Micro-houses and controversy in growing Seattle

In the United States, our version of a micro-house is likely considered a castle in most developing nations. But some used to the single family home in this country view these new buildings with suspicion and even fear.

Because of growing pains in popular West Coast cities like Seattle, developers are now developing former single-family units into developments with three-story tall, slender homes. The advocates of this trend, developers who are meeting the markets demands and who are making good money, dub their efforts Smart Growth Seattle. They call these new four- or six-per lot developments micro-houses. Proponents of high-density urban growth, like Sightline Institute of Seattle, also support higher density developments.

Neighbors in single-family-zoned neighborhoods have other words for them. Some opponents also have voiced concerns on relationships between developers and city officials and rules for notifying neighbors of developments. Foes of these new homes have called them monstrosities because of how they have been erected uncomfortably close to homes that used to have more buffers, and now those neighbors are dealing with building shadows and obstructed views.

The emotions have run very high because of how the city’s bureaucracy managing new developments was handling the change that is still transforming Seattle into a city with many younger and wealthier tech workers who like these homes and who have no kids. Eventually, the fights spilled into the Seattle City Council, which in May 2014 took action on what kinds of developments can occur on lot sizes smaller than 2,500 square feet. The council voted to lower the height limits for these slender homes on single-family lots. The Times reported that under new rules, no development is allowed on lot sizes smaller than 2,500 square feet.

It is remarkable to witness this growth. I have lived next door to these developments. I have looked out my kitchen window and watched my neighbor sit in his chair watching TV, and I could practically whisper to him, he was that close. I cannot walk one block in Seattle’s bustling Ballard neighborhood and not see these developments springing up. These homes fetch at least $300,000, depending on the area, and likely more in desirable neighborhoods like mine (I am not wealthy, and rent). Here is the new Seattle, in its new form, and more will be coming–many more actually.




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