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Zoned Out: Seattle Prioritizes Single-Family Residential

In Seattle, most (88 percent) of the city's new housing is being developed in a few small, already dense areas around the city. Most of the city is reserved for single-family housing.
May 7, 2018, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Lucy Autrey Wilson

Mike Rosenberg takes a deep dive into zoning in the city of Seattle to examine how it has contributed to the city's skyrocketing residential real estate market. The questioned examined in the article is, "how much of Seattle’s housing is traditional, suburban-style single-family homes, and how that has affected our growth and housing prices."

Rosenberg's analysis finds that with 69 percent o fits residential lots devoted to single-family housing, Seattle's use of residential land is akin to much smaller cities, "[b]ut compared to other peer cities with expensive housing, Seattle generally devotes a lot more of its housing to single-family homes…"

After explaining the residential make-up of the city in other terms, Rosenberg digs into the concept of zoning, which is described as the "whole game" when it comes to housing. According to Rosenberg, because most of the city is limited to single-family zoning, and new buildings have only been added in already dense area, most of the city is not growing in the sense of the size and total of its buildings. That reality has implications for both the homeownership and rental markets, which Rosenberg examines in more detail in the article.

For more on potential changes to the land use scheme currently controlling the market in Seatte, see analysis from March of a proposal to expand the more dense "urban villages" where most of Seattle's growth is located as part of the city's Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. 

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Published on Thursday, May 3, 2018 in The Seattle Times
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