Small is the new green

Increasing environmental awareness along with economic and demographic trends favor smaller house sizes. Many cities are doing their part by updating zoning codes to allow cottage housing and small backyard cottages (detached ADU's) on residentially zoned lots. Seattle and Portland are two cities which allow backyard cottages up to 800 sq. ft. in size. These small houses provide opportunities for families, while increasing housing stock, density and affordability. Continue reading for more information about small house design and Seattle's backyard cottage ordinance or contact us to find out if your lot is eligible for a backyard cottage.

Tuesday, February 2

in praise of owner occupancy requirements

The Seattle City Council is currently considering ways to ease regulations to increase the number of backyard cottages.  Of these, the one proposal that would be most likely to have an impact, and one that we are opposed to, would be to eliminate the owner occupancy requirement for accessory dwelling units.  Currently, to add an accessory dwelling unit you must live in either the primary residence or the accessory unit for a minimum of six months out of the year.  This requirement is almost universal among municipalities that allow accessory dwelling units.  Why?  It is widely believed that having the owner living in the unit will minimize the impact of having what could otherwise be considered multi-family housing within single family zones. More importantly, it also restricts the types of investors that can buy and hold these properties.  Currently purchasing a single family residences as rental property is cost prohibitive which favors owner occupants.  However, if developers are allowed to build two units on a single family zoned lot it becomes a much more attractive investment package for a absentee landlord. This would further escalate the prices for single family zoned land and houses.  

Owner occupants act differently than developers in a number of important ways.  To a home owner building a back yard cottage is a major long term investment.  The majority of homeowners finance their cottages with cash or by taking equity out of their primary residence.  This makes them cautious by necessity.  Also, the primary impact of their development is going to be on their lot and in their neighborhood. When we begin a project a typical client wish list contains the desire to minimize the impact to their neighbors.  We have and continue to work with residential developers. Not once has one of them expressed the least concern over how the neighbors might be impacted by their development. 

Thursday, January 14

encouraging backyard cottages II

The next encouraging backyard cottages public meeting with Mike O'Brien will be in Wallingford on February 3rd.

Backyard Cottages Community Meeting

When:       Wednesday, February 3rd, 6-7:30 pm

Where:      Wallingford Senior Center
                 4649 Sunnyside Ave N
                 Seattle, WA

Wednesday, January 6

encouraging backyard cottages


Join representatives from the city of Seattle department of construction and inspection, along with council member Mike O'Brien, at one of two public meetings to discuss policy options that would encourage the production of backyard cottages.


Expanding the construction of backyard cottages could provide thousands of new housing units throughout Seattle and give homeowners an opportunity to earn stable, extra income and remain in their homes

When:    Tuesday January 19th 6:7:30 pm

Where:   Filipino Community Center
               5740 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way

Saturday, January 2

Saturday, December 19

happy holidays

Microhouse will be closed between December 20th and January 4th. 

Over the holidays when families gather is a good time to start the discussion about planning a backyard cottage.  If you are thinking about building a backyard cottage, and would like us to preform a preliminary analysis of your property, please send us an email and tell us your address and what you plan to use the cottage for. We will get back to you after the holidays.  Also, we have an invite only open house tentatively scheduled for January 3rd.  The exact date is dependent on the construction schedule.  If you would  to be added to the invite list  or to contact us during the holiday break email us at .  info@microhousenw.com

Happy Holidays

Friday, December 4

encouraging backyard cottages

The city of Seattle and council member Mike O'Brien want more backyard cottages . The Seattle department of planning and development (DPD) have created a liaison position Nicolas Welch to field suggestions about how to improve the process of permitting. We suggest as a starting point that DPD have a designated land use reviewer for accessory dwelling units to streamline the review process and provide consistency. Possibly because backyard cottages have been a low priority every reviewer seems to have a different way of measuring basic criteria like square footage and height. This is adding unnecessary delays and project costs. 

encouraging backyard cottages

Join us December 9th for Mike O'Brien's lunch and learn session about backyard cottages.


Tuesday, November 10

backyard cottage workshop this thursday full


Open house tentatively scheduled for January 16th


Thinking about building a backyard cottage and not already on the list for Thursday's workshop? Not to worry, if you send us your address and tell us a bit about what you are planning to do, we will preform a preliminary analysis of  your property and answer your questions.

If you would like to learn more about backyard cottages and tour a recently completed cottage sign up for our open house invite list.