Open ADU/DADU Legislation Letter to Seattle Councilmember O'Brien (Call to Action)

Posted By: Sean Martin (deleted) Advocacy,

October 20, 2017

Councilmember Mike O’Brien
PO Box 34025
Seattle, WA 98124-4025

Re: ADU/DADU legislation

Dear Councilmember O’Brien,

The Rental Housing Association of Washington (RHAWA) represents more than 5,500 small, independent landlords. Our mission is to provide our membership with the tools and knowledge necessary to operate safe, affordable housing.

I’m writing you today regarding the Accessory Dwelling Unit EIS and changes being proposed to the rules for how ADU/DADU units may be sited, constructed, and operated.

Our region is in desperate need of action which can address the shortage of housing units we currently face. As the State’s largest city, Seattle can be a leader on how to address this problem. Expanding opportunities for ADU/DADU construction should be a part of the solution, and RHAWA strongly supports Alternative 2 as the best way to move forward on this issue.

Two particular details of Alternative 2 which we strongly support are a waiving of the owner-occupancy requirement, and for reducing the minimum lot size to 3,200 square feet.

Expanding ADU/DADU opportunities supports two critical goals for the city:

  1. Increased housing supply, particularly in the more affordable range of the market.
  2. Create more opportunities for homeowners and home buyers, particularly vulnerable populations on fixed incomes, to offset rising property taxes and utility costs by creating an additional income stream.

Additional to the policy being considered, we would also suggest consideration of additional changes which can expedite ADU/DADU construction and

  • Change zone name from ‘Single Family’ to ‘Residential.’ Our current ‘Single Family’ has a long history of duplexes, triplexes, corner stores and apartments, prior to downzoning, and renaming the zone removes a mental roadblock about what residential areas are for: people.
  • Waive building permit fees for 5 years for AADUs and DADUs. The City of Portland uses this incentive to permit nearly one per day, 6 times the rate of Seattle’s ADU production.
  • Use Green Building incentives similar to other permit types: Allow 10% increase in size and height for projects on lots over 4000 SF. Allow 20% increase for lots over 5000 SF.
  • Upgrading non-conforming housing types and uses, such as duplexes, established before 1995. There are 4300 grandfathered duplexes and triplexes within SF zones and they are subject to different rules such as continuing use and limitations on expansion/upgrades. They should have the same flexibility under the code that applies to their neighbors in SF zones.
  • Double Ownership. Allow split ownership of lots with existing house and new cottage, like a fee simple subdivision, provided the cottage was legally established. Create template for condominium-like agreements to share lot ownership between existing house and new cottage. Seattle has no starter homes and this would create new opportunity for ownership. If we agree ownership is an aspiration, creating more affordable options such as this would be desirable.
  • Allow homeowners to qualify for small loans from Office of Housing from pool of MHA payments when creating additional dwellings. One of the key criticisms of MHA is whether affordable housing created will be well distributed, and by making the available loans applicable at residential scale, on a parcel by parcel basis, there will be new affordable housing integrated into every neighborhood. The other difficulty most people face when creating a DADU is securing financing, and having an additional source would help many owners create their own.

We look forward to seeing this process move forward, and thank you for your consideration.


​Sean Martin,
RHAWA External Affairs Director

Call to Action

Want to help encourage the city to allow these changes?

Sign this petition.