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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Venting About Housing In Seattle

Here's a "Reader's View" editorial from the Seattle Times that I bookmarked a while back and apparently lost in the shuffle.

In my small neighborhood, I can point out several recent density actions. You decide if they were for the better or for the worse.
  • On the corner of Norman and Bradner in the Mount Baker neighborhood, two single-family houses were razed to make room for 10 — yes, 10 — townhouses. These townhouses are priced in the $400,000-plus range. This is affordable housing for whom?
Were bus routes added to handle the new riders? No. Were the streets widened to handle more traffic? No. Were the parking lots in the neighborhood shopping areas expanded to handle more cars? No. Were any neighborhood city streets improved? No.

As far as I can tell, the infrastructure has not changed to accommodate the increased density.
Where are the affordable houses for those middle-income people who can't afford the median price of a home? What if they prefer not to pay $300 a square foot for a condo? What about the possibility of rent control? How many more people will be homeless as a result of the density building plan?
The piece is pretty short—I've quoted nearly all of it here. Ms. McCarthy doesn't seem to have a single point she's trying to make, but is rather expressing general distress at the state of housing and density in Seattle. Obviously I agree that middle-income people don't really have an affordable option for buying a home in Seattle right now, but I don't know where she's coming from with the comments about rent control. Last I checked rent is pretty affordable right now, and despite what the papers say, I haven't seen it creeping up. It's certainly frustrating not being able to afford a house, but renting is still a very viable alternative.

(Meg McCarthy, Seattle Times, 03.25.2006)


Anonymous said...

Perhaps rents aren't creeping up in Kenmore, but they are in Seattle.

2.7% in 2005, 4.6% in 2006 - projections are for another 4.6% in 2007.

seattlerenter3 said...

I haven't seen rents go anywhere.

One of the big white elephants in the room is that Seattle's population is growing, yes. BUT, the population here is highly mobile. There are a lot of tech workers and college students here; those are the two most mobile social populations in the country. Many people move here for work (or school) and pad their resume for what it's worth, and then they move on.

The truth is: people move here and leave just as fast as they came. And there are all sorts of reasons for this, but what it amounts to is that the rental population has not changed significantly -- it just shifts. Meanwhile, the supply of rentals also shifts ... apartment buildings are converting to condos but there is still a pretty large number of vacancies (and a large number of houseshares and MILs and other "unchecked inventory).

I paid less than $1000 for a 2 bd in Seattle four years ago, and I'm still paying less than $1000 for a 2 bd today. I suspect that I'm not the only one who has not had a rent increase.

optioned unarmed said...

Higher density will probably EVENTUALLY translate into more affordable housing.

Just because the developer is selling 400K townhomes doesn't mean these will always be 400K townhomes. Once the speculation is out of the market, these may easily be 200K townhomes.

Thinking longer term, this is a good reason to embrace growth/density even if the new units are originally priced high.

predictions said...

Anon 9:28

Projections?!?? Hard to predict much with the world scene changing as fast as it is.

The US economy is perfectly poised to take a major hit.

We'll know better by Fall what our future will look like.

Anonymous said...

Ms McCarthy is a little all over the map in her logic.

How does increased density lead to homelessness?

Anonymous said...

Bah... 300 per square foot is nothing. The cheapest condo in Silicon Valley is $5xx per square foot.