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Cottage housing trend spreads to Federal Way as architect seeks investors
A local architect hopes to pioneer a type of housing for singles and empty nesters in South King County.
Cottage housing describes a cluster of free-standing homes gathered under specific zoning requirements. The homes are like detached condominiums that share common green spaces and right-of-ways.
Federal Way resident Bill McCaffrey seeks investors to build The Cottage at Mirror Lake in his hometown. Cottage housing appeals to single residents, retired Baby Boomers and professional couples without children, McCaffrey said. The craftsman-style bungalows in his proposed community will measure roughly 1,100-1,300 square feet, with amenities like hardwood floors, a covered front porch, first-floor master bedroom and a small yard.
The future project at 604 SW 312th St. will feature 16 energy-efficient housing units. Four rain gardens will replace the stormwater retention ditches that are found in most neighborhoods. Pervious concrete driveways will help control rain runoff.
McCaffrey would like to break ground on the development this summer in Federal Way, with hopes of buyers moving into the subdivision by March 2013. The homes are expected to be priced under $300,000.
"I want to do these all over South King County," said McCaffrey, whose company The Nexus Studio is dedicated to building cottage housing.
In 2006, Federal Way amended its city code to address zoning for cottage housing. The ordinance, which mentions the lack of cottage housing in South King County, was intended to promote more community-oriented projects and increase the diversity of the local housing supply.
The Growth Management Act, a Washington state law that was passed in 1990, is another motivator behind the Federal Way ordinance. Zoning for cottage housing allows for higher-density development — double the number of units typically approved for a property zoned for residential housing.
The Nexus Studio was chosen by the city following a design competition for cottage housing and sustainable development. In 2010, one other project received preliminary approval from Federal Way. The Cottages at Redondo is a nine-lot proposed development on 18th Avenue South near South 288th Street. That proposal included a central open space and terraced community garden area. However, the developer has not submitted final engineering plans or building permits due to the economic climate, according to Matt Herrera, associate planner for Federal Way.
The city originally approved three cottage housing projects, but one developer was unable to move forward. That third slot may open again as the economy improves, Herrera said.
The Seattle area is considered a leader in cottage housing. Other cities in the Puget Sound region have copied Seattle's lead in cottage zoning provisions to provide more affordable housing, according to seattlepi.com. Among South King County cities, Kent has also addressed zoning for cottage housing.
Despite Seattle's role in pioneering this type of zoning, these so-called pocket neighborhoods are not allowed in the city's single-family zones. Such developments were met with resistance from established neighborhoods that opposed higher population densities. In 2009, Seattle began allowing small backyard cottages in single-family zones citywide. Among the restrictions: each cottage is limited to 800 square feet on a single lot.