A lot of people disparage condos when talking about Seattle's housing crisis. Typically, they’re referring to the big, boxy, high-priced, luxury condos that tend to drive up rents in an area. And yes, it’s true that there are $800,000 condos being sold in Seattle right now (although there are reasons for this), and many of them are not aesthetically pleasing (although there are reasons for this, too).
But the alternative—just having single family homes, or even townhouses—is not feasible. The truth is, condos (i.e., apartments you can buy) are, generally speaking, the most affordable housing option (if you're looking to own). And they’re also far more environmentally friendly than single family homes. At the rate growth is going in Seattle, there is no way to accommodate our population without condos being part of the mix (although we need much, much more affordable options and tenant protections).
Recently, I bought a studio condo on the outskirts of Capitol Hill because A) it was the only thing I could afford (seriously, my mortgage is $821—far cheaper than renting in the same area) and B) because I did not want to have to get in my car in order to get to work, shop, eat, et cetera.
Yes, it is a tiny place (less than 500 square feet), but as just one person, I really don’t need more space than that (except to fill it with stuff). Although I moved from a studio apartment (actually, a rented condo) nearby, I still had to get rid of things. But now I have a great space that fits all my stuff, I can walk to work, and I can rest assured that my rent won’t go up willy-nilly. I know this is a luxury, and I’m thankful for it.
Although I grew up in a house, I’ve lived in apartments my entire adult life. I’ve never expected to live in a single family house because I never thought I could afford to (not only to purchase, but also to upkeep).
But it seems as if many people still believe in the “American dream”—for everyone to live in palatial, three-bedroom homes with huge backyards. I realize I don’t have any kids or pets, but this idea is not realistic or sustainable. It’s what creates suburban sprawl and long commutes. Putting aside the argument that everyone should be able to afford a single family home if they want to (income inequality is a serious issue that needs to be addressed), we need to rethink our concept of “home.”
Would I like to have more space if I could afford it? Perhaps. (I’d probably fill it with music equipment and/or beds for my friends to sleep in.) But I know it’s not realistic. And it’s not what makes for a livable city. I’m glad condos exist so I have a place to call my own.