September 18, 2020
By Emily F. Keller
City of Seattle Launches ADUniverse Website Based on Data Science for Social Good Project

The City of Seattle has launched a new housing tool called ADUniverse following the creation of a prototype at the University of Washington Data Science for Good (DSSG) program, hosted by the eScience Institute.

The DSSG project, ADUniverse: Evaluating the Feasibility of (Affordable) Accessory Dwelling Units in Seattle was conducted in summer 2019. The DSSG team, in collaboration with the City, produced a feasibility tool for homeowners interested in creating an ADU on their property for rental income, as space for visitors, or to house family, as part of a broader City initiative to increase affordable housing.

Earlier this month, the City launched a public website, pictured above, featuring the tool that was first created at the DSSG. The website launch recently appeared in The Urbanist.

The DSSG project was led by Rick Mohler, Associate Professor in the UW Department of Architecture, and Nick Welch, Senior Planner at the City of Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development. The fellows were Emily A. Finchum-Mason, Yuanhao Niu, Adrian Mikelangelo Tullock and Anagha Uppal, and the Data Science Lead was Joseph Hellerstein, a research scientist at the eScience Institute. The program is led by Program Director Sarah Stone and Program Chair Anissa Tanweer.

The team utilized technical tools such as Python, SQL, and GIS to work with open-source data from the King County Assessor, OpenStreetMap and the City of Seattle’s GIS data, along with financial data from Zillow. The project’s Github page uses open-source code. The prototype tool addressed design, permitting, construction and financing issues, with a calculator to estimate construction costs, property loans, monthly payments and predicted changes in assessed property value. An interactive map shows eligibility data for constructing an ADU, aggregated by neighborhood, combined with population and income statistics. Users can enter their address to see the locations of ADUs in their neighborhood.

In July 2020, the DSSG project was also featured in Architect Magazine, which awarded the project a 2020 R+D Award.