Superior Court Decision on Micro-Housing

– Design Changes Required Under Current Rules

In a project-specific Superior Court decision issued August 13, 2014, a judge ruled that individual bedrooms having private bathrooms and food preparation areas within them were configured for use as separate dwelling units, and must be regulated accordingly. In light of the court’s reasoning, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has re-examined other similar projects currently under review. DPD has concluded that the individual rooms within any proposed development having an identical or substantially similar arrangement also must be regulated as separate dwelling units. Environmental (SEPA) and Design Review thresholds will be calculated based on the number of rooms so configured.

Development standards based on the number of dwelling units, such as requirements for bicycle parking and trash storage areas, and any applicable density requirements, must be met for projects proposing similarly configured rooms.

Projects currently under review may choose to modify their proposals to eliminate the features that facilitate the use of the rooms as separate dwelling units, such as private bathrooms or food preparation areas. New proposals subject to existing land use code rules will be required to count all rooms having these features as separate dwelling units.

For questions, please contact:

Carlee Casey
Zoning Review Manager
(206) 386-9732

Proposed Permanent Micro-Housing Regulations

On September 2 the City Council introduced new legislation (Council Bill 118201) to clarify permanent regulation of micro-housing, congregate residences, and similar forms of development. The City Council’s proposal reflects input from three stakeholder working group meetings held during the summer of 2014. After the new regulations are voted on by Council, all future developments will have to meet the new rules. We are looking forward to having new regulations in place to help clarify standards for developers, neighborhood groups, and the Department alike. Key elements of the proposed new regulations include:

  • Micro-housing will be regulated as individual Small Efficiency Dwelling Units.  A new code subsection will specify allowable configurations of interior spaces, so that groupings of sleeping rooms with a shared kitchen within a single dwelling unit (a previous model for micro-housing) will no longer be allowed.  Instead, developers may construct Small Efficiency Dwelling Units, which are complete dwelling units containing a full kitchen/kitchenette and will be required to have an average size of 220 square feet among the dwelling units in a building.
  • Private, non-special needs congregate residences will only be allowed in some places. Congregate residences that are not owned by or directly affiliated with a non-profit housing provider, college, or university, or that are not licensed to provide support services, will only be allowed in urban villages and urban centers in these zones:
    • Neighborhood Commercial 3 (NC3)
    • Midrise multi-family (MR)
    • Highrise multi-family (HR)
    • Seattle Mixed (SM)
    • Downtown zones
  • Special needs congregate residences will continue to be allowed in all zones that allow multi-family development. Congregate residences that are owned by or directly affiliated with a non-profit housing provider, college, or university, or that are licensed to provide support services, will continue to be allowed in all zones that allow multi-family development including:
    • Lowrise zones (LR1, LR2, LR3)
    • Neighborhood Commercial 1 and 2 zones (NC1 and NC2)


The City Council Planning Land Use and Sustainability Committee (PLUS) will next discuss the topic on September 5, 2014, with a possible PLUS Committee vote on September 16. The full City Council would then vote on the PLUS Committee’s recommendation. Potential meetings for full City Council action are September 22 or 29. There is typically a 30-day period between when City Council votes on legislation and when new regulations become effective.