Backyard cottages in Seattle: Not dead yet | KUOW News and Information

Backyard cottages in Seattle: Not dead yet

Mar 29, 2017

Backyard cottages and mother-in-law units are back on the city of Seattle's priority list — and they will be for at least the next year. City officials want to make it easier for people to build them in order to add to the housing stock.

Seattle Councilmember Mike O'Brien was ready last year to issue new rules for accessory housing units, but the Queen Anne Community Council sued. As a result, the city can't change the rules without an environmental review of the whole city over the potential impacts.

O'Brien said instead of appealing that decision, the city is going to pay for that environmental impact statement. He expects the process to take a year.

Martin Kaplan of the Queen Anne Council’s land use and planning committee said he's happy with the decision. He said he was concerned about whether the water and electricity systems in single family neighborhoods could sustain more people moving in.

Kaplan: "They didn't do one study that said you could triple that density and it wouldn't have any impact on the utilities. I mean there are many neighborhoods that are still suffering with very old infrastructure, so we just feel that it should have been studied."

The City Council expects about 7,000 more homeowners would be able to build backyard cottages or mother-in-law units if the regulations were loosened.

But even without the citywide study, homeowners with lots larger than 4,000 square feet are already allowed to build these units. That's about 75,000 single family homes.