“Ready made” ADUS: a small solution to Washington’s housing crisis

Washington State is facing an unprecedented housing crisis.  We have the lowest ratio of dwelling units to households of any state in the country, according to an EcoNorthwest study published by the Washington State Department of Commerce. Put simply, there aren’t enough houses to meet demand.

One Washington city, however, has developed a creative approach to the housing shortage.

Renton’s PRADU program “…should serve as a model for cities throughout the Central Puget’s Sound Region.”

Last year, the city of Renton launched its “Permit Ready Accessory Dwelling Unit Program,” (PRADU) offering pre-approved ADU models ranging from 418 to 989 square feet. Accessory Dwelling Units, small residential units typically located on the same lot as a single-family home, allow homeowners to age-in-place, rent, or create room for family members — all without moving the urban growth line. PRADU’s aren’t a “silver bullet” to the housing shortage, Associate Planner Katie Buchl-Morales said, but they are a meaningful step toward increasing housing.

The “Olympics” design, 2 Beds / 1 Bath, at 602 sqft. Renderings from City of Renton.

Out of eight base plans, Renton’s PRADU program offers 32 designs that include lofts, garages, 2 floor and 3-bedroom structures.

Katie, when looking for her own home to purchase, sought the kind of economical and stylish designs the PRADU program offers. “Oftentimes people associate small with inferior, and that’s not true with our plans,” Katie said. “You don’t have to sacrifice design for something small.”

Renton is not the first to launch a program like this (Encinitas, California, and Lacey, Washington, both have versions). They are, however, the first to cut or eliminate impact fees and provide applicants with technical assistance, including 3D Sketchup modelling. These cost-lowering perks allow a greater pool of applicants to utilize the PRADU program, a major objective of the PRADU team.

The “Baker” design (B3), 1 Bed + Loft / 1 Bath, at 418 sqft. Rendering from City of Renton.

There are still obstacles, such as inflated construction costs and technical problems associated with septic systems, impervious surface limits, and land hazards. But the PRADU team remains confident. After all, they accomplished an impressive feat. On top of coordinating an ordinance with city council, the planning commission, and the Engineering and Public Works departments in Renton City government, the PRADU team developed most of the program remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Sam Pace, Housing Specialist with Seattle King County REALTORS®, Renton’s PRADU program “…should serve as a model for cities throughout the Central Puget’s Sound Region.”

Help us address our state’s housing crisis by getting involved. Join us on January 20th for Washington REALTORS® Virtual Legislative Days when we advocate for solutions in our region’s housing crisis.

Featured banner renderings from City of Renton