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Neighborhoods for All: Expanding Housing Opportunity in Seattle's Single-Family Zones
Seattle, Washington    
Publication Date
Seattle Planning Commission
This report analyzes single-family zoning in Seattle and its implications for access to housing. Observing that single-family zoning dominates Seattle, the report notes this pattern has driven up housing costs and unjustly excluded people from desirable neighborhoods near public amenities. To address these effects, the report offers six strategies to amend regulations that impede the development of affordable and equitable housing.

The report calls for expanding existing urban villages to encompass a half-mile radius around a transit station and establishing new urban villages by removing frequent transit service as a condition for designation as a village.

The report also proposes to reimagine single-family zoning districts as "neighborhood residential zoning." This new zoning district would bring back the city's traditional housing patterns by legalizing "missing middle" housing such as multiplexes, townhouses, and live/work units. Design standards should be adopted to encourage development of these housing types, and parking requirements should be reduced so that more housing and open space can be developed.

Allowing more people to live in existing housing and permitting accessory buildings on existing lots are additional ways to increase density while maintaining neighborhood character. This can be accomplished through identifying lots that are suitable for more intensive use (lots located at corners, along alleys or arterials, or at zoning boundaries), setting more flexible standards when existing housing is retained, and granting tax exemptions for low-income households.

To encourage more compact development, the report proposes reducing the minimum lot size to 2,500 square feet and requiring or incentivizing multiple units on larger lots. In addition, the report proposes regulatory relief to ensure household diversity. Specific recommendations include removing the occupancy limit for unrelated persons in single-family zones and establishing standards to encourage family-friendly housing.

Note: Guidance documents, except when based on statutory or regulatory authority or law, do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. Guidance documents are intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.