Seattle Neighbourhood Densification: Bring On the Mid-Rises! . . . Hunh?

a mid rise (4 storey) apartment building
This scene was created by and is licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication
A mid-rise apartment building adds significant density in a single family neighbourhood.

Here’s a meander towards an unexpected quirk in the news. In some countries, the local press tends to be infected by NIMBY1 hostility. Hardly surprising that any quiet, exclusive, suburban neighbourhood, and where there is actually a local press, would reflect anti-invasion sentiments. The invaders can be literally anyone who doesn’t already live there and is moving into housing that one way or another increases density, thus threatening an idyllic neighbourhood lifestyle.

What really gets under the NIMBY’s skin is the suggestion that the new housing be ‘social housing.’ At the moment, activists are pressing a case in the United States for social housing (not bad old ‘public housing’). Social housing is imagined to satisfy the needs and desires of not only lower classes, but middle classes as well.

Untested social housing, which will be loved-by-all, isn’t likely to impress a NIMBY-saturated neighbourhood. Any kind of change to the cherished status quo will be resented, including middle class invaders in ‘social housing’ developments. But if you read on patiently, you’ll discover that from Seattle, comes this unexpected quirk.

It’s certainly not hard to appreciate the angst in a quiet neighbourhood of single detached homes, should a city decide that it needs more citizen to swell its tax-based coffers by changing its by-laws to allow apartment/condo HIGH rises. That’s guaranteed to throw shade on local garden carrots!

And indeed, pioneering cities determined to expand urban density have restricted ‘upscaling’ housing density to duplexes, or slightly denser ‘plexes2. operates from a ‘plexible’ neighbourhood. Nearby are buildings with two basement apartments, two first storey apartments and two second story apartments, all adding up to a sixplex. The sixplexes are no higher than the neighbouring single detached dwellings. Sixplexes can blend easily into a neighbourhood of single family homes.

And now we’ve finally arrived at the point! Some Seattle neighbourhoods have turned up their noses at ‘plexes’ in favour of even more density. Polls suggest that mid-rise apartment buildings are preferred to six-plexes. Wow! We would never have predicted that. Several storeys of mid-rise make quite a statement compared to a shy-violet sixplex!

Read more in The Urbanist: Seattleites Want Mid-Rise Social Housing Even More Than Sixplexes, Polls Shows


  1. NIMBY = Not In My Back Yard
  2. Try: Is Minneapolis Now Reaping The Fruits Of Anti-NIMBY Bylaw Change?