Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Fact Check | I Posted This Over on Line-Out »

Friday, February 2, 2007

“Perhaps Unpleasant … Consequences”

posted by on February 2 at 11:15 AM

Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-43, Capitol Hill, Wallingford, U-District) opposes the Seattle City Council on capping condo conversions.

As Erica summarized in her column this week, there’s a bill in Olympia—being pushed by City Council member Tom Rasmussen—that would regulate condo conversions. There were 2,352 condo conversions in Seattle in 2006—as opposed to 430 in 2004. And the average price of the new condos was $250,000. I don’t imagine 2,352 renters have that kind of cash.

Erica wrote:

A bill supported by Council Member Tom Rasmussen that would place restrictions on landlords who convert apartments into condos is moving smoothly through the state senate. The latest proposed changes would strengthen the bill by increasing relocation assistance for tenants (currently $500 throughout the state) to the equivalent of three or four months’ rent and by prohibiting landlords from starting interior construction until the last tenant is out.

Sounds like a cool bill. It’s being sponsored by Seattle-area Sens. Ken Jacobsen (D-46), Adam Kline (D-37), and Ed Murray (D-43).

Well, co-sponsors Murray and Kline, along with Seattle house members Rep. Bob Hasegawa (D-11, S. Seattle), Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-37, S. Seattle), and Rep. Phyllis Kenney (D-46, N. Seattle) want to add an amendment (being pushed by the Puget Sound Alliance of Senior Citizens, the Seattle Displacement Coalition, and the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness) that would make the bill even tougher on condo conversion. They want put a cap on conversions. It’s an interesting idea when something as disruptive as condo conversions hits a 450% increase over a two-year period. (Conversions also jumped 51 percent between ‘05 and ‘06.)

Rasmussen’s colleagues, Sally Clark and Nick Licata are also reportedly on board.

However, a couple of Seattle legislators are against the cap idea: Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-36, Ballard, Queen Anne) and Rep. Pedersen.

Here’s a copy of an e-mail Pedersen sent out to advocates of the conversion cap earlier this week:

Thanks for your message and for taking the time to write to me about SB 5031 and the potential companion bill in the house. As a resident of Capitol Hill, I have heard about these problems from friends and constituents and am very interested in providing reasonable protections for tenants who find themselves in this position. I have reviewed SB 5031 and am supportive of the legislation in its current form. I’d be happy to be a co-sponsor of an equivalent bill in the House. I do not, however, support allowing local jurisdictions to impose moratoria on condo conversions. I suspect that local politics might cause that power to be exercised with unpredictable — and perhaps unpleasant — consequences on the housing market. So if you choose to proceed with a bill in the House that is similar to SB 5031, then you can count me as a supporter and I would be pleased to be a co-sponsor. If you decide to add the language you mention below, then I am not likely to support the legislation without an amendment to remove the language. Please keep me posted about how you plan to proceed — and please feel free to contact me regarding any other questions or comments you may have. Best wishes, Jamie

Displacement Coalition leader John Fox told me:

I’m hardpressed to understand what could be more unpleasant for the housing market than a net loss of 1500 rental housing units county wide in just ‘05, not even counting Seattle. Letting the market take its course has meant removing more rental units (via conversion and demolition) than we are producing. Where’s the trickle down in that? I’m hardpressed to understand what kind of rational “free market” argument you can make to justify allowing this to continue unabated.

And Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett, the director of the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, promptly sent a formal reply. I’ve linked it below.

Rep. Pedersen, I think you are right in saying there will be a consequnce on the housing market; however, you seem to be missing the point that the consequnce is not only in process but is causing a significant stress upon efforts to effect the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. The folks who are one step from homelessness have found their options fading day by day. Those buying into the massive number of condos are not vacating rentals or owned units that can accommodate the growing number of low-income tenants whose options are disappearing. I realize that you are new to the House. I also know that while in Seattle you had little-to-no contact with the process at work within the Committee to End Homelessness in King County. Our Task Force has been central to not only the development of the Ten Year Plan but also to helping (with many others) that Plan keep its focus. I'd strongly encourage that you be willing to engage in conversation that advances your awareness of the housing available (and not available) not only in Seattle but county wide. As I said, the consequences are already occurring. There is no magic bullet, especially from the Legislature. This will require local oversight, not only by City leadership (initially in Seattle, where the condo tsunami has first hit) but also via the advocacy and education that providers and advocates deliver. While it is somewhat good news that you unhesitantly support the two main changes, those changes, increasing relocation above $500 and extending the time to 120 days, are still mere bandaids on a system that needs far more attention. If you truly think the free market will suffice, which is what you seem to be suggesting, then there will be far more pain ahead for those unable to meet the costs of rental units. Feel free to be in touch. We will do our best to seek you out during upcoming visits to Olympia. As a reminder to you, Housing Advocacy Day is Feb. 1, and there will be some of your constituents seeking time with you. I wish you well in your freshman year. The Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett Director, Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness

RSS icon Comments


Jamie Pedersen is:

a) full of shit
b) a tool
c) completely disconnected from reality
d) all of the above

You probably already know what answer I picked.

I'm curious exactly which condo developer mogul paid his ass off to oppose the legislation.

