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Expanding Housing Supply with Light-Touch Density: City of Seattle Case Study

American Enterprise Institute

January 24, 2024

Executive Summary

The formula for housing abundance is straightforward:

  • Enable by-right zoning
  • Allow greater density in lots of areas, particularly around walkable, amenity-rich commercial areas
  • Follow the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle
  • Don’t put all eggs in one basket
    • Complement high-rise Transit-oriented Development with Light-touch Density to also provide naturally affordable homes and wealth building homeownership opportunities.

Micro-managing this process won’t work. Planners need to get out of the way and let the market build more housing.

  • Beware of the recommendations of the federal government, which likes complex, one-size-fits all solutions that don’t follow the KISS principle.
  • Allowing moderately higher density in areas zoned for single-family detached has been proven to unleash a swarm of small-scale builders and developers.