Sightline’s Housing and Urbanism team cranked out so much this past year that even I have had a hard time keeping track of it all. Here’s a rundown:

First, these six articles captured the most eyeballs in the online popularity contest:

WHY SEATTLE BUILDS APARTMENTS, BUT VANCOUVER, BC, BUILDS CONDOS
Why all those high rises are apartments.

YES, YOU CAN BUILD YOUR WAY TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Lessons from unexpected places.

HOW SEATTLE KILLED MICRO-HOUSING, AGAIN
A partial reprieve… denied.

STOP BLAMING FOREIGN HOME BUYERS
Untangling the role of foreign investment in the Vancouver and Seattle housing markets.

NOT IN YOUR BACKYARD: COTTAGES, IN-LAW APARTMENTS, AND THE PREDATORY DELAY OF HALA’S ADU RULES
Abuse of a 1971 environmental law is displacing hundreds of low-income families from Seattle this year.

VIDEO: CRUEL MUSICAL CHAIRS (OR WHY IS RENT SO HIGH?)
A simple reason is: we don’t have enough places to live.

The rest of our 2017 articles fall into one of three categories: (1) homebuilding fees and red tape, (2) single-family zoning, and (3) mandatory housing affordability.

Rendering of the proposed Fort Lawton redevelopment planned to include 85 homes for the homeless that was halted by a SEPA appeal, image by GGLO, used with permission.

Homebuilding fees and red tape

One underappreciated factor that contributes to Seattle’s housing affordability crunch is the permitting process for homebuilding that can impose fees, red tape, and delay, all of which push prices and rents higher.

YES, RED TAPE AND FEES DO RAISE THE PRICE OF HOUSING
And no amount of hand-waving about “land values” changes that.

HOUSING DELAYED IS HOUSING DENIED
(And rent increased.)

HOW SEATTLE’S DESIGN REVIEW SABOTAGES HOUSING AFFORDABILITY
And what’s needed to fix it.

IMPACT FEES: AN URBAN PLANNING ZOMBIE IN NEED OF SLAYING
Eight reasons why impact fees thwart the creation of equitable, sustainable cities.

WASHINGTON’S STATE ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT HAS BECOME A BANE TO SUSTAINABLE URBAN DEVELOPMENT
SEPA routinely obstructs exactly the kind of green housing that cities most need.

WHEN HISTORIC PRESERVATION CLASHES WITH HOUSING AFFORDABILITY
And what Seattle can do to better balance the two and create more homes for everyone.

 

Single-family zoning

In Seattle three-fourths of the land where it’s legal to build housing is reserved for single-family homes only. Allowing ADUs, duplexes, triplexes, rowhouses, and small apartments in single-family zones is an essential ingredient for an equitable Seattle.

RETURNING SEATTLE TO ITS ROOTS IN DIVERSE HOUSING TYPES
Multi-family historic housing exceptions provide homes in opportunity-rich neighborhoods for more than 12,000 Seattleites today.

SOME NEIGHBORHOODS LOSING POPULATION, DESPITE THE BOOM
Population has declined in most of Seattle’s single-family zones since 1970.

ONE TOOL FOR DISMANTLING STRUCTURAL SCHOOL SEGREGATION IN SEATTLE: BETTER ZONING
72 percent of land around Seattle’s top elementaries is zoned single-family.

OPENING PARKS TO MORE SEATTLEITES
70 percent of land around parks one acre or larger is zoned single-family.

  • MAP: WHERE MULTI-FAMILY HOMES MAKE SEATTLE NEIGHBORHOODS MORE AFFORDABLE
    A new interactive map shows that single-family homes cost 42 percent more than multi-family homes.

    GRANNY FLATS AND THE GREAT AFFORDABILITY DEBATE
    A backyard cottage vs. a McMansion? ADUs win on affordability.

     

    This three-story small-scale apartment at 17th and Spring in Seattle exemplifies missing middle housing that could be built in Seattle’s low-rise zones, by Dan Bertolet.

    Mandatory housing affordability (MHA)

    The centerpiece of Seattle’s 2015 Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA), MHA couples zoning changes that allow larger buildings—“upzones”—with mandates on developers to provide affordable homes or pay into the city’s affordable housing fund. Unfortunately my analysis showed that in many cases the value of the upzones would not compensate for the cost of the affordability mandates. That means compared to current zoning, MHA would likely reduce the overall rate of homebuilding in the city, undermining its own intent to improve affordability.

    CHECKING SEATTLE’S MHA MATH
    Fixing first draft errors can fulfill the city’s housing affordability promise.

    HIGHER PRICES, FEWER AFFORDABLE HOMES?
    Seattle’s draft MHA numbers don’t pencil: case studies of two apartment zones.

    HOW TO FIX SEATTLE’S MHA PROPOSAL FOR U DISTRICT HIGHRISES
    Uncorrected, the draft plan will undermine city’s goals for affordability and sustainability.

    SEATTLE’S FLAWED PLAN FOR MANDATORY HOUSING AFFORDABILITY WOULD SUPPRESS ‘MISSING MIDDLE’ HOUSING
    How to fix MHA for modest apartment buildings in Seattle’s low-rise zones.

    SEATTLE GETS MHA RIGHT IN DOWNTOWN AND SLU
    Which means a win-win for Seattleites seeking a diversity of housing options.

    FINDING THE MISSING MIDDLE: ROWHOUSES, TOWNHOUSES, AND SEATTLE’S AFFORDABILITY PLAN
    Fixing the draft MHA proposal so the middle doesn’t stay missing.

    DISPLACEMENT DILEMMA
    What Seattle’s draft study tells us—and doesn’t—about displacement.

     

    Pro-zoning poster from the 1920s.