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 diversity. 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, October 18

multi-generational households on the rise


Downturns in the economy usually coincide with an increase the number of multigenerational households. But what's going on now is more than a recessionary blip. The fraction of the U.S. population 75 or older has increased from 5.2% in 1990 to 6.4% today. At the same time, the percentage of those 75 and up living in their adult children's homes has been climbing too, from 4.1% in 1990 to 6.5% today, reports Kelly Balistreri, associate director of the National Center for Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University. 

Schematic Design Phase - Wallingford Cottage


There are many financial aspects affecting the number of those living in multi-generational households.  These include the increasing costs of health care, in-home care, and child care.  While those living in multi-generational households will attest to the added challenges there are innumerable benefits that go well beyond financial gain.

Three generations of Mary K's family live in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle.  She now lives a number of hours drive away but hopes to move closer to her new great granddaughter.  How much closer? Into her daughter's back yard.  Seattle's recently expanded backyard cottage ordinance allows her to do just that.  Seattle and many other cities allow backyard cottages, detached accessory dwelling units, to share a lot with an existing primary residence. Mary K plans to build a tiny backyard cottage that will give her a comfortable place to live where she can be a more prominent part of her family’s life.  Her new kitchen window will look out on a shared garden and her cottage will feature a loft for her great granddaughter to play in.  She looks forward to taking her great granddaughter to the nearby woodland park zoo. 

No doubt Mary K’s family will appreciate the extra help as well.  Raising a child is expensive in no small part due to the cost of child care.  Many parents scramble to keep up a juggling act of work and child care schedules that result in children being raised by caregivers outside the family. In this day and age it seems the lucky exceptions that have family close enough to help out on a regular basis. 

Her backyard cottage will have another benefit as well.  Mary K will pay to construct the cottage from her savings.  It will be her home but will also be an asset for her daughter’s property.  When she no longer lives in the cottage it will become a source of rental income for the family, or perhaps her great granddaughter’s college apartment.

Mary K’s cottage is schedule to begin construction in the early spring.

puyallup approves cottage housing demonstration projects


A new kind of housing can be built in Puyallup under temporary rules recently approved by the City Council.  The demonstration ordinance, which has drawn debate at council sessions in recent months, allows up to three cottage housing projects over the next three years.

 “It’s my belief that our community needs some alternative housing,” said Councilman Kent Boyle, who supported the ordinance.  Some in attendance expressed concerns that cottage housing would result in an in appropriate amount of density, allowing developers to cram too many houses on a single lot. However, other municipalities including Seattle have experimented with demonstration programs that have resulted in some great projects.  Because the size and scale of cottage housing developments are often strictly limited,  the developments seldom feel too crowded. Furthermore, because they are grouped around common landscaped areas they often appear more open than the surrounding single family homes.  There are many fine examples of cottage housing scattered around the region.


 

These historic cottages on 16th Ave in Seattle are 550 square feet and have one bedroom and one bath.  These 10 cottages share a double city lot and fit seamlessly into a neighborhood of other single family homes.  In this case they have only a small common area yet they still feel welcoming.  They were built for and still provide a great option for young professionals who want to be close to work, don’t need to much space, and don’t want to live in a sterile apartment building surrounded by parking.

Cottage housing can be adapted to meet the needs of specific groups.  Seniors have different needs than young professionals or families with children.  Cottage housing can be built around amenities that suit the needs of seniors and allow them to share some expenses while still maintaining independence. Charles Emlet, who’s on the city’s Aging in Place committee, told the council that cottage homes are a good option for older citizens. “Personally, I like the idea of cottage housing. My wife and I have talked about (one day) buying into such a community,” Emlet told a reporter before the meeting. “I like the idea of being connected to your neighbors.”  Many active seniors like having an opportunity to socialize and garden outside.  New cottages can also incorporate accessibility features that make it easier for seniors to live independently without the maintenance required for owning larger home .