Matt the Engineer
SWASHBUCKLING HERO 2012
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Feb 16 Matt the Engineer commented on Let's Talk About All the Lies Trump Told at His Press Conference Today.
I'm impressed. That's a shorter list than I imagined for an 80 minute long press conference.
Feb 14 Matt the Engineer commented on The Morning News: Seattle Cannot Be a Sanctuary City Without Affordable Housing, Migrants Heading to Canada.
@34 Cities have grown much, much faster than Seattle is. Look to cities throughout China for a recent example - some now overbuilt such that rent is cheap (not intending to say we could reproduce the overbuilding part completely - that was often government subsidized to boost the yuan). And that was during a national boom, not a regional one like we have. There are some temporary bottlenecks when it comes to construction resources, but I've known construction workers that cross the country and live in trailers to work a job. And as an engineer I've designed projects in Dubai from a Seattle office without ever leaving the country.

The fastest we can solve this problem, whether by private or publicly financing, is the time it takes to design and build buildings. Nothing will solve it faster, as we need more roofs to house more people.
Feb 13 Matt the Engineer commented on The Morning News: Seattle Cannot Be a Sanctuary City Without Affordable Housing, Migrants Heading to Canada.
@26 The ratio is actually around 1:10 for demolished:new units. That said, it doesn't matter the number of demolished units - what matters to affordability is the number of added units (new - demolished). That's the only thing that will decide which renter is the new "marginal renter".

@27 Sorry if I implied I was using real numbers - I certainly wasn't, it was a thought experiment.

I think we're close to agreeing on the fundamentals. We both seem to agree that the reason rents have been shooting upward is that people are moving in faster than we are building units. Excellent.

Now I need to convince you of another fundamental: the reason we can't build as much as we need is that we're only allowed to build on that little 11% of our land area. The reason we aren't building even faster isn't because we only have so many cranes or so many construction workers, but because we've put a hard ceiling over most of the city, legally stopping us from building as much as we need to. Every new construction project is the result of a high-priced bidding war over the last scraps of land left in our multifamily zones. This is requiring higher and higher prices to start the next project, and to get higher prices they have to wait for rents or sales prices to increase enough to pay back for the land. Upzone a large amount of area and land prices for multifamily projects would drop off a cliff. Far more projects would start up, adding to the number of units available and comparatively drops prices. Upzone enough and you'll more than comparatively drop prices, you'll drop them concretely.
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Feb 13 Matt the Engineer commented on The Morning News: Seattle Cannot Be a Sanctuary City Without Affordable Housing, Migrants Heading to Canada.
@24 Try to think of things comparatively. If 10k of these more-rich people get new jobs and move here next year, which scenario is better for the existing renter? The one where we add 10k housing units to the city, or not building these units? In the first case you're adding as many new homes as there are new people, which means they won't need to touch those existing homes. In the second case are they just going to give up and move away? Of course not - they have high-paying jobs here. They'll rent/buy the older units.

Because the cheapest rent is set by that "marginal renter" that can't quite afford rent here, and since you've displaced 10k households with those 10k new residents, this new cheapest rent is set at the price that the person 10k people up the income curve can pay compared to our "marginal renter".
Feb 13 Matt the Engineer commented on The Morning News: Seattle Cannot Be a Sanctuary City Without Affordable Housing, Migrants Heading to Canada.
@22 Yes. Only 11% of our land area is set aside for multifamily buildings (with most of this being very limited in height and density). Compare that to single family zoning which is between 55% and 65% of our land area (depending on how you measure). Renters should be outraged by these policies, as should anyone that doesn't want to pay an outrageous amount for their home. And, honestly, the Stranger should be too.
Feb 13 Matt the Engineer commented on The Morning News: Seattle Cannot Be a Sanctuary City Without Affordable Housing, Migrants Heading to Canada.
@20 That doesn't make any sense. The almost-as-more-rich pay more than the more-rich can pay? Unless you're talking about the price they paid in the past that's just backwards.

Think about what sets the cheapest rent in the city. It's the amount someone just priced out of the market can pay (the "marginal renter"). Adding units of any kind, anywhere in the city means this marginal renter and many more can now afford to live here. There's just physically more units in the city, which means more people can afford to live here. However you shuffle people around this has to happen. Which fundamentally means the rent on these cheapest units drops.
Feb 13 Matt the Engineer commented on The Morning News: Seattle Cannot Be a Sanctuary City Without Affordable Housing, Migrants Heading to Canada.
@14 Of course builders don't build for the middle or lower classes unless they make money at it. But you're looking only at *new* housing. What's important is the *total* number of housing units. Build new ones, and that's where the more-rich move. To move there, they move out of (or never move into, in the case of the new more-rich Seattlites) older housing making it less expensive.
Feb 13 Matt the Engineer commented on The Morning News: Seattle Cannot Be a Sanctuary City Without Affordable Housing, Migrants Heading to Canada.
"The market will not fix this morally significant problem. The city's government must intervene, must do something about the housing crisis."

Stopping the market (with our insane and racist/classist zoning laws) will not solve this problem. The market can solve *most* of this problem if you let it. And yes, we need the government to fix the rest.

We do not have "plenty" of market-rate units. I think you misunderstand the word plenty.