Op-Ed: Seattle’s ADU Rules Leave Long-Term Renters Out in the Cold

One resident argues that adding a unit for long-term rental is too expensive and difficult, especially when compared to the city’s ‘super easy’ process for permitting a short-term or vacation rental.

Read Time: 2 minutes

January 24, 2023, 11:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


View of downtown Seattle across a body of water with colorful houses in the foreground

Real Window Creative / Seattle, Washington

Despite the city’s housing affordability crisis and official pledges to support increased housing production, one Seattle resident found that the process of converting his basement to an apartment for long-term renters is “painful, expensive, and risky,” unlike the “super simple” process for adding a short-term rental unit, a practice that many housing advocates blame for reducing the supply for long-term renters.

Writing on his experience in the Seattle Times, Eric Fisk notes that “For a short-term rental on your property there are no city inspections or standards for renting out your space beyond a minimal cost for registering with the city.” (According to the city’s website, some STRs, such as those that are not the owner’s primary residence or are a dedicated unit, are required to comply with the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance). However, adding an Attached Accessory Dwelling Unit (AADU) for long-term rental is trickier. For example, “One critical rule is that you cannot put tenants in a finished garage space if you are in a single-family zone, even if removing that parking would create new on-street parking in front of your driveway.”

According to Fisk, this has led to a huge imbalance in short-term and long-term rentals in Seattle, with only around 1,000 AADUs built since the city passed its Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda in 2016.

Fisk suggests several ways to remedy the situation, including closing the regulatory gap, waiving parking requirements for certain single-family homes, eliminating permitting fees, and providing more resources to homeowners who want to convert parts of their homes to AADUs.

Friday, January 20, 2023 in The Seattle Times

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