As Seattle heads into its fourth year of a state of emergency on homelessness, Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien wants to try a new approach to helping the community pitch in: making it easier to build a small cottage.
O’Brien hopes to add a small pilot program to Seattle’s biennial budget, which the Seattle City Council is currently in the process of building. $300,000 would allow homeowners and community organizations to apply for one of 12 grants of $25,000 that could go toward providing long-term, affordable housing on their property, covering up to half the cost. The money would come out of the city’s general fund and be distributed to Housing and Human Services to administer.
Unlike the tiny houses common in sanctioned city encampments, these tiny houses—like the kind popular amongst housed people looking to downsize—would be up to building code for long-term housing, although the grant outlines the homes as temporary. They have plumbing, electrical, and cooking needs taken care of. Rents would have to be well below market rate.
“This could be a permanent home for someone,” O’Brien told Curbed Seattle. “They’re just small.”
“I’m not going to pretend that $300,000 and 12 units is going to drastically change the landscape of housing and homelessness in Seattle,” said O’Brien, but it provides an opportunity for the city to “learn something from these pilots and see if there’s something we can take to a bigger scale.”