By Eric Mathison
To address the issue of affordable housing in the city, one Burien businessman is thinking big…and small.
He is studying the feasibility of building a 12-story building with 290 “microapartments” located in downtown Burien. The development would rise at SW 150th Street and 4th Ave SW, behind Grocery Outlet.
Each microapartment would be 150-350 square-feet with targeted rent around $600 per month.
He doesn’t want to be identified. He wants the focus to be on the idea, not him.
“The idea is very aggressive,” he declares. “It is so far out in left field we have to look at the aspect of whether it is possible.”
The businessman has created a website at www.burienmicroapartments.com to show possible concepts and unit sizes. If deemed feasible, he would go ahead with a final design.
Here are some renderings:
He is eager for comments, both pro and con, and invites all to email [email protected] with feedback.
“When you throw out an idea, you need to get feedback,” the businessman notes. “I realize that if you say you are going to build a 12-story building in Burien, somebody is going to have negative things to say.”
He envisions a microapartment as a one-room, self-contained living space designed to accommodate a sitting area, sleeping place, bathroom and kitchenette.
It may have a futon or pull-down bed, folding desks/tables and extra small or hidden appliances.
Modular construction techniques would be used.
The businessman doesn’t want his proposed development labeled as a housing project.
He says it will be managed like a hotel with a front desk occupied 24/7 to control who comes in, who visitors see and why.
The complex will be “first-class” with a staff keeping everything clean and looking good, he insists.
He sees possible tenants as just regular people working or going to college who might not hang out at home much. That’s a positive for city businesses, he suggests. They would be out spending money shopping and dining in Burien.
When he was first starting out, there were plenty of affordable housing options for him but not anymore, he notes.
“There is no shortage of need,” he declares. “Fifteen hundred a month for housing is not cheap enough for people.”
When he and his wife travel, they are “happy as a clam” in their camper for long periods, the businessman notes.
He says the microapartments are about the same size as the largest motor homes and have just about everything that is in a house.
His goal is to charge rent of about $600 per month. Rent increases would be tied to an index so would only go up when there are changes in taxes, insurance, new fees, or utility increases.
If the rents approach the market rate for current housing then the project would be deemed a failure, he notes.
His market-based housing plan means the development would not be subsidized housing, he says.
“Subsidized is not affordable housing,” he declares.
Of course, much of the economic feasibility of the project depends on requirements by the city of Burien.
His plan was presented to city staffers in December with a preapplication meeting in January.
The plan was designed around the concept of affordable housing, not the city’s current zoning code, the businessman says.
The project would not be economically feasible unless the building is tall with many units, according to the businessman. Building a 12-story building would need City Council approval.
Other city requirements would also push up costs, including rental rates.
He says he will know more in about a month on the feasibility of his “pretty bold concept.” For now, he just wants people to know about his plan and provide feedback at www.burienmicroapartments.com.