I just finished reading the white paper called “Responding to Changing Households: Regulatory Challenges for Micro-Units and Accessory Dwelling Units” published by the NYU Furman Center. Dry? Not at all!
It’s a little bit of a commitment but an easy read overall. And it’s chock full of important micro-housing data. I recommend that anyone interested in expressing an opinion over the micro-housing debate read it. It’s the first report of its kind, yielding comprehensive analysis of the state of micro-housing in five major cities across the country: Seattle; Washington DC; New York; Denver and Austin.
I’m not here to question the need or validity of micro-housing. Someone else can do that. I believe in it.
This Furman white paper, without question, concludes that micro-housing is the future because it is the best known model that can respond to “the misalignment between the nature of the [housing] stock and the needs of renter households.”
“[Since the 1950s] household sizes have shrunk, people are waiting longer to marry and more are unmarried or divorced, more people are living alone, more people are sharing housing with unrelated individuals, and people are living longer.” Yet our housing stock doesn’t look much different than it did decades ago.
Seattle provides an interesting case study. We have more micro-housing development than any other studied city. But, in our haste to blaze the trail, we are setting ourselves up for failure by moving too fast and letting developers exploit an obsolete set of land use and building codes.
With trail blazing comes controversy. Seattle neighborhood organizations have two primary criticisms of micro-housing. 1) It will adversely change the character of a neighborhood; 2) It will further burden the dearth of parking availability.
I’d like to throw a few ideas into the ring that could potentially assuage the neighborhoods and close the housing stock gap at the same time:
We have a tremendous opportunity to lead the way in developing denser cities that provide for the needs of all their citizens – not just the select few. Let’s not set out to build the most micro-housing in the country, let’s set out to build the best micro-housing in the country.
Let’s build intentional, thoughtful and well-designed micro-housing buildings that support thriving communities.
Mike O’Brien of the Seattle City Council is reacting quickly with a compromise amidst the controversy which is partially laid out in this article. It’s a step in the right direction, but all you trail blazers out there, we still have some work to do!