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Insights Helping the Housing Crisis

BRAINSTORM

By Andy McAndrews

Homes of all shapes and sizes are seeing incredibly low inventory and, demand is overwhelming supply, driving prices up. A land surveying company has little impact on balancing this out on the whole, but there are available efforts to help. One of the ways to improve this situation is to facilitate the process for increased density and new home construction. As logical as that seems, it really is not that simple. The permitting process for this effort is challenging, time-consuming, and expensive. Working collaboratively with cities and regulatory agencies through this process is a necessity and something Terrane excels at. While some cities have figured out user-friendly processes that encourage increasing density and ultimately increased homeownership, others still lack straightforward regulations and processes for this.

A recent example and excellent case study is the city of Shoreline. Located just north of Seattle, arguably the leader in establishing regulations that encourage increased housing density and homeownership through their Unit Lot Subdivision process, the city of Shoreline has taken steps to facilitate a similar process.

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Initially, rezoning a large swath of the city located adjacent to future light rail or mass transit infrastructure from low-density single-family to higher density residential allowed for a significant uptick in townhouse projects. Many of these allow what was formerly one home to be developed into many more units. However, simply adding density only solves part of the problem. Shoreline had no specific regulatory process for creating fee-simple ownership of each unit on these lots, and many were left to become condominium units or simply rentals.

Through significant efforts driven by the developer of one of these projects, Terrane was able to work with the city directly to further evolve their code to allow for a path to create fee-simple lots within these developments. Terrane’s collaboration on this project and our expertise with Seattle’s Unit Lot Subdivision process resulted in the first of its kind subdivision within the city of Shoreline. While still evolving, Shoreline now has regulations that allow these multi-unit development projects to go through a short subdivision process resulting in the ability to sell each unit separately. Many more of these projects have been completed since.

Most importantly, Terrane was able to leverage our familiarity with Seattle’s well-established process for similar development projects and assist in educating the city about the process and result desired. Through significant effort along the way, there is now an established process that both increases density and allows for more affordable home availability within the city. While this is a small step forward, it can be a great template for other jurisdictions too.

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