Councilmember O'Brien left office on December 31, 2019. This website is for archival purposes only and is no longer updated.

Update on Backyard Cottage Legislation & Next Steps

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Affordability in housing is one of the biggest issues we face in Seattle today. The City of Seattle has identified the need for more housing at prices accessible to people at all levels of income, both for homeowners and renters. In May of 2016, I released a proposal that would make it easier for more homeowners to build backyard cottages and mother-in-law units in Seattle, and provide more affordable housing options for Seattle renters.  The bill proposes a series of changes to make it more feasible for homeowners to build additional units.

Following the release, the Queen Anne Community Council appealed to the hearing examiner, challenging the City’s SEPA determination of non-significance. This past December we received the response from the Hearing Examiner that reversed the determination.  After thorough examination of her response, we have decided to pursue a full environmental impact statement (EIS).  This process will likely take a year to complete.  The full EIS will enable us to look deeply into the possible impacts of the proposed code changes and inform our proposal before we bring it to the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee.

There will be multiple opportunities for input during the EIS process.  We will keep you informed of these opportunities for public comment and encourage you to engage.  When the EIS is complete, we hope to bring legislation to committee by mid-2018.

I believe lowering the barriers to creating backyard cottages and in-law apartments is an important part of addressing affordability across the city, and am looking forward to continuing to pursue this legislation.

If you have further questions, please reach out to Susie Levy – or call our office at 206-684-8800.


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Comment from Lilli Ann Carey
Time March 30, 2017 at 3:26 pm

What about tiny houses and cottages on a piece of owned land. ie a tiny house or cottage village?

Comment from Christy Avery
Time March 30, 2017 at 3:33 pm

I thought people could already build backyard cottages and MIL units. Doesn’t this bill just allow them to build larger (and less affordable) units, or did I misunderstand what is currently allowed? I think we should be supporting efforts to subsidize MIL units in the same way that Portland did, as long as there were provisions to keep homeowners from turning the subsidized apartments into airbnb units.

Comment from matt hutchins
Time March 30, 2017 at 3:44 pm

thanks for your work on this! keep it up, you have lots of support on this critical improvement.

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