Big trend, little apartments: Councilmembers announce a ‘microhousing’ meeting

With the “microhousing” trend expanding to West Seattle, including a new Junction proposal for 31 units in 4 stories on a 3770-square-foot parcel, questions are coming up here that already have been raised in other parts of the city, and four councilmembers have announced a public meeting aimed at answers. Here’s the official announcement circulated today:

Seattle City Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen, Nick Licata, Sally J. Clark and Richard Conlin today announced a public meeting on micro-housing developments on April 18, in response to questions and concerns raised in several Seattle neighborhoods.

“Several Councilmembers and I are sponsoring a two hour meeting to review what is occurring due to the strong interest and concern we are hearing in the neighborhoods,” Councilmember Tom Rasmussen stated. “A portion of the meeting will include an opportunity for the public to provide comments and recommendations on what, if any, regulations should be enacted for this unique type of housing.”

In addition to a public comment opportunity, representatives from the Department of Planning and Development (DPD), the Office of Housing (OH) and City Council staff will discuss Seattle’s recent experience with micro-housing.

WHAT: Micro-housing development discussion

WHEN: Thursday, April 18, 11:30 am – 1:30 pm

WHERE: Council Chambers, second floor
Seattle City Council, 600 Fourth Ave

WHO: Seattle City Councilmembers and Council staff
Representatives from Seattle’s Dept. of Planning and Development
Representatives from Seattle’s Office of Housing

“I want to see more affordable housing built in Seattle along with our residential neighborhoods accommodating housing options that contribute to their character,” stated Councilmember Nick Licata, chair of the Council’s Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee. “I think both objectives can be accomplished and I look forward to this forum providing an opportunity to hear suggestions on how to fulfill both.”

“I’ve visited some of these micro-units,” said Council President Sally J. Clark. “They provide decent, often attractive housing for a range of people who don’t need or want a lot of space. They’re also appearing in greater numbers and more rapidly than some in the surrounding neighborhood want. This forum can provide a good airing of people’s support, concerns and ideas for appropriate regulation.”

“Microhousing can be an affordable option that works well with neighborhoods,” said Councilmember Richard Conlin, chair of the Council’s Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee. “However, it does not fit neatly into Seattle’s land use code, and we are looking for input on code improvements that will preserve the affordability while ensuring that these developments reflect both the letter and the spirit of our land use laws.”


In recent years, micro-housing has emerged as an increasingly common residential building product in Seattle. Since 2006, DPD has received permit applications for 44 projects. Those completed projects have a total capacity of about 2,000 people. In 2012, DPD received applications for approximately 15 micro-housing projects.

Micro-housing projects are generally comprised of apartment or townhome-style dwelling units, each of which contains several (often seven or eight) smaller living quarters clustered around a shared kitchen and laundry area. Each of the smaller living spaces within the dwelling unit is leased to an individual tenant. These spaces are typically 150 to 200 square feet in size and equipped with a kitchenette (refrigerator, microwave, sink) and private bathroom. Rent levels vary by location but are often in the range of $600 to $700 per month.

Developers have found Seattle offers a strong market for micro-housing, with completed projects leasing up quickly. Tenants often include students, service industry workers, and individuals who divide their time between Seattle and a residence in another location. Geographically, 52 percent of the projects are located on Capitol Hill and 30 percent in the University District, with the remainder spread throughout the city.

Because micro-housing is not well-defined in City codes it also may not be adequately regulated. Some of the issues and concerns the public has raised about Seattle’s growing stock of micro-housing include:

· Within micro-housing projects, DPD currently counts the several small living quarters that surround a common kitchen and laundry area as a single dwelling unit (e.g., one apartment with eight bedrooms and eight bathrooms). As a result, most micro-housing projects do not meet the threshold for design review. Normally the design review process also provides opportunities for neighbors to comment and offer input on proposed projects.

· DPD’s current practice of counting multiple living quarters within a micro-housing project as a single dwelling unit also complicates efforts to measure progress toward adopted growth targets in neighborhoods where micro-housing is located. It also can affect whether a proposed micro-housing project is subject to environmental review under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

· Micro-housing may not be an appropriate building type for all multifamily residential zones.

· Micro-housing projects are generally designed to house 30 to 60 individuals; however, on-site parking is rarely provided.

· The high cost of this housing on a price-per-square-foot basis.

Along with the mentioned-earlier “microapartments” in The Junction, other projects in the works in West Seattle include a “boarding house” under construction on Avalon Way just east of 35th, another one a few blocks further northeast on Avalon, and one across from the Delridge Playfield area.

10 Replies to "Big trend, little apartments: Councilmembers announce a 'microhousing' meeting"

  • CE March 23, 2013 (6:48 am)

    This sounds like Agenda 21 to me. If you don’t know what Agenda 21 is, please educate yourself as it’s a very important issue.

