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Design Inspirations







Entries in housing crisis (2)


Creating Homelessness

 The housing displacement of elderly & low-income households in Kenmore Washington

Small homes or Tiny homes are the rage across the country, offering home ownership at an affordable price.  Ironically, we developed this concept years ago – calling them manufactured homes or trailer homes.  Manufactured home communities (MHCs) are sprinkled throughout our state and are usually inhabited by retirees or low-income families. Manufactured homes are HOMES, not apartments.  Residents purchase their homes from $15-$150,000 because it is affordable home ownership. They also pay a monthly fee to the park owner.  Most residents have used all their ‘nest egg’ to purchase these homes; they have made many repairs and upgrades to the home and expect to live there for many years. 

There are six MHC communities in Kenmore Washington with 257 households.  Some residents have lived in their community for over 30 years.  Recently, residents of all six parks were surprised to receive a letter informing them that there was a Planning Commission that was making recommendations to the City Council regarding MHCs and housing density in Kenmore.  Residents were invited to a meeting to learn about the future plans of their communities.  The commission was exploring options to allow development (code word for tearing down your home with no compensation) of the parks but requiring that a % of future apartments being built be ‘affordable.’  In return for losing their homes and a place to live, the residents would receive ‘first right’ of renting an apartment that would be built in the future.  This option satisfies both Kenmore’s’ density problem as well as their responsibility to provide low income housing.

WOW! (this is my commentary), WOW, so the solution to Kenmore’s density problem is to take the fixed income/low income population, the population with the lowest income, the lowest resources and the least ability to obtain legal counsel, and basically steal their homes (as home owner you have to remove your home, but there is nowhere to move it to so you have to demolish it to give back the land to the park owner ‘as it was prior to putting the home on it,’), again, steal their homes and forcing them out on the streets.   MANY residents are seniors over 80 years old and being forced out of their homes will have adverse HEALTH implications. (They will die.)  Many residents have children whose education will be disrupted, and mental health affected by becoming homeless.  MARK MY WORDS, there are few people, if any, in this community who have the financial resources to move to another home. They have put all their savings and resources into the homes that they purchased.  There is no PLAN B.

To be fair, there was another scenario that would trade development rights that the park owners had not heard of and did not think would work.  There was also an option to have the residents buy the park.  Again, the park owners pointed out that there was no way the residents could compete with the offers that they were receiving AND that the time for residents to go through the process of raising capital and financing could take years, and if the park owner wanted to sell, they would not want to wait years to do it.  So those plans were pretty much dead in the water.  They also asked the home owners what ideas they had to make ‘relocation acceptable', and if they had any good ideas that the council had not explored to solve this problem.

In short, it looks like the only option appealing to both the park owners and the city (the home owners don’t count) is to develop manufactured home parks that will provide housing for NEW people moving to Kenmore while forcing 257 long term Kenmore households into homelessness. 


ADU's and the Future of Seattle

Heard of the housing crisis in Seattle?  Big employers such as Amazon have been bringing in massive amounts of people into the Seattle area, more than the many new condos can handle.   The cost to rent a one bed room apartment in the city averages $1917.00 month.  The cost to purchase a house has increased 16.7% over the last 12 months.  I was told by a realtor that many home owners are reluctant to sell, even at the high prices and even when they want to downsize, because ‘they are afraid they will not find another place to live.’ (in Seattle of course)

SEATTLE ENCOURAGING mother in laws – After decades of policing illegal mother in law apartments, the city of Seattle decided that adding rental units in existing housing plots is one of the only places left to densify the city. 

Some TYPES of ‘legal’ living spaces that you can add to your home:

a)      ADU is Accessory Dwelling Unit.  This is an independent home with kitchen, bathroom(s) separate electrical panel and separate secure entrance.  This is attached to the existing home and is separated by a fire rated wall

b)      DADU (or a backyard Cottage) is the same except it is detached from your home, often at the far 20’ setback of your lot.  The average size of most ADU/DADUs is 632 sf.  

REACTIONS - There are several reactions to these types of ‘improvements.’  There is the neighbor who does not want ‘transient’ people in the neighborhood taking up parking spaces and having loud parties.  And there is the home owner who has concerns about giving up some privacy in the shared yard and walkways.  Both are valid concerns.  However, an ADU or DADU can supplement a home owner’s income making it easier to pay the mortgage and increasing property taxes.  It can be a retirement nest egg of continuing income. It can also provide a place for someone to live in the city that they work; offering a place to rent.  It can also reduce traffic – the theory being that if people can walk to take mass transit to work, they will not drive, thus decreasing the amount of cars on the road.

RESTRICTIONS – currently the most contested regulations have to do with providing parking and owner occupation both of which have had recent changes.  One off street parking space is required to be provided EXCEPT in designated urban villages and urban centers.  You may be granted a parking waiver if the site’s topography or location of the structure makes it an undue burden.  Owner occupancy is required for at least 6 months of the year and the owner occupant must have at least 50% ownership. HOWEVER, the owner may SUBMIT EVIDENCE to obtain a waiver of this requirement for up to three years for job relocation, illness or similar reasons not to occupy the home.

FINANCING – typically a home owner would need to refinance their existing home to obtain the funds to build an ADU/DADU.  Costs vary but there is a consensus that to build a new adu/dadu structure would cost around $200,000.  How long do you need to rent the space to break even? Eight ½ years?  LET’S RETHINK THIS…