Could smaller homes help solve housing shortage in Washington?
by Emily Mack January 12, 2022
Renton’s Permit Ready Accessory Dwelling Unit (PRADU) Program may offer some respite from the state’s current housing crisis, according to a report from Seattle King County REALTORS® (SKCR). In Washington, the ratio of dwelling units to households is now lower than in any other U.S. state. But the city of Renton is working on a new solution.
Due to the housing shortage, accessory dwelling units (ADUs) have become a popular option in Washington. These small, self-contained residential units are built on the lots of existing single-family homes or, often, are attached to the original homes themselves. Making use of limited space, many Washington counties have adopted ordinances encouraging the creation of ADUs in recent years. And taking a cue from those statewide initiatives, Renton launched its own specific PRADU program last year. It was developed in conjunction with the city council, planning commission and the Engineering and Public Works departments.
Renton’s PRADU program offers pre-approved ADU models in eight base plans ranging from 418 to 989 square feet. And most notably, the PRADUs come in a variety of styles: 32 designs including lofts, garages and even two- and three-floor structures. “Oftentimes people associate small with inferior, and that’s not true with our plans,” Associate Planner Katie Buchl-Morales told SKCR. “You don’t have to sacrifice design for something small.”
Although similar strategies have been employed before, in Encinitas, California and Lacey, Washington, Renton’s program undercuts impact fees and provides applicants with technical assistance, like 3D modeling in SketchUp. By cutting costs for applicants, the PRADU program can be useful to more of the public.
While PRADUs are no panacea — typical ADU obstacles, like inflated construction costs and various technical issues, persist — the team in Renton is confident the program will help alleviate some of the housing shortage. And according to Sam Pace, a SKCR housing specialist: “[The PRADU program] should serve as a model for cities throughout the Central Puget’s Sound Region.”