Here's yet another article in the Times focusing in on condo conversions:
In the first six months of this year, 1,162 Seattle apartments have become condos or are headed for conversion, a pace that would far exceed last year's total of 1,551 conversions.Still not even a passing mention of converted condos going back onto the rental market. I'm not saying that is happening en masse, but I know that it is happening, and I am disappointed that it isn't even mentioned in an article like this.
The trend is happening outside Seattle, as well. Last year saw about 4,000 units converted to condos in the Puget Sound area, according to Dupre+Scott Apartment Advisors. Those conversions resulted in a net loss of apartments because they exceeded the number of new rental units built.
John Fox, coordinator of the Seattle Displacement Coalition, a group of low-income-housing advocates, said the city's response to conversions has been weak. Fox recalls a similar condo surge in the late 1970s that led then-Mayor Charles Royer to impose a temporary moratorium on conversions. Fox said city officials should consider another moratorium.
"It should be a subject of grave concern, but we're sitting on our hands, by and large," he said.
Others, such as Ring and Adrienne Quinn, the city's housing director, say more information would be helpful before Seattle acts. It's not clear, they say, how many low-income renters are losing apartments to conversions. And, on the positive side, they say conversions are increasing home-ownership opportunities, particularly in the $250,000 range.
"It isn't peachy and good. But it's more complicated than it usually looks," Ring said. "One of the things I don't know, and I'd like to know, is who exactly is being affected by condo conversion."
City Councilman Tom Rasmussen wants the same answers, so he's created a committee that he hopes will provide recommendations about Seattle's apartment market to the City Council.
"For the most part, the people I hear from are not able to buy their units, and we don't want people to have to leave the city," he said.
The bottom line, according to real-estate experts and developers, is that conversions are being driven by Seattle's job growth and hot housing market, which has shown a strong appetite for condos, making it lucrative for apartment building owners to sell.
I certainly can't say that I blame apartment building owners for jumping on the condo conversion bandwagon. With rents having been virtually stagnant the last few years while real estate prices have shot through the roof, converting your apartment building into condos is like winning the lottery—for those that get in before the market stagnates/drops, that is. Or do we all really believe that people will continue to happily fork over $250,000+ for a tiny studio apartment in a run-down building from now until eternity?
(Bob Young, Seattle Times , 07.12.2006)