Back to the small future

October 7, 2008

By Jim Feehan

City looks at  cottage housing

With available land to build on dwindling in Newcastle, city officials are looking at a century-old model for housing. 

Cottage housing is a throwback to the bungalow courtyard, a design that appeared in the 1920s, before traditional, single-family tract housing gave form to postwar suburbia.Cottage homes follow a familiar tradition of prominent front porches, not the tiny raised decks some developers pass off as porches. Residents can sit in front of their homes, stretch out with a good book or chat with passing neighbors.


An example of cottage housing in Kirkland. Contributed

An example of cottage housing in Kirkland. Contributed

The Planning Commission has been looking into cottage housing for the past seven months and commission members have toured cottage housing in Kirkland and other cities. The proposed cottage housing code permits four to 16 single-family units arranged on at least two sides of a common open space. No more than 30 percent of the cottages may exceed a floor area of 1,300 square feet, and no cottage shall be more than 1,500 square feet.

All of the cottages are required to have porches. The code also has provisions for the height of the cottage, roof pitch, yard size and parking. Cottage houses must be 1,000 feet from each other, so as to not cluster too many in any given area. Cottage housing developments consisting of 10 units or more must have one unit affordable to households earning 100 percent or less of the King County median income ($56,980 for a two-person household), said Steve Roberge, the city’s community development director.

“This is another tool in our toolbox of housing choices in Newcastle,” he said. “It creates a different type of community by creating a small neighborhood in itself.”

Cottage housing does increase density, which may create some concern in neighborhoods. Neighborhoods zoned R-4 (four dwellings per acre) would be able to have eight dwellings. 

Kandy Schendel, a member of the Newcastle Planning Commission, said cottage housing would fit the bill for pocket development. Talk cottages and neighbors think slums, which is not the case with cottage development, Schendel said.

“There’s smaller homes, but certainly not cheap homes,” she said.

At the low end, a one-bedroom, one-bath house in the Danielson Grove cottage development in Kirkland recently went up for sale for $399,950.

Cottage homebuyers are a mix of empty nesters, retirees, small families with one child or none, Roberge said.

“A Kirkland developer said cottage housing is very popular with middle-aged, single women,” he said. “The developer went on to say one of the Seahawks just bought a cottage house.”

Sam Anderson, executive officer of the Master Builder’s Association of King & Snohomish Counties, said he is enthused about cottage housing.

“Anything we can do to encourage growth inside the urban growth boundaries is great,” he said.

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