Pedersen is such a self-serving piece of shit.

Posted by Gomez | February 2, 2007 11:18 AM

I have a feeling that condo conversions may end up capping themselves. There's way too many being built now as it is.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | February 2, 2007 11:21 AM

The Rev. Kirlin-Hackett is exactly right. I have no inherent problem with condo development, but what has happened over the past couple years is ridiculous and frightening. Rep. Pedersen, I supported and voted for you. No pull your head out of your ass and do the right thing.

Posted by Hernandez | February 2, 2007 11:24 AM

This is all the market reacting to the height cap on residential apartment buildings.

If we changed zoning to permit four-lot structures to have 100-story residential apartments, with 25 percent for very low income rentals and 25 percent for below median rentals, we could solve it. Which is what Vancouver did decades ago, building giant apartment buildings surrorunded by green space parks.

Time to wake up and smell the growth.

That plus we have to stop whining and discussing and start BUILDING mass transit NOW, not in 20-40 years.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 2, 2007 11:32 AM

Please look south to see just HOW BAD an idea a cap on conversions is.

San Francisco through its rent control and now very restrictive conversion cap has some of the most expensive real estate in the country. In a nutshell, a cap will tighten the condo market - which might be happening on its own. But, if supply of condos is cut then prices go up. This effectively prices some people out and may cause them to stay in the apartment market which will push up rents.

Will in Seattle @4 has a much better plan. Make it easier to build bigger, and thus more profitable, apartment buildings. Messing with the underlying housing markets leads to all sorts of unforseen problems.

Posted by Cameron | February 2, 2007 11:46 AM

The problem, Cameron and Will, is that those apartment towers would get bought up and converted to condos themselves. Developers are sharks and they don't care who they fuck over, as long as they get their money. Trusting the market is like trusting a violent rapist with a knife.

Posted by Gomez | February 2, 2007 12:13 PM

Jamie Pedersen didn't run for office as a lefty fan of government intervention in the housing market. He ran as a corporate lawyer (and friend of big money interests) and a strong activist for marriage equality. His stand on the condo conversion bill should have been perfectly predictable to anyone who voted for him.

Posted by J.R. | February 2, 2007 12:17 PM

Yep, and the divide between just having two classes of people living in Seattle continues. The folks making enough to afford a condo for around $300K or those making under the cap for low income housing. The rest of us are going to be moving to Kent or Federal Way....... (I have to go puke now)

Posted by Andrew | February 2, 2007 12:17 PM

There goes Mr Civil Rights again. Pedersen's a corporate tool jackass. Shame on The Stranger for not calling him on his bullshit during the primary.

Posted by DOUG. | February 2, 2007 12:34 PM

It will probably be high end units, not low end ones, that are candidates for conversion. In other words, the displaced renters are the same folks who, as first time buyers, would benefit for lower condo prices which would result from a larger inventory.

Posted by Condo Lover | February 2, 2007 12:38 PM

Except that's not the reality CL. According to the recently completed study on the effects of conversion by Councilman Rassumsson, the apartment units being converted to condos aren't for the most part "high end", they/re moderate-to-low end, and many of the folks being displaced couldn't afford the $300K+ units that these formerly $800 a month apartments are being "converted" into by way of a few appliance upgrades and a fresh coat of paint.

Posted by COMTE | February 2, 2007 1:00 PM

Unfortunately it's not just high end units. Look at Ballard, all those ugly ass 70s apartment buildings that house mainly little old ladies, are being turned into condos that are selling for $300k & up. It's pretty crazy.

Posted by soupy | February 2, 2007 1:01 PM

None of this really matters since there will be no demand for condo conversions once the bubble bursts.

Posted by Investigatory Journalist | February 2, 2007 1:17 PM

It's pretty simple. Wealthy, middle-aged gays love condos. Pedersen's core constituency is wealthy, middle-aged gays - many of whom are real-estate agents to boot. Therefore, Pedersen loves condos. Foregoing the conversion cap makes it more likely his core supporters can marry each other and live happily ever after in their condos.

Posted by George | February 2, 2007 2:03 PM

Your weird homophobic comment is belied by the fact that Rasmussen and Murray (who support the cap) are gay gay gay w/ a lot of the same constituency.

Posted by Josh Feit | February 2, 2007 2:07 PM

@6 - Gomez, have you ever BEEN to Vancouver BC? I lived in inexpensive apartments there - and know many people who still do.

Wake up and smell the solution.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 2, 2007 4:25 PM

You're assuming that the development, properties and growth will be managed the exact same way, Will. Also, Vancouver is in Canada, which operates under a socialist economy.

Wake up and learn how to think critically.

Posted by Gomez | February 3, 2007 9:20 AM

A cap is a terrible idea. I'll be back with something.

Posted by Colin | February 3, 2007 3:59 PM

@ Will in Seattle:

Will has the right idea. Seattle should skip this step and get with the times. Move to inclusionary zoning. Affordable units INSIDE very tall towers in the city core. Not conversion caps. Not extra money dumped in a fund so we can build more affordable housing in Rainier Valley.

Posted by 98122 | February 3, 2007 4:05 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).