More backyard cottages could come to Seattle's neighborhoods | KUOW News and Information

More backyard cottages could come to Seattle's neighborhoods

May 19, 2016

You won't find many backyard cottages or mother-in-law units in Seattle. City officials say about 220 have been built since city officials started allowing them in 2009.

City Councilmember Mike O'Brien wants to change that to meet the growing demand for housing.

Some homeowners have expressed concerns about backyard cottages. They worry developers could buy multiple homes in their neighborhood and rent out both the house and a backyard cottage on the site.

O'Brien is proposing changes to ease their concerns while also encouraging more of the units.

Currently, homeowners who want to rent out an accessory unit must live on the property for six months out of the year. O'Brien wants to change that and allow homeowners to move one year after they build the backyard cottage.

O'Brien: "We want to support those concerns that this should be done by people living in the neighborhood. But we don't want to bind those people indefinitely to be required to live on that site if their job is going to take them out of town and they would be forced to sell."

He also wants to allow for bigger backyard cottages and do away with a requirement that they come with a parking spot.

O’Brien said his ultimate hope is that “in the coming years we could see thousands of new units in our single family zones that could actually add value to the neighborhood."

O'Brien said there are roughly 75,000 lots eligible for backyard cottages. He said there could be 8,000 more with his changes.

He'll bring his proposal to a City Council committee in July.

Correction 5/20/2016: An earlier version of the story incorrectly described the current residency requirement for property owners who wish to build backyard cottages.