Seattle’s Push Towards Backyard Cottages

seward pk cabin-exterioThe city of Seattle’s goal to create more affordable housing, specifically within single-family dominated neighborhoods has led to the rise of Backyard Cottages. A Backyard Cottage is a small residential structure sharing the same lot as a house, but is self-contained and separate from the primary house. Backyard Cottages can be a win-win solution for both home owners and renters – creating additional income for homeowners while being able to offer affordable and attractive rental opportunities for Seattle residents. Most Backyard Cottages include a living room, sleeping area, kitchen, and bath. They are also required to have a designated off-street parking space.

While renting out the cottage can make great financial sense, some homeowners choose to use their Backyard Cottage as an extension of their living space (office/studio, guest quarters, or entertainment space) making it a more affordable option than rebuilding or sometimes remodeling. Many home owners also view the ADU as a potential option for housing aging family members.

You can build a Backyard Cottage if you meet the following requirements:

  • You are a homeowner.
  • Your property is located in a single-family residential zone (SF 5000, SF 7200 or SF 9600 zoned area).
  • Your lot is not in a Shoreline District.
  • Your lot is at least 4,000 square feet in area.
  • You or your property co-owner(s) will occupy either the main house or the Backyard Cottage as a permanent and principal residence.
  • You or your property co-owner(s) plan to live in the main home or the Backyard Cottage for more than six months of each calendar year.
  • You or your property co-owner(s) who live on the property have a 50 percent or greater interest in the property.

The city has created a very in depth resource answering any questions you may have regarding Backyard Cottages and if this might be an option worth pursuing.

How much do they cost?

The costs will vary based on the size, design, and finishes that you choose. Your best bet is to work with an architect to see what your budget can get you. If your cottage will be used for rental income, figure that into the equation. Many people secure a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) to finance the actual build, or use a construction loan.

Many other cities in the area – for instance Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond and Issaquah – also allow ADUs to be built and rented out for supplemental income. Check your city’s municipal building code to understand restrictions and allowances.

It’s important to note that the addition of an ADU or cottage on your property may negatively affect your property value and/or marketability when you go to sell. If you have questions or concerns, consult your real estate agent.

The backyard cottage blog is a great resource offering advice, design services and workshops. We also like this Quick Start guide from CAST Architecture. Visit our pinterest board for more inspiration!