    I’ve pasted an article about micro-apartments as well as a link to some information about Agenda 21.

    Agenda 21 Micro-Apartments Built Across America in the Name of Sustainability

    Susanne Posel
    Occupy Corporatism
    September 28, 2012

    In San Francisco single individuals are rent their very own 1st generation Agenda 21 two hundred and twenty-two square foot apartment (if the closet and bathroom are factored into the allocated living space). The intention of these “shoe box homes” are to house marginalize the general public and train them to accept less living space in the name of affordability.

    In the South Market neighborhood in San Francisco, Patrick Kennedy, a UC Berkley-based developer, will reveal his contribution to the move toward cramped housing with mini-apartments of 300 square foot. Kennedy explains: “You could obviously build more of them if you don’t have to do them as large.”

    Residents who live alone can expect to be coerced into giving up extra room for breath-taking views of the Bay area, furniture that comes out of the walls and beds that convert to couches to maximize living space.

    In essence, these mini-apartments are only a bit bigger than the average US prison cell, although designed to resemble a hotel room.

    Back in July, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the construction of 275 to 300 square foot micro-apartments in Kips Bay in a beta-test to coerce New Yorkers into living in tight-knit, purposefully dense areas to alter the psychological landscape toward conversation globalist style.

    In Boston, one developer exclaims that renters only need 450 square feet to live in and anything else is a waste of space. In the Seaport District Mayor Thomas M. Menino says that young professionals will want to live in these mini-apartments because of their exceptional waterfront views. Menino’s $100 million endeavor called the Boston Wharf Tower is a “project will help turn this neighborhood into a vibrant, 24-hour mixed-use community.”

    In these units there is barely room for furniture, so designers made sure that there would be a pull-out couch and a comparatively small monthly rental to justify asking the Bostonian public to live in a personal Agenda 21 prison.

    Mark Edlen, developer of the Boston Wharf Tower, says that “we’re into building housing that enables people to live, work, and think differently. We think of the common space in our buildings and the streetscape outside as the living room for our residents.”

    Edlen is also involved in building 330 square foot apartments across the street from the Boston Wharf Tower. These mini-apartment complexes are touted as glorified bedrooms because the modern Bostonian is expected to dine, socialize and work outside their residence – so why have so much room to live in?
    The idea is to create more reason for pedestrians, less room for personal cars, and the shoe-box apartments are justified.

    Last June, at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, there were more than 692 promises of monetary support by world leaders for Agenda 21 policies and schemes which amounted to an estimated $513 billion.

    Local Governments for Sustainability USA, a.k.a. ICLEI, is a non-governmental organization (NGO) sponsored by the UN to implement Agenda 21 in America. By their own mission statement, ICLEI is designed to “build, serve, and drive a movement of local governments to advance deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and achieve tangible improvements in local sustainability.” They are responsible for the coercion and “consulting” that manifests the micro-apartments, sustainable living, and light-rail depots that will alter American living to reflect the controls of the global Elite as explained by the UN in a subversive march toward global governance.

    Jose-Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, explained: “Without the private sector it’s not going to work. While governments put up the seed money, the big numbers come from the private sector. The private sector is looking at green growth with great interest, seeing it as an opportunity, as jobs, as investment.”

    Some of this funding has translated into the Sustainable Communities initiative that is pushed by the US government. This Agenda 21 scheme supports micro-housing built near light-rail depots to combine “lower transportation costs, reduce air pollution and storm water runoff, decrease infrastructure costs, preserve historic properties and sensitive lands, save people time in traffic, be more economically.”

    Marketed as “important to our national goals of strengthening our economy and creating good jobs”; these “sustainable communities” place more importance on biodiversity as less emphasis on human needs. The focus of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities is to develop:

    • Provide more transportation choices.
    • Promote equitable, affordable housing.
    • Enhance economic competitiveness.
    • Support existing communities.
    • Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment.
    • Value communities and neighborhoods.

    Beta-testing of sustainable communities are happening in Colorado, Boston, Missouri, California, West Virginia, South Dakota, Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, Ohio and many more states across the domestic US. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding money to states that follow the Agenda 21 guidelines set forth in their manual entitled, Smart Growth Illustrated.

    In the Transition Town initiative, these already existing towns are modified to reflect the UN’s Agenda 21 mandates on CO2 emissions. These sustainable towns are popping up in Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and the US. Through manipulative training courses and propaganda films , Transition Towns are beginning to take root as a fake grassroots effort that poses a great danger to our individuality and personal sovereignty.

    Eco-fascists are concerned about the growing population and its relationship to our growing cities. By demanding that megacities become the mandate for population stabilization, there would be an increased effort to save biodiversity and reduce man-made global warming.

