How Seattle's economic boom is destroying the city


#1

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#2

Totally serious question: how does one ‘give people homes’? I am not being obstinate or uncaring, but literally how do you do it?

Homes take a modicum of electricity, plumbing, heating, and waste disposal. And fire fighting services, and 911, and places to get food.

Would a light tax on homeowners for the explicit use to build and maintain say yurt villages at no cost to the occupants be the answer? (And mass transit to cities, and health care clinics, and… Crap, this is Fecking hard unless it is a systematic public works project)


#3

I see something similar - although on a much smaller scale - here in my home-tech-town of Kitchener-Waterloo. The difference here is that you can still drive 20 minutes North of town and see horses pulling buggies full of black-clad Amish. I myself am a Mennonite working in the town’s technology sector. Silicon Valley opens Canadian branches here in Waterloo because engineering talent is well-trained, readily available, and most importantly, much cheaper. RIM’s vacant buildings and the weakening Canadian dollar doesn’t hurt either!

What scares me is how my friends who did not go to college or university but nonetheless work very hard to provide for their families see real estate as the only way to make real money. Believe it or not, but Amish farmers are already selling their land and moving to Central and Northern Ontario because one acre here can buy six acres near North Bay. One portion of our town’s heritage is pushing out another.

The good news is that it’s happening at a slower pace and smaller scale than Seattle, London, Sunnyvale, San Fran, etc.


#4

@japhroaig This is is how: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Housing_First


#5

So that is the concept of Room First, everything else later? Sounds like Agile Programming :smile:

How well does it work? And I assume it isn’t just tents, but stable housing?


#6

It works quite well in Utah and Wyoming. I won’t bother to give you the statistics or success stories. They’re well reported in national media and readily available online.


#7

Totally serious question: how does one ‘give people homes’?

Pretty simple answer: subsidies. If someone lives in a particular area, they get a subsidy based on the median rent. That’s easy. HUD’s Section 8 already does something similar. The difficult part is securing funding and structuring the program so it doesn’t drive further housing cost inflation.


#8

Not asking you to be my tutor, I can google :smile:

I guess I am still wondering about the ongoing services that must exist. Disclosure: my brother is on SS and lives in section 8 housing. He once lived in a place that had no electricity or sewer. This was worse than even more primitive options for his mental health.

So housing first, sure. But running water and access to medical attention are damn important.


#9

I have never personally met someone who qualifies for section 8 that can navigate it by themselves. There has to be an easier alternative, with abuse checks baked in, and not just granting land and saying, “good luck!”.

Perhaps I have biases.


#10

Sorry to not be on board, but without the gentrification driven housing boom, my city would be on track to be leveled. 100+ year old multifamily homes simply can’t get by indefinitely on no capital investment, and for decades no one was putting any money into these structures, just extracting rents till they were uninhabitable. Every block in Jersey City pre 2000 had empty lots, historic buildings simply weren’t worth saving. Now shells are being rehabbed, blocks filled in. Yes, people are being displaced, (though if they were wise enough to have bought for tens of thousands in the 70’s they’re now sitting on the best part of a million) but the former plan was just not sustainable.


#11

Perhaps. I don’t think land is being granted…just apartments. And I don’t think Housing First excludes the need for other social safety nets like walk-in clinics, etc.


#12

I don’t think it has anything to do with being “wise enough…in the 70’s”. The fact is you have to have the capital (whether it be tens of thousands or whatever) to buy at any given time and service the mortgage until your asset is worth the better part of a million (or whatever return on investment you’re after).

The point of the original article is that perceiving housing as an investment or an asset may prove unsustainable.

What makes the original landlords of Jersey City - the ones that didn’t put money into the structures, just extracted rents - any different from the landlords that are now purchasing these historical buildings at (probably) rock bottom prices? My guess is that the new landlords will definitely want to extract as much rent as possible, as quickly as possible, for as long as possible.


