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Seattle bids to trash single-family zoning laws

By Mike WheatleyJuly 07, 2015
  • In Seattle, the mayor's housing task force is reportedly in talks to make a sweeping change: Remove the city's single-family zoning, which for 100-plus years has been defining the city's neighborhood feel.

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    Image: Skeeze via pixabay.com

    "We can still be a city for everyone, but only if we give up our outdated ideal of every family living in their own home on a 5,000 square foot lot,'' according to a draft letter from the co-chairs of Mayor Ed Murray's advisory committee. "Seattle [single-family] zoning has roots in racial and class exclusion and remains among the largest obstacles to realizing the city's goals for equity and affordability."

    The committee voted 19-3 to recommend replacing single-family zoning with a "lower density residential zone" that would permit duplexes, triplexes, rooming houses, and more backyard cottages and mother-in-law units in areas that are currently dominated by single houses on lots with yards, The Seattle Times reports. The committee wants to recommend abandoning the term "single family zoning" entirely, although the committee did clarify that it does not plan to recommend eliminating all single-family zones in the city.

    In the letter, the committee urges "more six-story buildings where there were four stories before, more seven-story buildings where there were six-stories before, and more multifamily housing of all types in areas currently zoned for less density inside [neighborhoods designated as] Urban Villages."

    The changes are necessary because "we are currently confronted by the reality of more dollars chasing a limited supply of housing than ever before in our history," the letter also states.

    The advisory committee says that its working paper likely will still undergo several changes before it's final report is issued July 13.

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