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To Provide More Housing Options, Mayor Durkan Directs City of Seattle to Fast-Track Pre-Approved Designs for Backyard Cottages

To accelerate the building of more housing units in Seattle, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan has directed the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) to fast-track pre-approved designs for Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADUs), also known as backyard cottages. The City will hire architects to develop several standard architectural plans for backyard cottages that could be built and permitted more quickly and at a lower cost to residents.

“Seattle faces an affordability and housing crisis, and we are taking urgent action to increase the supply of rental housing options as quickly as possible. Too many people are being pushed out of this city or can’t find a place to live. We need to use every tool in our toolbox to boost the supply of housing. Fast-tracked designs for backyard cottages will allow us to get more housing online faster,” Mayor Durkan said. “We will continue to work on all fronts – from adding more shelter beds to innovative permanent housing options – to build a more affordable future for Seattle.”

Standardized, pre-approved plans will allow builders and residents to save time and money by streamlining the design process, reducing costs for architectural designs, and accelerating the permitting process led by SDCI. Lower barriers should incentivize more construction: Paired with efforts to remove regulatory barriers to backyard cottages, pre-approved designs could boost housing production in coming years.

The typical cost for an architecture firm’s original design of backyard cottages ranges from $10,000 to $30,000, and overall construction costs can reach $300,000. Fast-tracking these projects would reduce design costs and significantly reduce permitting fees. Permitting time could be shortened by at least 50%, allowing homeowners and builders to construct new housing more quickly.

This announcement coincides with the release of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that evaluates code changes to remove regulatory barriers to accessory dwelling unit construction. To review and comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, click here.

“For the last few years, we have been working toward increasing opportunities to create more backyard cottages and in-law apartments across the city. I am excited to be taking another step in that direction with the release and public comment period for the draft Accessory Dwelling Units EIS, which looks at removing code barriers,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, District 6, Northwest Seattle. “Reducing some of the planning costs associated with building backyard cottages is another piece of the puzzle.  In the next year, I will continue to work towards increasing housing choice in single family neighborhoods, and ensuring the benefits of backyard cottages and in-law apartments can be shared across our diverse Seattle communities.”

As the City evaluates architects and potential designs, the City will continue to conduct extensive outreach to stakeholders and community members for their input.