Seattle planners may recommend more restrictions for microhousing developers

by: David Ham Updated:

Seattle - City planners at Seattle Department of Planning and development said they are finalizing recommendations on microhousing development guidelines.

They will present their recommendations before a Seattle City Council committee this week.

Microhousing developer Jim Potter says if the city decides on more restrictions for microhousing developments, it could hurt the availability of affordable housing within the city.

"People want to have design review but it won't change who the customers are in the building. It will add a lot more costs in the buildings," said Potter, the owner of Foothill Investments. He's developed five microhousing complexes in Seattle and has six other projects in the works, with permits on other potential projects.

He said the costs could raise rents for residents like Scott Hatfield and his girlfriend who share a 200 square foot room for $875 a month.

"As far as affordability we were looking for a place under a thousand dollars a month as close to the city we could get," said Hatfield. His rent includes utilities and cable.

Community activists against the sudden sprawl of microhousing say developers are using loopholes to build the high density apartment buildings too fast.

"It's like throwing cattle into a cattle barn it's just too many units for right here," said Ron Barnes, who lives across one of Potter's new 40-unit developments in Wallingford.

Developers don't have to go through a design review process traditional apartment buildings go through because these projects have less than eight kitchens.

This also allows the developer to bypass public input and an environmental review.

"It's now over two years to get through design review and it's hundreds of thousands of dollars when it used to be tens of thousands of dollars to get a master use permit for the process," said Potter.

He added making microhousing developers go through the design review process would, "Raise the cost and my guess is fewer projects will get built."

After planners present their recommendations to council members, they will be given direction to explore other options or pursue that material to be worked into the guidelines the council votes on this fall.