At odds over aPodments
Is microhousing the answer to high rents?
Opponents of very small rental units — sometimes rented under the trade name aPodments — may have found a willing ear in City councilmember Tom Rasmussen.
Rasmussen said he’s concerned about the safety and impact of so-called “microhousing,” buildings containing several small housing units that share a common living area and kitchen. The developments were conceived to help alleviate the high cost of rent for low-income people.
Seattle needs more affordable housing, Rasmussen said, but he’s not sure microhousing, which he likens to dormitories, is the best solution.
“When you allow a lot of people in small spaces there are safety issues,” he said.
Rasmussen also expressed concern over the size of the units, noting that some are as small as 95 square feet.
Microhousing developments may lack design oversight, Rasmussen added. Of the 44 applications issued for microhousing developments since 2006, only nine have gone under design review, he said.
Rasmussen didn’t say what, if anything, he plans to do about these concerns.
The council could decide to develop regulations and guidelines or create an ordinance that would require a design review, he said. The council could also decide on a moratorium, he said.
Rasmussen expects the council to address the issue in the next couple of months.
With a moratorium, the council would adopt legislation temporarily banning new buildings in single-family neighborhoods.
Such legislation has been used before in response to residents who want to keep modern-looking buildings out of their neighborhoods.
In any case, Rasmussen said microhousing is not fine as is.
“We can’t just do nothing,” he said.
Not everyone agrees. Richard Conlin, Seattle City Council Planning, Land Use and Sustainability chair, said he does not support a moratorium on microhousing. Conlin has previously said that microhousing developments are consistent with city building codes. According to Conlin, an aPodment has no greater impact than an apartment.
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