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Death Knell for Micro-Apartments?

Seattle Multifamily

Averaging $500 to $1,000 a month in rent in Seattle, compared to $1,200 for a one-bedroom in the city, micro-unit apartments offer space for those who don’t mind close quarters and really like those rents. But has the city killed those units?


The Seattle City Council adopted regulations last week governing what it calls "small efficiency dwelling units (SEDU)," better known as micro apartments. SmartGrowth Seattle CEO Roger Valdez tells us the legislation imposes a gauntlet of requirements that will make this kind of housing mostly a thing of the past in Seattle. “It’s really simply about math: size requirements, bike parking, and common-area requirements will reduce the number of rooms which mean fewer, larger, more expensive units,” he asserts. Add to that additional process requirements, and the big selling point of microhousing, its low price, is no longer possible.


The legislation prescribes design review (the larger the building, the longer that takes), minimum unit size, zones in which future buildings can be located, and sanitation requirements as recommended by Seattle/King County Public Health. The new regs, for instance, stipulate a minimum unit size of 220 SF. Also, congregate housing, where very small units or sleeping rooms share common kitchen and living spaces, can be built, but only in higher density zones.