Context is everything, and the 2-bedroom home sits in a part of the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle, where the average house is more than twice its size. Developed on a subdivided lot that is 17′x120′ , it stands out because of it’s width, which inspired the owners to nickname it “The Skinny.”
But whatever you call it, it’s hard to argue that it is a “monster” or out of scale with the neighborhood. Inside and out, the house works for the people who live there and fits in with what’s around it.
Unfortunately, new single-family homes are called out for being different. They are, but they are an important part of supplying the growing demand for homes in Seattle’s neighborhoods. Check out the post for more pictures and details about the house.
Tomorrow Dwell Development will celebrate the completion of the House of the Immediate Future (HOIF) at our Columbia Station sustainable community and adjacent to our award winning Passive House! The keys to the four bedroom, 1,400 square foot home will be handed over to the proud homeowner, Mohammed Mohammednur, his wife, mother-in-law, 10-year-old daughter and twin 5-year-old sons later in the day in a private dedication ceremony honoring the family and all those who worked on the home.
The home was designed to fit in with Dwell Development homes by The Miller Hull Partnership, a firm known for sustainable design that is simple and appropriate to its setting in style and materials. It was first built in 2012 at the Seattle Center as part the Next 50 anniversary celebration of the 1962 World’s Fair, reminiscent of an exhibit at the original event.
After serving as a demonstration house to show ways in which green building design and techniques can be applied on a modest and affordable scale, the structure was disassembled and relocated. Its permanent home is in our 42-home sustainable micro-community–one of the largest of its kind in the country, situated in southeast Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood. In addition to releasing this parcel of land to Habitat SKC, Dwell was a major partner, doing all the excavation, site utilities, foundations, backfill and final grade.
HOIF utilizes a hybrid construction approach that is part modular, part site-built. Habitat SKC and Miller Hull partnered with Method Homes, who constructed the home’s prefabricated ‘wet core,’ (concentrated mechanical room, kitchen, and bathroom systems). In this way, skilled labor — including plumbing and electrical work — is centralized and completed before arriving to the site, while still allowing for volunteers, a key component of the Habitat model, to complete the balance of construction.
For more information on our U. S. Department of Energy Challenge Home Award visit:
For more information, photos and videos of the house, please visit: http://www.habitatskc.org/house-of-the-immediate-future/
Evidently, in Seattle, someone building a house is big news. Front page news for the Seattle Times.
But here’s the thing. The house being built looks like this:
And just down the block, three houses away, is this:
How the neighbors and Lynn Thompson at the Times would see this new house as out of scale is baffling.
And the story and headline is misleading at best: there is no ban on new homes in Seattle.
The efforts continue to create more predictability for new housing continues with work to pass the 80 Percent Rule. Hopefully, that will put an end to stories that fan the flames of a false controversy.
Here’s the headline from KIRO:
Ballard residents ambush Seattle mayor over development
At first, you might think that this headline is “bad news,” especially since it is about a microhousing project in Ballard.
But think about this for a moment. Change isn’t easy. When change comes, the people with the most invested in the status quo have the most to lose. Usually, the press presents a story about how developers are pushing change for their own benefit. The story, the interest, is all about how developers are changing things.
Somehow, we’ve changed the storyline
Now, angry neighbors are finally being called out for their behavior. A celebratory event was “ambushed” by neighbors worried about change. Instead of a headline that reads, “Micorhousing Arouses Concern Among Neighbors,” the headline calls attention to the neighborhoods behavior.
Not only that, but here’s how the Mayor responded:
What we’ve seen is the rise of these micro apartments because it’s affordable living for people who don’t want to own a car and want to use transit and ride a bike,” said McGinn. “And they’ve been very popular. And it’s an affordable way for a young person or an older person to live in the neighborhood where they work.
Even in an ambush, the Mayor acknowledged how important microhousing is to the mix of housing Seattle needs if it is going to grow sustainably.
Today at noon, the Mayor and Senator Ed Murray will be at the meeting of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce to discuss a variety of issues. If you care and you can, go there to express your views about microhousing.
The Seattle Times headlined its Sunday edition with a story about “soaring rents” in Seattle. If we, as a city, decide that rents are too high, there is a solution: build more housing. But the article entertains the bizarre notion—all too commonly held by policy makers and others—that somehow building more housing increases price. Here’s a quote from the story:
What’s fueling rent increases most is development itself, said Jonathan Grant, the Tenant Union’s executive director. If almost all new units cater to wealthier tenants, he said, increasing supply is no path to getting rents to go down or even level off.
“The reality is that these units are high-cost, and often these were taken out of affordable-housing stock,” Grant said. “That’s why you see this theory of supply and demand being turned on its head.”
Grant’s suggestion is that the reason why rental housing prices are going up is because we’re building too much of it and for the wrong people. But as I have written before, developers don’t set rents, the market does.
Builders don’t buy land, build apartment buildings, then step back on the sidewalk in front of the building rubbing their hands together gleefully at the thought of charging people $2,000 a month for each unit.
Rents are established based on recovering costs for materials, money (in the form of short or long term debt), and operations. Profit, if there is any, comes after all those costs are paid with rent revenues.
Banks and investors simply won’t allow a project to be built with rents that exceed what they believe people can and will pay. They won’t do it. We can dispense with the idea that builders are building for wealthy people, which attracts more wealthy people, which in turn increases prices. Prices go up based on costs and competition. If we want prices lower, then we should want competition between developers, not among renters bidding against each other for a dwindling supply of housing.
If we’re going to make life more affordable in Seattle we need to shift our attention to supply. The burden shouldn’t be on housing advocates to explain why building more housing would help stabilize housing prices, but on NIMBYs and regulators to show how adding costs and process to new development won’t raise the prices.
Housing is probably the only product essential for people to live that has caps and limits on its production. Imagine if the farmers that produce food could only produce a set amount of their products. What would happen to the price of milk, for example, if dairy farmers could only produce 1 million gallons of milk per year, regardless of how many people wanted to buy milk?
Add to this production limit on milk, design review for the cows the famer uses to make milk. Imagine a public process that allowed members of the public worried that there is too much milk to prescribe the size and color of the farmer’s cows. And imagine that the farmer pays for that public process out of her budget. If we regulated the production of milk that way, prices would “soar” just like rents have in Seattle.
Cities are always going to feel more expensive and usually are. But to affect price we should be create more and better housing, even incentivizing the building of that new housing by reducing rules, risks and costs.
What Seattle needs is a housing policy that provides generous financial help for people who truly struggle to find shelter in the city and fewer regulations—for both market rate and non-profit developers—so that all people can have a wide array of housing options and prices to choose from in the city.
Photo of Design Review Cows from MorgueFile