More and more DADUs (“Detached Accessory Dwelling Units”) are popping up in Seattle after the city relaxed regulations last summer.
From a homeowner wanting a new rental revenue stream, to a family taking care of an elderly parent, to a musician wanting an on-site studio, to a recently divorced couple looking for a more convenient way to co-parent, homeowners are turning to these micro-homes.
A DADU is a separate living space under 1,000 square feet on the same property as an existing house. Many people know them colloquially as “backyard cottages.” Tiny houses with foundations are considered DADUs, as are mother-in-law units not connected to a property’s primary dwelling. The legal definition includes a few more requirements, such as maximum height (18 feet), minimum lot size (3,200 feet), and maximum household size (12 unrelated people on a single lot).
When Seattle initially legalized DADUs in 2009, most of them were used as true mother-in-laws. A relative occupied the small unit, where they could easily receive care and companionship while still retaining independence. Today, however, as opportunities to build DADUs have increased, only 10 percent of these projects are used as mother-in-law suites.
By building a DADU, a homeowner can effectively split their single-family lot in two (or even into three, in some cases). The homeowner can continue to live in the main house, while a renter can occupy the DADU. A few homeowners have reversed the norm, downsizing into the DADU themselves and renting their main house for even greater new income.
“You’d be surprised at how spacious a small home can feel,” said Bruce Parker, founder of Microhouse. “A 600-square-foot house seems much larger than a 600-square-foot apartment.”
With a few tricks perfected by the tiny home movement, DADU developers can maximize space in these small homes. A covered deck, for instance, doesn’t count toward the square footage cap. Miniature appliances can keep a kitchen cozy, and built-in cabinets and furniture with storage can save precious square footage. A three-fourth bathtub, under-stair storage, and hanging door racks can also help someone fit their lives into less than 1,000 square feet.
You can read more about official DADU requirements and laws on our website, or you can read Seattle Met’s exposé on one couple’s transition into DADU living. And, of course, you can always give us a call at 206-339-9677.