  • Heather March 23, 2013 (8:44 am)

    Great. Thanks for the information, I look forward to attending.

  • wetone March 23, 2013 (11:14 am)

    This is crazy 31 units on a lot under 4000sqft. What a cash cow. The only thing this is good for is the owner of the property. If this city is going to allow this type of building in west seattle I will be getting in line to tear my rental houses down and doing the same. Moving out of this town as quickly as possible to some place a little warmer and like west seattle use to be laid back nice and quiet. Don’t want to be stuck in an over populated area with no infrastructure to handle it.

  • Diane March 23, 2013 (3:32 pm)

    this is hot topic all over the city; many neighborhoods have been protesting; so seems the city council is finally responding with a meeting; but why during the day? it should be in the evening
    I commented on previous story, March 12, “West Seattle development: Junction ‘micro’ apartments planned”, linked above:
    “so according to the city’s link, these “micro-apartments” are also known as “aPodments” (I was going to ask how they are different), which has been reported last few days that city council member Tom Rasmussen wants to put moratorium on highly controversial city-wide apodments; anyone know any more about all that? these have been proposed in several other neighborhoods that are not in the downtown core and protested

  • Diane March 23, 2013 (3:33 pm)

    does anyone know technical difference between “boarding house”, and “micro-apartments” aka “aPodments”?

    • WSB March 23, 2013 (3:41 pm)

      Diane – I asked DPD the same question recently. Unfortunately, I had to call for the answer (I do a lot of work by e-mail so I can work at high volume) and have not had the conversation yet. Hope to, before this meeting!

  • westseattledood March 23, 2013 (5:22 pm)

    I have said this before, but I’ll repeat it for the heck of it. Nobody pays attention anyway…:D.

    I lived in a 350 sq. ft. 1 bdroom on QA with a view of Cascades and downtown for 13 years. This was many years ago. I was single, beginning a career and saving massive amounts of money by living small. It was excellent for what I needed during those years, but also WHAT I WANTED. I could have spent three times as much in the same neighborhood, but I choose to get somewhere and build a future where I might actually own a home instead of renting fancy bigger places forever and a day. I walked, bussed and/or monorailed from the top of the counterbalance on QA to the Columbia Center and enjoyed this city in a time and a place which is ineviable today.

    People have the right to choices so let us not assume that folks are making bad decisions by choosing to live in these places….they might just prefer it to YOUR choices.

    I did not want what has happenned to the Junction and surrounding streets and transportation to happen, but it has; this was perking years ago. Where were all of you sleepyheads with means when this train came through back then? Or were you expecting the ubiqutous “they” to fix it?

    This overdevelopment was written into the density/urban village concept years ago. The Queen Anne Neighborhood Council organized themselves very very early to prevent this. Go up to the top of QA Hill sometime. No monstrosities of development. They GOT ORGANIZED decades ago. Seriously organized with serious connected and hardworking people. And lots of time and money. That’s what it takes to fight it, perhaps.

    Did people not do their homework about growth and plans when they bought here? Surely people do that due diligence for themselves. I feel for those folks who are feeling the squeeze on their businesses and access to their residential streets. But I do not think 30 or however many additional people in this apodment complex is going to make that much of a difference at this point. BUT, I do think regulation for the apodment buildings is in order.

    And people make money where they can make money. Most of you know that. I am no great lover of developers, but these smaller units seem the lease intrusive into a neighborhood – in moderation. Diversity is a good thing. It is interesting. Haha. Some of you are never going to buy into that…I know, but will not really understand. Ever.

    Somewhere in the decade past in West Seattle, somebody should have paid more attention when the alarmists were pushing the warning buttons. Many somebodys’ should have paid attention. But they did not.

    And here it is. Life in Seattle in 2013. We will all survive, I am pretty sure ;).

  • TT March 23, 2013 (8:57 pm)

    We’ll survive by leaving WS. It has changed considerably in the past 10 years… for the worst. It’s just about time to say goodbye.

  • David March 26, 2013 (10:32 pm)

    I just came back from Hong Kong this week. I stayed in an 80 square foot room there. The entire town is covered with vertical buildings with NO parking. Hong Kongers live longer than anyone else and have the freeest economy. Let micro-housing thrive.

  • Madge March 31, 2013 (12:00 pm)

    young urban professionals, tired of group homes, are looking for their own space. In areas where public transpo is available, more and more are doing without personal motorized vehicles and depending on public transportation or various forms of shared cars and bikes, with a rental car for that trip out of the city.

    For the paranoid who see lack of provided parking as a way to force people out of cars, in an urban center, traffic and existing parking issues are already doing that. Providing spaces for the shared short-term car and bike rentals probably should be part of that kind of zoning requirements.

    Also, shared outdoor and indoor spaces, including gyms, party rooms, etc. as many buildings already provide.

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