in neighborhoods across our City and near you,” Strauss said.
The legislation would:
- Allow child care centers to be a permitted use in all zones. Right now each child care facility, in single-family zones, has to apply for a conditional use permit, which can be appealed and adds an average of five months to the permitting process
- Remove dispersion requirements for child care centers in multifamily areas, allowing child care facilities to be closer to one another.
- Exempt child care centers from floor area limits in multifamily zones and commercial zones, incentivizing developers to include them in more facilities.
- Remove limits on child care centers in home occupations.
- Remove maximum size limits for child care centers in some commercial zones.
- Add code flexibility for child care centers in Seattle Mixed zones.
- New childcare facilities will still require City permits, and will continue to be licensed by the state to meet health and safety regulations.
Strauss began working on this bill in January, as Seattle’s childcare shortage was a top priority when he took office. A story by the Seattle Times in late 2018 showed a gap in the childcare industry – the number of available childcare facilities and spots had not kept pace with the growing population. The growing shortage has led to long wait lists and high costs – as much as 20 percent of the median King County family’s income when seeking infant care.
The pandemic has shown childcare centers are essential, especially as schools transition to remote learning during the fall school year and childcare facilities become de-facto classrooms. At the same time, the pandemic has threatened the permanent closure of thousands of childcare facilities in Washington state, according to Child Care Aware of Washington.
The COVID pandemic and its impacts on schooling and childcare have made it more apparent the important role childcare plays to create healthy, vibrant communities and resilient economies.