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Seattle Needs More Housing Diversity and Less Single-Family Zoning

The city should look back to its past for lessons about creating more livable, affordable, and equitable neighborhoods, says a new report.
December 11, 2018, 8am PST | Camille Fink
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M.O. Stevens

The Seattle Planning Commission has released a new report that advocates for a move away from single-family zoning. The report recommends that the city instead embrace a more diverse array of housing types that brings back “missing middle housing.”

This housing—which include duplexes, multiplexes, and smaller apartment buildings—historically made up some of the most livable Seattle neighborhoods. But over time, zoning regulations changed and now only 12 percent of land is available for such small-scale developments, reports Natalie Bicknell.

So much low-density, single-family housing means that Seattle has not kept up with its housing needs, says Bicknell:

With roughly 75% of available land reserved for single-family lots, despite the city having added more than 180,000 residents, some single-family zoned areas of the city have actually declined in population since the 1970’s. At the same time, since 1900 the average size of a single-family home has increased by 1,000 square feet. 

The report proposes a range of strategies, including incentivizing and easing restrictions on smaller and denser housing developments, limiting the size of single-family homes, and developing urban villages that provide access to transit.

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Published on Tuesday, December 4, 2018 in The Urbanist
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