Backyard cottages, aka DADU’s

Backyard cottages, also known as DADU’s, were the topic of a special lunchtime session of the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee today. 

DADU’s — Detached Additional Dwelling Units — are being touted as one piece of the solution for the affordable housing problem in Seattle. Tens of thousands of lots are potentially eligible for building a DADU, but to-date the number actually built is in the low hundreds.

The Department of Planning and Development has been studying the issue and made recommendations about what the biggest impediments are to the creating of more DADU’s. Today’s session included a panel of property owners who have built DADU’s, plus an open public comment section.

There are two main reasons why people build DADU’s: to house family members, and for additional income. Today’s session included people from both of those camps.

The two biggest issues are:

  1. The current law requires that the owner of the property occupy either the main house or the DADU.  So people who own a rental property are ineligible.
  2. The law requires that an off-street parking space be made available for the DADU occupant. In many cases, that is impossible. In some neighborhoods, of course, there is no off-street parking at all, even for the main residence.

Interestingly, some of the things that you might expect to be issues turned out to not be that big of a deal for most people, including the permit/approval process and concerns from neighbors.  DPD’s report lists the results of a poll they did on the barriers.

It was a very thoughtful discussion. Committee chair O’Brien and council members Bagshaw and Burgess were all present and paying close attention to the comments by citizens; I would expect them to offer legislation on this early in 2016.

I will update this post with a link to the video when it’s online.