KUOW’s The Ripple Effect: Four big housing ideas that could reshape greater Seattle

The greater Seattle metro region is a hotbed of housing experimentation right now.

In many different cities, people are talking about new ideas, new approaches to this problem of how to build enough housing without tearing apart vulnerable communities in the process.

KUOW takes a look at this in a three-part series called The Ripple Effect. Visit the link to read more.

Here is an excerpt featuring our work:

Our third stop is in Renton, where Wanda Maldonado recently purchased a home from Habitat for Humanity.

caption: Wanda Maldonado with her family. Left to right, they are Angel Maldonado, Annalina Rivera, Wanda Maldonado, Talieana Rivera with dog Jiffy.

You may be familiar with Habitat — they’ve been building affordable single family homes since the 1970s. But there’s something new they’re doing now that adds another solution to the mix: they’re building something called “missing middle housing.” We’ll get to that in a minute.

Wanda Maldonado was already crowded with two teenaged daughters and a small dog named Jiffy in their two-bedroom apartment on Beacon Hill when their family added yet another member.

Hurricanes and an earthquake had left her father in Puerto Rico sick and isolated. Maldonado took him in.

“It was time, it was past time,” she said.

But where would she put him? She tried stuffing him into a shared room with daughters, who were already at each others’ throats, “fighting over clothes, and don’t touch this.” It didn’t work.

Thanks to Maldonado’s careful financial habits, she was pre-approved for a $400,000 home purchase. But she kept getting outbid on everything.

Luckily for her, Habitat for Humanity in King County had made a strategic change that allowed it to serve a lot more people. They decided to stop building single-family homes and focus exclusively on duplexes, triplexes, townhomes, row houses, and small condo buildings. That’s “missing middle housing,” the kind of housing serving middle-income families that’s been missing from the market.

Brett D’Antonio is the CEO of the local Habitat branch.

“It’s about how can we have the greatest impact. If we were to find and secure single-family lots, we’d only be able to help a handful of families a year.”

– Habitat SKC CEO Brett D’Antonio

But by developing only in areas that have up-zoned to accommodate density, “whether it’s townhomes or stacked flat condos, we’re able to build 50 or more homes a year.” Maldonado said her four-bedroom row house has solved many of her problems, and that everyone now has their own rooms.

Habitat has started investing heavily in communities that allow missing middle housing options. In fact, it’s new zoning rules allowing things like backyard cottages that have drawn Habitat back to Seattle, where’s they’re now investing heavily after years of avoiding the city. They’ve been working on a South Park project that replaced a single-family home with 13 small homes, and recently completed another multifamily project in Lake City.