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Monday, March 12, 2007

Condo Conversion Confusion

posted by on March 12 at 16:07 PM

Housing activists have been pushing for a cap on condo conversions. A bill to regulate the terms of conversion for displaced renters (including providing relocation money) made it out of committee without the cap, but with the hope that once the bill was taken up again the cap idea would be reintroduced.

And indeed, Rep. Maralyn Chase (D-32, Shoreline) is sponsoring amendments that would give cities the right to cap conversions. Seattle liberals Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-37, South Seattle) and Rep. Bob Hasegawa (D-11, South Seattle) have signed on.

While the cap provision isn’t as stern and sweeping as the activists want, the more limited protections it allows are at least targeted at poorer renters. The caps would only apply to developments where at least half of the units are rented at or below 60% of the fair market rent.

This idea was initially being pushed by Seattle City Council Member Tom Rasmussen, who is still pushing for the idea. Here’s what he wrote in an e-mail to state legislators today: “The majority of the Council supports giving cities the right to limit conversions and we appreciate the work of those who are proposing amendments that would give that local option.”

That’s cool. But this is weird. Despite Rasmussen’s note, Seattle’s lobbyist in Olympia, Rose Feliciano, sent an e-mail to legislators saying the city doesn’t support the amendments.

There are three amendments likely to be proposed by the prime sponsor Rep. Chase. Amendment 122 allows jurisdictions to provide limitations on the number of apartments that can be converted. We do not support having [that] amendment added to the bill.

RSS icon Comments


Well, if we're going to double our Seattle population, and we don't do this, how do you expect us to do it?

Let's say we don't convert units to condos - we should then build 100-story tall inexpensive residential towers - like Vancouver BC does - and put them near transit. And surround them with greenspace parks.

But that requires people to wake up and smell the growth.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 12, 2007 4:16 PM

If we don't convert units to condos, then we will likely have gigantic apartment complexes in their place. If condos can preserve some of the nicer apartment buildings around the city (not Vertigo and certainly not my apartment building), then I'm all for them.

Posted by keshmeshi | March 12, 2007 4:30 PM

So what happens to those of us who work in Seattle who can never hope to buy a condo let alone a house? The rents are already squeezing most of us.

Posted by elswinger | March 12, 2007 4:43 PM

I love how seattle zones 70% of the city single-family houses and then wonders why housing is expensive.

Condo tours would not be necessary (at least, not on a mass scale) in a none-too-big city like seattle if people were allowed to build and live in normal 3-story flats like in every other city. As the condo boom shows... wow! people sometimes actually choose to live in apartments!

Posted by John | March 12, 2007 4:44 PM

clarifying question: if you prohibit condo conversion of units that are renting at below 60 percent median income, does that then provide an incentive for landlords to jack up the rents on affordable housing as a prelude to condo conversion-- ie create a speedbump in the process rather than an actual limit?

Posted by Trevor | March 12, 2007 5:55 PM

I am sure Tom's heart is in the right place, but work to build more affordable aparments, not limit current owners from going condo. These conversions are truly the cheapest way to break into the housing market for buyers.

Posted by StrangerDanger | March 12, 2007 6:07 PM

Josh, have you thought about doing a little reporting and ASKING Rose about her email. Geez.

P.S. With Darcy running, it's time to start the drum beat.

Posted by Ghost of Walter Cronkite | March 12, 2007 7:12 PM

Restricting condo conversions decreases buying opportunities in Seattle forcing more people who want to live in Seattle to rent, which in turn allows landlords to charge higher rents. If you think this will help low-income people you are wrong. At best it will result in more high-end apartment complexes.

The fact is that downtown is now a more desirable place to live and that means it will be more expensive. More people want to live their then there are units and that equals rising prices always has always will. The best thing is to push for a better transit infrastructure to allow people who live outside the city core easy access to downtown.

Posted by Giffy | March 12, 2007 10:49 PM

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