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February 2019

Planning Commission report touts zoning changes to bolster Seattle's housing supply and affordability

February 7, 2019

Adding more duplexes near schools, expanding boundaries for urban villages and reducing lot sizes to accommodate more homes are among strategies Seattle planning commissioners suggest in a 52-page advisory report to improve the supply and affordability of housing in the Emerald City.

The report released late last year, culminated an 18-month effort by the commission. Not surprisingly, it drew mixed responses. The 16-member volunteer commissioners plan to hold public workshops around the city to discuss the findings and to work with city leaders to fine-tune the recommendations.

In a news release announcing the Neighborhoods for All report, the authors outline strategies to allow "a mix of housing types that can help neighborhoods retain characteristics of lower density areas while welcoming a broader range of residents." The strategies are a combination of short-term and long-term policy opportunities for stakeholders to consider.

"Our current approach to zoning has created a bifurcated city, where two-thirds of residential land is off limits to all but those with the highest incomes," said Tim Parham, chair of the Planning Commission. "The fundamental goal of this report is to encourage a return to the mix of housing and development patterns found in many of Seattle's older and most walkable neighborhoods, thereby giving more people a wider array of living options."

While not commenting on any specifics, Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a statement recognizing "that too many families are getting priced out and pushed out of Seattle, and we urgently need more affordable and equitable housing options for homeowners and renters throughout Seattle."

In addition to promoting diverse neighborhoods, the Planning Commission notes that adding low density housing throughout Seattle is also a way to bolster small businesses, increase environmental sustainability, expand transit access and walkability, and create more homeownership opportunities.