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City Council Puts Kibosh on In-Law Units

"Honey," says your spouse, "My mom's coming for a nice, long visit. Er, actually, she's coming to live with us."

"Good thing we have that mother-in-law apartment in the basement," you say, unless you have neither basement nor apartment, in which case, you set about building a cute little house in your spacious back yard.

"Not so fast," says the Seattle City Council.

Trouble is, three years ago, the Council approved backyard "cottages" of up to 800 sq. ft., the size of a modest one-bedroom apartment. Alas, some property owners have been using side lots to build what appear to be perfectly legal two- and three-story townhouses.

It's a case of advocates for urban density versus, well, not the classic NIMBYs but NIYBs: not in your backyard. Particularly incensed are leafy neighborhoods with big houses on big lots (like Laurelhurst) where home owners fear that the profile of a neighbor's townhouse will rise above the privet hedge...and neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, already suffering from a surfeit of tiny dwelling units (disdainfully called apodments).

Sensing, perhaps, that there's a potential for voter backlash in an election year, the Council decided this week that the dozen or so recent "backyard, sidelot houses" constitute an emergency and have temporarily banned any new construction on parcels currently zoned for single-family housing.

The Council now has a year to come up with a permanent solution.

· Microhousing Mayhem [CS]