Friday, June 12, 2015

Rooming House Definitions

Renting by the room, affordable housing - what are the options? Here are the definitions - and distinctions between some of the most affordable forms of housing you may have heard about in Seattle:

Single Resident Occupancy (SROs)
Single room occupancy (more commonly SRO, sometimes called a single resident occupancy) is a form of housing in which one or two people are housed in individual rooms (sometimes two rooms, or two rooms with a bathroom or half bathroom) within a multiple-tenant building. The term is primarily used in Canadian and American cities. SRO tenants typically share bathrooms and/or kitchens, while some SRO rooms may include kitchenettes, bathrooms, or half-baths. Although many are former hotels, SROs are primarily rented as a permanent residence.

Single room occupancies are often a form of affordable housing for low-income and formerly homeless individuals.

Rooming house
Rooming house means a residential house of which most or some of the rooms are rented out to paying customers by the owner of the residential house. It is a place where individuals who are living in that house share the bathroom and the kitchen. Rooms are frequently furnished. The occupant of a rooming house is called a roomer. Often used synonymously with lodging house.

Rooming houses differ from SROs in that they are located in single family residences, as opposed to a multiple tenant building. My properties in Leschi and Ballard are rooming houses, where I rent out rooms on a short-term basis (furnished in Leschi; only the common areas are furnished in Ballard).

Boarding house
A rooming house with meals

Sometimes called lodging houses, flophouses generally have shared bathroom facilities and sometimes just designated areas to lay out sleeping pads or cots. The people who make use of these places are often transients. Quarters in flophouses are typically very small, and may resemble office cubicles more than a regular room in a hotel or apartment building.

Urban Dictionary defines "flophouse" as: Any house/apartment/frat house/trailer/etc. which is used for individuals to crash (sleep, chill, hang out, lurk, etc.) for a period of time. In order to "crash", one must not actually live there (e.g. have their name on the lease, own said flophouse, etc.). Flophouses are typically used by college students, drug addicts, transients, vagrants, or other unsavory characters. Regulations have eliminated this housing option in most American cities. Aside from homeless shelters, North America no longer has flophouses.

According to the City of Seattle, a micro-apartment cannot:
  • Be larger than 285 sq ft.
  • Have an oven or cooktop.
  • Be without one 120 sq ft kitchen for every eight residents.
  • Have a sink outside the bathroom.
  • Have “no more than 8 micros (or 8 unrelated individuals)…located in a micro dwelling unit.”
  • Have less than one bike parking station per four micro-unit residents.
  • Be built in single family zones.
Congregate Housing
More than eight micros in a dwelling unit, such as dormitories and senior housing.

Cottage Housing
The City of Seattle defines these legally as Detached Accessory Dwelling Units, which are allowed on city lots of at least 4000sf. The Seattle Planning Commission supports backyard cottages because they generally provide lower cost rental housing options, an opportunity for homeowners to offset the cost of their homeownership, and housing options for extended family members. More details may be found in the following link:
Backyard Cottage Guide 

These structures are small: Seattle’s code limits them to a footprint of 800 square feet, and they max out at 22 feet tall. Construction costs typically range from $50,000 to $80,000, although more elaborate units can cost upward of $140,000 to build. Some homeowners use the freestanding cottages as home offices, or as extra room for when relatives visit. Others are building them as in-law apartments for aging parents, or as crash pads for post-college children who can’t yet afford their own place. But a large number of homeowners are actually renting the cottages to tenants. (City law requires that the homeowners live on the property at least six months out of the year.) In some cases, the owners themselves have moved into the backyard cottage in order to rent out the larger house facing the street.

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)
These may be detached (as defined above) or attached ADUs (also known as Mother-in-Law apartments). An accessory dwelling unit is a separate living space within a house or on the same property as an existing house. These units aren’t legal unless they have been established through a permit process. A legally permitted unit in the home is called an accessory dwelling unit (ADU).
  • An ADU is limited to 1,000 square feet in a single-family structure and up to 650 square feet in a rowhouse or townhouse
  • The ADU must meet current standards of the Seattle residential, building, mechanical, electrical and energy codes
  • One off-street parking space is required for the ADU except for a rowhouse or townhouse in designated urban villages and urban centers and in lowrise zones
Illegal Living Units
Illegal units are living spaces, usually apartments including separate kitchens and bathrooms, that were installed without a permit and may not meet the City’s zoning requirements and safety standards.
This section does not cover:
  • Rooming and boarding houses
  • Legal mother-in-law units (accessory dwelling units) that were established by permit
  • Vacation rental units
So there you have it! Those are the distinctions between various types of affordable income properties in the city of Seattle.

Happy Investing! 

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