A Battle Brews Over Housing Density In Seattle

The newly elected Seattle City Council will take up the debate over single-family zoning in the city.

2 minute read

November 23, 2021, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Single-Family Neighborhood

icaroferracin / Shutterstock

After a 2015 plan was put on hold due to public backlash, Seattle may once again consider allowing multi-family developments in neighborhoods traditionally zoned for single-family housing, reports David Kroman.

Amid a severe housing shortage and ever-climbing home prices, City Hall will soon crack open its Comprehensive Plan — a state-mandated 20-year roadmap for the city’s development. An update to the plan is due in 2024, but the groundwork for change is already being laid out by some elected officials and housing advocates.

But Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell disagrees with the plan to reduce single-family zoning, claiming that the recently approved Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) legislation that allows up to three units per single-family lot is already a major change for low-density neighborhoods.

As Kroman writes, a 2018 analysis of the city's 'urban villages' approach to increasing housing density found that the strategy's restriction on multi-unit housing actually perpetuated "a historical pattern of exclusionary zoning that should be examined and revised to be more racially equitable in the next plan update."

According to the article, Washington lags behind its West Coast neighbors on loosening restrictions on single-family zoning. While an update to the city's comprehensive plan will take time, Seattle's city council made a move to acknowledge the diverse types of housing already present in some residential communities by changing the name of single-family zoning to 'neighborhood residential' zoning.

Thursday, November 11, 2021 in Crosscut

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Rendering of wildlife crossing over 101 freeway in Los Angeles County.

World's Largest Wildlife Overpass In the Works in Los Angeles County

Caltrans will soon close half of the 101 Freeway in order to continue construction of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing near Agoura Hills in Los Angeles County.

April 15, 2024 - LAist

Workers putting down asphalt on road.

U.S. Supreme Court: California's Impact Fees May Violate Takings Clause

A California property owner took El Dorado County to state court after paying a traffic impact fee he felt was exorbitant. He lost in trial court, appellate court, and the California Supreme Court denied review. Then the U.S. Supreme Court acted.

April 18, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Aeriel view of white sheep grazing on green grass between rows of solar panels.

Coming Soon to Ohio: The Largest Agrivoltaic Farm in the US

The ambitious 6,000-acre project will combine an 800-watt solar farm with crop and livestock production.

6 minutes ago - Columbus Dispatch

Pedestrians crossing a busy crosswalk on New York City street with tall buildings in background

New York’s Deadliest Neighborhoods for Pedestrians

Pedestrian deaths rose last year, but remain below pre-2020 levels.

1 hour ago - PIX 11

View of downtown Seattle with Space Needle and mountains in background

Eviction Looms for Low-Income Tenants as Rent Debt Rises

Nonprofit housing operators across the country face almost $10 billion in rent debt.

April 23 - The Seattle Times

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.