Remember a few months ago, when I suggested that single-family housing in Seattle would be on its way out soon?
If Seattle’s population keeps growing, there is a hard housing reality that we’re going to have to face: the death of the single-family home.
As of 2013, roughly 43 percent of Seattle’s housing stock is made up of detached single-family homes. That’s already a minority, but if Seattle is going to be able to continue growing, that number is going to have to go a lot lower.
With 7,776 people per square mile, Seattle is currently the tenth most dense city in the country despite being only the twenty-second most populous. However, if Seattle is going to keep adding more people into the limited space we have available, we’re going to have to kiss an awful lot of our single-family housing goodbye.
Apparently Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s “Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee” has similar ideas, according to a report published last week by the Seattle Times:
Leaders of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s panel on housing affordability rushed Tuesday to temper the group’s position after a draft report surfaced that included a recommendation for doing away with single-family zoning.
But some city officials say the idea of opening up Seattle’s traditional neighborhoods to more development is worth discussing.
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, one of the council’s staunchest neighborhood allies, says the panel’s draft recommendation wasn’t far-fetched, and Councilmember Mike O’Brien says such changes wouldn’t need to be very dramatic.
“We’ve heard that some members of the committee have been advocating for that for a long time,” Rasmussen said. “I’m not at all surprised it was included.”
In the recent draft of its recommendations, the committee argued for converting Seattle’s single-family zones into “low-density residential zones” allowing more types of housing, such as “small-lot dwellings, cottages or courtyard housing, duplexes and triplexes.”
But, not everyone seems to be on board with the idea. A follow-up report published today by the Times indicates that Councilmembers Sawant and Licata are already preparing a competing proposal:
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s housing-affordability task force won’t publicize its final recommendations until 11 a.m. Monday, but two City Council members have already lined up in support of a competing proposal.
Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata are scheduled to take part in an 11:30 a.m. news conference unveiling the alternative drawn up by Jon Grant.
I’m going to stand by my April assessment about the future of single-family housing in the city of Seattle:
Either Seattle’s population growth will dramatically slow down again in the near future, or we’re going to be tearing down a lot of single-family homes to make space for more townhomes and condos.
Update: Here’s a follow-up post with the details on the final report that was released this morning: Mayor’s Affordability Committee Releases Tepid Growth Recommendations