#13

We were wondering about moving recently, and had our place valued. The increase in price was crazy - totally bears out that 19% in a year figure. And obviously it’s totally worthless because everything else is also going up at the same rate, so the increase on paper is no benefit.

Competition for housing is nuts, even with all the crazy amount of construction houses go in days, always above the asking price - and every neighbourhood is being ruined by giant condo/apartment buildings going up everywhere. Every old house that is sold is torn down and replaced by a group of town or row houses.

We’d like a nice family home, rather than a townhouse, but those just aren’t affordable in Seattle any more, but we really don’t want to move out of the city.

The transportation is just atrocious. I can’t believe that a city of this size and wealth has so limited public transportation options.

I did live on Capitol Hill the last time I lived here, and as a straight guy working for a corporation felt like a complete tourist, although we’d move back in a heartbeat, still love that neighbourhood, even with the changes.

I still love living here though.


#14

I am now feeling quite lucky that the wife and I manged to buy just before things went insane in price (whee bubble economies). The whole house as investment still boggles me as it isn’t money till you actually sell it and houses are just as much a money sink as renting just in different ways. As it is our mortgage payments for a 3 bedroom house is $300 to $500 less than renting the same, heck it is less than renting a 2 bedroom apartment. Right now I am happy to live in a very walkable area and be able to pay the bills and save a bit for the future.

But yeah we are adding more and more jobs and not doing a good job at adding affordable housing. The new trend of microapartments or apodments as they get called is nice and if that kind of thing was available when I was still young and single I would have been happy with it but they want crazy rent for it here. I am also actually pretty cool with the idea of mixed use going up, apartments/condos 2 or three stories high over retail space just that they seem to be priced out of an average pay range I mean how much ‘luxury living’ can you produce before running out of rubes with too much money?

As far as change of neighborhoods go, well, that is life, where I grew up in St. Louis is not the same now, it wasn’t the same as it was back in the 30’s compared to when I lived there. Is it destroying the city? It is changing the city but the city of 20 years ago wasn’t the city of 50 years ago either. shrug it’s complicated.

What would be nice is if I could find affordable housing nearer to work but that ain’t gonna happen (and I may well be back to telecommuting in 6 months anyway) so I have a 20 mile commute which isn’t bad. What is frustrating is I can’t take public transit for cheaper than fuel/upkeep on the scooter or car and the bus doubles my travel time in the best of traffic conditions.


#15

But my card-carrying Tea Party uncle keeps sending me emails telling me that it’s Seattle’s minimum wage laws that are destroying the city. Now I’m confused…


#16

Now see I would like the townhouse and not have to deal with all the landscaping upkeep of the house.
What would actually be good is what is common in St. Louis and elsewhere are duplexes.
A lot of the houses where I grew up were 2 family ones and the landlord was living in one half of the building.


#17

Agreed @TobinL

I live in a back-split semi. Thankfully the other side of our shared wall is occupied by a guy I went to high-school with: Best neighbour you could ever hope for.

But these kinds of duplexes, triplexes, etc. are going the way of the Dodo in Kitchener-Waterloo as well. Just down my street is a huge “luxury” apartment building that just got put up. Lots of the techie kids in KW want to live in these kinds of buildings and who am I to tell them any different. I’m not trying to be overly sentimental about the “by-gone” days of Kitchener-Waterloo “back when I grew up here”.

My questions are, what is this town gaining? What is this town losing? Is the trade-off beneficial? Who benefits?


#18

Oh, I like not gardening :slight_smile:

Mostly I’m worried that the single home next door will get demolished and replaced by more townhouses, and we’ll lose our views of downtown and Rainier :smile:


#19

…build and maintain say yurt villages at no cost to the occupants

I like the “opportunity village” style models, particularly Opportunity Village Eugene. It has some overlap with Housing First implementations. It’s not a panacea, but addresses a few core universal needs.


#20

That’s awesome, they have yurts! :smile:
Tiny houses are great but expensive. And that village is only like five miles away.