S&A | Compass | Local News In Brief
- A new type of housing will be allowed to sprout in Shoreline from now on, though officials aren’t sure whether many developments will actually be built under the city’s new rules according to the Seattle Times. The Shoreline City Council voted Monday (June 5) to legalize “cottage housing” in low-density zones that are currently dominated by suburban-style houses with private yards and parking garages. Shoreline’s new rules will allow clusters of two to 24 modest-sized dwellings (maximum 1,500 square feet), arranged around a shared outdoor space, said Andrew Bauer, the city’s planning manager. These are different from backyard cottages, which are accessory units built behind regular houses. The new rules will give density bonuses to cottage projects that meet requirements related to green construction, transit access and affordable housing, allowing such projects up to twice as much density as usual. For example, in a Shoreline zone that normally allows six dwellings per acre, a 10-cottage project including one or two affordable units could be built with 12 dwellings per acre. The city is assuming that the cottages in such projects will be developed for sale, rather than as rentals. The defining feature of cottage developments in Shoreline will be their shared courtyards (at least 250 square feet per dwelling), allowing neighbors to do things like garden together, Bauer said. The council members approved a requirement of one parking space per cottage, which is less than the two parking spaces that Shoreline requires for each stand-alone house, Bauer said.
- A new study from a fitness website ranked the fittest cities in Washington state and throughout the country, according to KOMO News. The study from totalshape.com is based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2019 and 2020. Researchers analyzed 572 places in metro areas nationwide, looking at the “health status, exercising habits and obesity rates among residents aged 18 and over,” according to totalshape.com. According to the study, Bellevue is the fittest place in Washington state — followed by Seattle and Silverdale — and the second-fittest in the entire country. Seattle also placed in the top 10 in the country. Yakima is the least fit metro in the Evergreen state, according to the study. The study also found Washington is the fourth-fittest state in the country. Newton, Mass., took home the No. 1 slot. Reading, Penn., is the least fit in the country, according to the study. The top 10 (in order) in Washington is as follows: Bellevue, Seattle, Silverdale, Anacortes, Tumwater, Bellingham, Richland, Olympia, Lacey, and Walla Walla.
- The Seattle City Council voted unanimously to send the seven-year, $970 million housing levy renewal to the Nov. 7 ballot, when Seattleites will also vote on seven council seats. The proposal would replace the city’s expiring housing levy and charge 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value. That would cost the owner of the median $866,000 Seattle home about $390 per year, an increase of about $260 from the current levy rate. The bulk of money raised from the new levy, $707 million, would go toward the construction of new subsidized rental homes and improvements to aging affordable apartments. Those programs are focused on housing for people making 60% of area median income or less, about $74,000 a year for a family of three. Nearly two-thirds of the funding would fund housing for those making even less, 30% of area median income or $37,000 for a family of three. About $122 million would fund operations, maintenance and services in affordable housing, including increasing wages for people who work in subsidized housing. An additional $51 million would fund affordable homeownership programs and $30 million would fund rent assistance. The city estimates the new levy would fund 2,881 new rental apartments and improvements for 635 existing apartments.
- A new area code is coming to Seattle soon. With 206 area-code phone numbers projected to run out by the end of 2025, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission on Thursday approved a plan to implement 564 once 206 runs out. “The Commission directed the industry to develop a nine-month implementation plan to ensure that the new area code will be ready six months before 206 phone numbers run out,” the commission said. “The commission originally approved the single area code overlay for western Washington in 2000 but postponed it until 2017 due to successful state and national number conservation efforts. In 2017, the commission approved an overlay of the 564 area code only for the 360 number plan area.” Current numbers with the 206 area code will not change.
- A new report from WalletHub took a look at local leadership in 149 of the largest cities in the U.S. Seattle ranked No. 115. Tacoma was even lower on the overall list at No. 141. Portland, Ore., ranked No. 88. The personal finance website looked at 36 different factors, like financial stability, health, safety, infrastructure and pollution. Seattle was in the top 25 for most topics, except safety, dropping all the way down to No. 83, lower than Chicago and San Francisco. According to the report, Nampa, Idaho, is the best-run city in America. Nampa is just outside of Boise, which ranked No. 4. San Francisco was at the bottom of the list.
- On average over the last year, Washington homeowners lost about $74,300 in equity, a measure of the difference between how much a home is worth and how much the owner owes on the mortgage, according to the real estate data company CoreLogic and reported by the Seattle Times. That 18% decline marked the largest drop in the country from the first quarter of last year to the first quarter of 2023. Even so, only a small share of homeowners here is underwater. Washington homeowners owe more than their property is worth on just 2% of mortgages, in line with the nationwide rate, according to CoreLogic. That marks a slight increase from previous years, when the share of underwater mortgages in Washington hovered around 1.5%. In the Seattle area, even fewer homeowners owe more than their homes are worth: Just 0.7% in April, according to the data firm Black Knight.Even though Washington homeowners lost an average of more than $74,000 in equity over the last year, they gained $116,000 as home prices soared the prior year, CoreLogic data shows. On top of that, homebuyers in pricey and competitive markets like Washington typically make higher down payments, giving them more equity than others as soon as they become homeowners, said Redfin Senior Economist Sheharyar Bokhari. Even among people who bought Seattle-area homes between January 2021 and September 2022, a window including some of the hottest moments in the local market, just 1.6% are underwater, according to Redfin.
- Commuters using State Route 520 will pay more for crossing the bridge, according to the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC). On July 1, toll rates climb between 20 cents and $1.10 for vehicles with two axles, with similar increases for vehicles with additional axles. Drivers with a Good To Go! pass will continue to pay the lowest rate on all toll roads, the WSTC said. Beginning July 1, the weekday Good To Go! rate of $4.30 will increase to $4.50 and the weekday pay-by-mail rate of $6.30 jumps to $6.50, the WSTC said. Peak periods for travel will extend to 7-10 a.m. and 3-7 p.m.