Sightline Series

Legalizing Inexpensive Housing

Affordable housing is lacking across the Northwest, with housing policy here effectively excluding from the market many lower-cost options for low-income families and individuals. A raft of outdated laws bans the types of residential arrangements that once housed most of the North American working class—rooms that were safe, comfortable, and convenient but small and basic.

As a result, families may scrimp on food or heat to be sure they can pay rent each month; they may opt for black-market housing; or they may even go homeless. Everyone deserves a clean, safe place to live; but beyond safety regulations, not everyone needs or desires a floor plan up to the middle-class standards mandated by housing rules. In this series, Alan Durning explores the key laws that prevent smart, affordable housing arrangements of the past from getting to market today, and he looks to a Northwest revival of inexpensive housing options.

Posts on Legalizing Inexpensive Housing

14. Seattle Goes Backward on Micro-housing

What will it take to build a power base for inexpensive housing?

13. Bring Back the Boarding House

Sightline e-book: how to grow affordable housing with century-old ideas.

12. WSJ on Vancouver’s add-on dwellings

The Journal looks to Cascadia for vision of urban future.

11. The Biggest Blind Spot of Urban Greens?

It's zoning.

10. ADUs and Don’ts

The gauntlet of rules that in-law and cottage units must run.

9. Nothing ADU-ing

In-law units and cottages are rare in most places.

8. In-law—and Out-law—Apartments

How to double neighborhood housing without anyone noticing.

7. Servants Welcome, Roommates Barred

Ending occupancy limits.

6. The Roommate Gap: Your City’s Occupancy Limit

No reality TV (or reality?) for us.

5. Unlocking Spare Bedrooms: Occupancy Limits

A surfeit of sleeping quarters.