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Monday, February 17, 2014

The Most Interesting Things from Thursday's Housing Forum at City Hall

Posted by on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 4:23 PM

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Last week, Dominic urged you to attend a forum organized by the city council around affordable housing in Seattle. Why did he want you to go hang out at City Hall and watch PowerPoints? Because the affordability of housing, and how to better achieve it, is one of the most hotly debated topics in the city.

And you know why: Because if you're a renter, or a prospective home-buyer, and you make less than the median income (around $60,000 a year for a single-person household), you may have noticed recently that shelter is expensive as all hell, and only getting expensiver.

But the things that really stood out most in my mind from the housing forum were not part of any PowerPoint. They were a couple of offhand comments by a consultant, Rick Jacobus:

• First, he mentioned that data shows that mixed-income neighborhoods are good for everyone—both the higher- and lower-income people who live in them. Which is an important reminder for people who keep arguing that the only solution is to just have developers keep building whatever and wherever they want, without much restriction, and let the market take care of it—meaning let the centrally located, amenity-filled neighborhoods with expensive land prices house the rich, while the poor and middle-class are pushed out into outlying, less-accessible, transit-starved neighborhoods where land prices are cheap.

I have a message for y'all market-solutions-only-forever people: Your city sounds terrible.

• Second, someone asked Jacobus about the inherent conflict between affordable housing requirements and density. If you're not a housing/land-use nerd, this is basically a fight between well-intentioned density activists, who say that adding more housing will drive prices down (they sometimes sound just like the market-will-solve-everything people I mentioned above), and well-intentioned affordable-housing activists, who say you should straight-up require developers to build some moderately-priced housing while they're also building fancy-schmancy units for the rich. He answered carefully, saying that while studying Seattle's housing issues, he heard that argument a lot. But, he continued, you don't hear that argument anywhere else. In other cities, he said, people who fight for affordable housing requirements and people who fight for density are on the same side, and the developers use the fact that they'll be paying for affordable housing as a way to sell density to wary residents.

Seattle, it would seem that we keep having entirely the wrong conversation here.

Way wonkier stuff coming soon, but for now, I leave you with one more important thing I learned: Eating a banh mi in the back of a conference room and wearing fleece don't mix. (Crumbly sandwich + fleece = CRUMB MONSTER.) Hot tip, y'all! Don't forget.

 

Comments (8) RSS

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Fnarf 1
Well, don't wear fleece then!
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on February 17, 2014 at 4:30 PM · Report this
2
Expensiver.
Posted by treehugger on February 17, 2014 at 9:45 PM · Report this
Sam Levine 3
" First, he mentioned that data shows that mixed-income neighborhoods are good for everyone—both the higher- and lower-income people who live in them. Which is an important reminder for people who keep arguing that the only solution is to just have developers keep building whatever and wherever they want, without much restriction, and let the market take care of it"

This isn't a reminder, it's a non sequitur. The people proposing policies that will (eventually) kick out the poor and middle classes are the NIMBYs, not people fighting against height restrictions and minimum parking requirements.
Posted by Sam Levine http://levinetech.net on February 17, 2014 at 9:53 PM · Report this
4
This is not wonky stuff. It certainly isn't any wonkier than the other serious stuff the Stranger writes about. So let's not use that word; it sounds like Slog is becoming ublicola (as someone else mentioned the other day).

"Affordable"housing doesn't mean anything. What I call affordable bears no resemblance to what an Amazon emloyee would call affordable. Just cut to the chase and contrast market-rate housing (i.e. $2,000 for a nice one-bedroom) with low-income housing ($700 for a barebones one-bedroom). There are no takers for a moderate-rate unit in Seattle, since middle-income renters don't really exist anymore.

So it would be interesting to see how many housing develoers would even consider a "mixed-income" develoment which contained low-income units. I'm guessing zero. That's where the City needs to throw its weight, because otherwise, it is indeed going to be all market-rate.
Posted by sarah70 on February 17, 2014 at 10:05 PM · Report this
rob! 5
Stuck "P" again, @4? It was working there for awhile. Same keyboard or new one?
Posted by rob! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZBdUceCL5U on February 17, 2014 at 10:19 PM · Report this
6
@5, yeah, I got tired of using a second keyboard laid over the lato (ha) and am back to the stuck-keyed one. Not ready to buy another lato yet.
Posted by sarah70 on February 17, 2014 at 10:35 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 7
I agree with Sarah70. "Affordable" means different things. Builders are in the business to make money. The city nor land owners sell the land at "affordable" rates. The city/county does not tax anyone at "affordable" rates. And if business is shoved out of the city due to harsh demands for "affordable" Seattle will become like S.F. where building anything was a headache. Then prices really hit the sky. So what to do for those that don't make alot of money? That is the question. Humans are smart, they will figure things out. Demanding someone else solve the problem, like a builder is a non-starter it would seem as prices in Seattle are going up despite lots of new rentals being built.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on February 17, 2014 at 10:43 PM · Report this
south downtown 8
It was good to hear the assertions that incentives, and more more effectively city-wide inclusionary zoning would yield more affordable units than the "free-market" unfettered-development crowd asserts.

you also would have heard this: "mircro-housing is really SROs".

Council needs to acknowledge this and regulate the product appropriately.
Posted by south downtown on February 18, 2014 at 1:33 PM · Report this

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