Small is the new green
Increasing environmental awareness along with economic and demographic trends favor smaller house sizes. Many cities are doing their part by updating zoning codes to allow cottage housing and small backyard cottages (detached ADU's) on residentially zoned lots. Seattle and Portland are two cities which allow backyard cottages up to 800 sq. ft. in size. These small houses provide opportunities for families, while increasing housing stock, density and affordability. Continue reading for more information about small house design and Seattle's backyard cottage ordinance or contact us to find out if your lot is eligible for a backyard cottage.
Wednesday, June 17
A Salt Lake City delegation comes to Seattle seeking ways to increase the number of backyard cottages in their city.
We met with a group of SLC planners at a recently completed cottage and talked about the ins and outs of the Seattle backyard cottage ordinance. Also in attendance was a Seattle researcher who has been patiently interviewing those who have built backyard cottages and ADUs. The question on the planners minds was how can they increase the number of backyard cottages and what are the hurdles that prevent more people from doing so? While SLC has allowed backyard cottages for two years not one has been built, why?
It would seem that two primary factors affecting the decision to build a backyard cottage are financial and regulatory. Seattle's hot real estate market makes backyard cottages attractive rental properties and increasing numbers are being built. For example, the two bedroom cottage we were touring will rent between $2,000 and $2,500 per month, proving to be a good investment even with correspondingly high construction costs. The strong real estate market has also made financing easier with many people choosing to finance construction using a home equity line of credit. In cities like Vancouver, B.C., the economics are tilted even more in favor of backyard cottages and roughly ten times as many have been built.
Regulations intentionally create a barriers to construction, one that city planners have control over. The Seattle City Council is considering ways to ease regulations to increase the number of backyard cottages. Of these, the one proposal that would be most likely to have an impact, and one that we are opposed to, would be to eliminate the owner occupancy requirement. For the record, SLC won't be eliminating their owner occupancy requirement any time soon. However, from our experience, the restrictions imposed by regulations definitely shape what can be built, but they rarely make building a cottage infeasible.
We talk with hundreds of people each year who are considering building a backyard cottage. In the past, the most common reason given has been providing a home for a family member. While this is still one of the main reasons people chose to build a backyard cottage, more often now people are planning to use the cottage as a long term or short term rental.
How about you? Are you thinking about building a backyard cottage, why or why not? Planners from Salt Lake City want to know.
Thursday, April 9
Backyard cottages can be used for many things including housing a family member or as a short term rental. Join Microhouse and Ncompass Cottage Company to learn more about backyard cottage design, construction, and use. Bring your ideas, after the presentation we will have plenty of time to answer questions about the specifics of your project.
Tuesday, March 31
Wednesday, February 25
It has been a busy week for microhouse in the press with the lake washington cabin featured in Seattle Magizine and a send up on Portlandia. Portlandia fame aside, we don't actually design houses on wheels. Our houses rest on foundations and are usually between 400 and 1,000 sq. ft. in size. In fact we frequently work with people who are up-sizing from a boat or small apartment, people who are looking for a comfortable place to live that is efficiently designed.
If you would like to tour a backyard cottage please sign up for our open house invite list. Our next open house will likely be mid May.
We also have announced a date for our spring workshop April 15th at the Phinney Center workshop info.
Sunday, February 8
Thursday, October 9
The capitol hill backyard cottage features one bedroom, living room, kitchen and bath on one floor and a sleeping loft.
The tangletown backyard cottage is Seattle's 100th built backyard cottage. It features an open first floor plan with a living room and kitchen. The second floor contains a bedroom, bath and study.
The Madison Valley backyard cottage has a few bonus features that we usually able to feature like a powder room, mud room, and rooftop deck.
The Broadview backyard cottage will be roughed in by a general contractor and the owner's will complete construction. The cottage features a garage which will be converted to a bedroom at a later date.
The Portage Bay backyard cottage has great views and an open contemporary plan. One bedroom is located on the first floor but the kitchen and living room are on the top floor to take advantage of the views.