Seattle could see more backyard cottages, mother-in-law units

SEATTLE -- More backyard cottages and mother-in-law units could be heading to Seattle, in a move proponents say will be good for people struggling to find affordable housing.

A hearing examiner decided Monday that an environmental review of rule changes to backyard cottages and mother-in-laws was adequate. The ruling clears the way for changes in height, size and the number of people that can reside in the accessory-dwelling units.

It also may pave the way for units at homes where a homeowner doesn't live.

Backyard cottages and mother-in-laws have been legal in Seattle for some time, but many said rules were too restrictive and cumbersome. Proponents say changes will help bring more density to Seattle.

Mike O'Brien, a Seattle City Councilmember who championed loosening restrictions, said he's happy to see backyard cottages move forward after years of work.

"We want to loosen the regulations to allow for more housing opportunities in some of the greatest communities within the greatest neighborhoods in Seattle," O'Brien said.

The loosening of restrictions were opposed by some neighborhood groups, saying it could lead to more gentrification. Martin Kaplan with the Queen Anne Community Council, a group that opposed rule changes, said he's still processing the hearing examiner's decision.

O'Brien said he hopes to bring changes to the council in the next couple of weeks. A public hearing could come as soon as June, he said.