Detached housing units could help struggling families

Here is a fundamental truth. Everyone needs to be some place. We live in a metropolitan region considered to be one of the fastest growing in the nation. This growth increases pressure on housing. Prices go up; people move to less expensive neighborhoods if they have no alternative. It is a matter of economics.

Property values are rising in Tukwila. Housing costs are becoming less affordable. Some homeowners are finding it challenging to handle higher property taxes and insurance, both of which are reflective of their home’s value. What policy might help both parties just a little bit and, perhaps, help keep multi-generation families together? One helpful step is the ability to have a detached Accessory Dwelling Unit or ADU.

Currently, homeowners may rent out part of their home if they meet the city’s requirements. The city council is now considering allowing detached ADU; again, they have to meet city standards. Homeowners could remodel an existing detached building or build one. Here is a suggestion for the city council — allowable square footage formulas often end up being arbitrary “that sounds good” numbers. Have good reasons for the numbers. If 40 percent sounds good, why not 50 or 60 or 70, etc.? Keep going until you have a substantial argument for a limit (if one is needed at all).

The resistance to detached ADU seems to center around parking and population density. So try this. Drive around your neighborhood or any residential neighborhood in Tukwila. How many homes do you see with detached buildings or available space to build an ADU? Now assume that 100 percent of those homes now have detached ADU. Based on your anecdotal observations, is there any reason to believe that parking will suddenly become a problem because of the detached ADU? Will our population suddenly increase so much that our public facilities will be insufficient to meet the demand? Some suggest that parking is already inadequate in neighborhoods and adding detached ADU will make it worse. Let’s not scapegoat ADU. Ask the city to enforce existing parking standards more rigorously.

At an April 9 city council public hearing on this subject, a sagacious man said that those who do not support detached ADU today might find that they, in just a few short years, are the ones who need such an option to help pay the bills and remain in their community. Food for thought, isn’t it?

[flipp]

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