Steve Brown built this small, detached home in the back of his property after the City of Lynnwood allowed a provision for this type of development. (Contributed photo)

Steve Brown built this small, detached home in the back of his property after the City of Lynnwood allowed a provision for this type of development. (Contributed photo)

Mother-in-law homes popular after cities ease restrictions

Lynnwood and Everett are seeing a spurt of growth after changing city codes to allow for this development.

LYNNWOOD — Steve Brown sees it as an affordability issue.

As home prices skyrocket, the Lynnwood man became a proponent of cities allowing property owners to build mother-in-law homes.

He wanted to build a home at the back of his property for his mother about a decade ago. Lynnwood made no provisions for these types of detached units.

He was part of a group that argued for the idea, but the City Council rejected it in 2009. The issue went away and Brown’s mother, who lived three blocks away from him, died a few years later.

More than a year ago, there was a renewed effort. Brown again was a proponent of the idea, but this time for a different reason. He wanted to build a small cottage where his grown son could live — paying rent — while saving money for his own place to live.

“When I got out of college, I got married and could save enough money to put down a down payment,” Brown said. “These millennials can’t do that. It’s practically impossible for them to put together the money for a down payment.”

He argued that as home prices escalate that this could help residents who are seeking to aid their parents or their grown children. Median home prices in Lynnwood have climbed more than $100,000 over the past decade, up to $444,000 from $331,000 in 2008, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Lynnwood voted in December 2016 to allow detached homes, units with kitchens and baths, to be built on properties with existing homes.

In February last year, Everett allowed detached units to be built.

The concept has proved more popular than expected in Lynnwood, said Todd Hall, the planning manager for the city. He said the city has received a dozen applications for these units.

“There’s such a demand for housing and the need for other alternatives has significantly increased over the last several years,” Hall said.

For the secondary unit to be leased, Lynnwood’s ordinance requires that the additional home be on the side or back of the house, that it fit with the original house and neighborhood, and that the original house be occupied by the owner.

Hall said there were concerns that this ordinance was a back-door measure to allow more density in Lynnwood. He said the city’s comprehensive plan funnels large-scale development into the City Center area south of the Lynnwood Convention Center, around the Alderwood mall and along Highway 99. The comprehensive plan protects single-family housing from increased density.

In Everett, seven homeowners have applied to build these so-called mother-in-law units since the ordinance was passed last year, said Allan Giffen, the city’s planning director.

He said that some of the applications could be a built-up demand for this type of housing. He also said as home prices increase, this is an option for homeowners to gain a new income stream with their properties.

Some of Everett’s older housing stock had mother-in-law homes built on the properties, but when the city established its housing codes in the 1950s, the idea wasn’t included.

Both Lynnwood and Everett had provisions for attached units. Those never proved very popular. Lynnwood had received just 10 applications in the past five years; Everett has received just more than 20 applications over the past 20 years.

Brown offers a reason. He thinks there’s a need for the space between the primary house and the extra unit. Aging parents and grown children value their privacy and independence even when living on the same property with loved ones.

He attests to the standards that went into building his secondary unit. He had to bring paint, siding and roofing samples to City Hall. He finished the 765-square-foot home, which has one-bedroom, an L-shaped kitchen, a bath with a shower and no tub, in November.

“I’m delighted that the city took another look at it,” Brown said. “The bureaucracy moves pretty slow.”

Jim Davis: 425-339-3097; jdavis@heraldnet.com; @HBJnews.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

County lost 100 aerospace manufacturing jobs in June

At 6.1%, Snohomish County has the sixth-highest unemployment rate in Washington.

The growing business district along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, looking west toward I-5. At lower left is the construction site of the new Amazon fulfillment center. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald)
Marysville-Arlington road improvements won’t happen at once

Traffic improvement projects near the Cascade Industrial Center will take shape over the next decade.

A line of Southwest Air Boeing 737 jets are parked near the company's production plant while being stored at Paine Field Friday, April 23, 2021, in Everett, Wash. Boeing reported its first quarterly profit since 2019 and revenue topped expectations, as the giant aircraft maker tries to dig out from the most difficult stretch in its history. Boeing said Wednesday, July 28, 2021, that it earned $567 million in the second quarter, compared with a $2.4 billion loss a year ago. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Boeing, for first time since 2019, has a profitable quarter

The earnings hint at a potential turnaround after one of the worst financial crises in the company’s history.

About 4,000 Snohomish County tenants approved for rent help

While some eviction restrictions have eased, it’s unclear what the effect will be here.

FILE - In this June 18, 2015, file photo, an Airbus A380 takes off for its demonstration flight at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget airport, north of Paris. European planemaker Airbus reports that it made 1.87 billion euros profit in the second quarter. That's a relief after a loss in the same quarter a year ago during the depths of the pandemic shutdowns and travel restrictions. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)
Airbus, Boeing rivalry is back on as sales campaigns pick up

The improving outlook comes amid a travel reopening that’s gathering pace in some key markets.

Festive seafood specialties, modern delicacies with a beautiful presentation on the plate. Delicious dish - tender fish meat, with greens, lemon and vegetables. Cartoon vector.
You voted: The best seafood in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, people have their favorites

File - In this Sept. 24, 2014 file photo, smoke hangs over Reno-Tahoe International Airport as a plane takes off in Reno, Nev. A shortage of jet fuel, coupled with supply chain issues and an urgent demand from firefighting aircraft, continues to cause problems at airports around the West. In Nevada, state and federal lawmakers said they are investigating a possible shortage of jet fuel that could delay cargo delivery and passenger travel at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in the coming days. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine, File)
Airports in the US West dealing with shortage of jet fuel

Supply chain issues and an urgent demand from firefighting aircraft have combined to cause problems.

sandwich with ham, tomatoes, lettuce and toast isolated on white background, healthy breakfast, lunch
You voted: The best darn sandwich in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, people have their favorites

FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2019, file photo, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at a news conference in Seattle. Washington state sued Johnson & Johnson on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, claiming the company was negligent when it used deceptive marketing to say the drugs were effective for treating pain and were unlikely to cause addiction. The lawsuit filed Thursday says the company that supplies raw materials used to make opiates drove the pharmaceutical industry to recklessly expand the production of the drugs. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Washington AG rejects opioids settlement, wants trial

The proposal would pay Washington about $527.5 million over 18 years if cities and counties opt in.

This photo provided by Blue Origin,   Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, exits the  Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule after it parachuted safely down to the launch area with passengers Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk, near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.  (Blue Origin via AP)
Blue Origin’s Bezos reaches space on 1st passenger flight

The Amazon founder is the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft.

The first flight for United Airlines servicing Paine Field taxis to the gate on March 31, 2019. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
Come October, United Airlines will discontinue flights at Paine Field

The airline is one of two commercial carriers at the Everett airport. United flies to Denver.