Murray Will Consider Veto of Council's Push to Drive Up Cost of Affordable Apartments

Comments

1
Good for the mayor.
2
Credit when it's due. Please veto the bill, Murray!
3
What a load of crap! Covered bicycle parking should be an issue with the City Council? An additional 40sf
will turn the units from "inhumane" to "humane"? More common space? Two sinks?
People are renting these units because the units work for them. The units are efficient and inexpensive. Developers are developing them because they rent!
I'm generally pretty supportive of City Hall, having toiled in its bowels for many years, but this is too much.
4
The letter is nice. He's considering veto like he's considering sending assassination drones, if I understand 2014 Democrat-speak for "keep all options on the table" correctly.
5
This is perhaps the most pleasantly surprised I've been by Murray so far, and makes me more optimistic about him going forward.
6
I don't think the units have a minimum size. According to publicola there were two amendments that were competing to set a minimum size at either 180 or 220 sq ft.
7
At least a mayoral veto of a council issue is with precedent. Unlike that stuffy mayor who felt the store wasn't unionized-enough with the union supporting his re-election and instructed SDOT's director to reject a street vacation in West Seattle before the city council could vote on it.
http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archive…
8
Call these things what they are and stop using euphemisms.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flophouse
9
That is one ugly building!
10
"But a tone-deaf council dug in their heels anyway."

Tone-deaf to Murray's veto threat, perhaps - but not to their constituents who will soon be voting in district-based city council elections.
11
A unit that's almost $1400 isn't "affordable." The amendments sound reasonable. Those new bldgs don't do tenants any favors. I live in a 12 unit bldg w/one dumpster. There's an apodment down that street w/48 units that also has only one dumpster! For all those units. As a result, there's always trash all over the street in that block. I lived in one room housing in my 20s and even that was bigger than what they offer in these new places (it was furnished too...$50/week, this was in the 80s, no common area, I had to share a bathroom).
12
Typical "I got mine, you figure out yours" nimbys. Oh and if you want to live in a single-family neighborhood where nothing ever changes then shut up and move to an Eastside neighborhood with HOAs.
13
180 sq ft for $800/mo is not "affordable". It's simply a goldmine for developers
14
@13. So what. It's better than $1450 and the person servicing your consumption habits can live there.
15
I love how Dominic says 1.1 million like thats a lot for a house in the city. Seriously look at redfin for what a 4 bedroom 2 bath goes for.

I used to argue for density, but too many idiots like @13 complain about people who build housing within existing zoning being robber barons beat me down.

I welcome the new list of rules to the council, and cities HOA process.
16
$1000 for an apodment (aka micro housing, or whatever bullshit marketing term you want to use) on Capitol Hill is absolutely abysmal. If you don't see that, and you don't see the simple truth that this has always been a cash grab by developers, you're a moron. There ABSOLUTELY HAS to be a happy medium between single occupancy housing, and these slums. There has to be.
17
@16. Okay. BUILD IT.
18
If you believe that these glorified dorm rooms are affordable and desirable, then you've never had to honestly consider living in one in order to stay in the neighborhood you've loved and lived in for a decade.

And if you can't empathize with that? GO. FUCK. YOURSELF.
19
@18, rent control is illegal in our state. Where are poor, single people supposed to live if they can't afford $1300+ for a studio or one bedroom?
20
@18 If that's what you say to people not living in these apartments... what do you say (and think) about the people that do live in them?

Sure, we'd all love to live in a 3000 sqft house perched on top of Space Needle II or something but not everyone's got the money or even the economic opportunity to get what they want. A lot of people have to settle. And if the choice is between commuting 2+ hours a day on a shitty bus or living with your parents or waiting 2+ years on an affordable housing waitlist.... well, then these apartments will do just fine for a lot of people.
21
@19: They can live where the rents are fucking lower, like everybody fucking else does. Look, I'm all for building Section 8 housing all over the city, but not these fucking broom closets where you have to share a sink and a bathroom with eight other strangers, and there is no parking. That's just plain unacceptable. And shame forever on Dominic and all the other pathetic little developer shills who promote it.
22

Does anyone know of a source to figure out the profit being made from rental apartments?

I realize it would be a rather hard number to pin down, but maybe someone who has ownership experience could answer.

I mean a lot of these buildings are getting to be 10 or 20 years old and have, or will have paid mortgages -- if they weren't paid for in cash in the first place.

So not only has their value appreciated, but with ever increasing rents, I would think they would be incredible cash cows at this point. Or does maintenance cut deep into those profits? I can't imagine that maintenance would make a dent in a $1600 a month apartment each year!

23
I don't understand the "two sink" idea. Presumably the bathroom has a sink and since the kitchen is out in the common area it has a sink out there. What's the other sink for?

I feel like our notion of what an apartment must be like is based on suburban tract houses. Historically, not every apartment necessarily had a bathroom, laundry facilities were in the kitchen, bathing sometimes is in the kitchen, or the toilet and shower stall occupy their own small WC rooms. These are single person or intimate couple apartments.

Let the market figure out if there's room for these things. If there isn't, they can be renovated into something more traditional.
24
The reason apodment style developers are able to charge as much as they do for so little is because our insanely restrictive zoning regulations don't allow enough new housing supply to match housing demand, thus creating artificial scarcity for the existing "normal" housing stock.

The reality is that people who can afford to pay no more than 600-800 a month can't afford to live in a "normal" apartment in the city. But some of them would prefer an apodment to being relegated to Bailo-land. The people who want to stop these developments, or drive their prices up through unnecessary regulations (Seriously, council, if I don't have a kitchen why would I need a second sink), are trying to keep poorer people out of the city, and they're trying to make themselves sound progressive with anti-developer tough talk. (Of course, the restrictionist policies they support actually increase development profits because of the artificial scarcity). I can't get too mad at council members here--anti-density assholes vote, and the coming districts magnify their power. That's exactly why this is a role we need the mayor to play.
25
You all do realize that some people like living in apodments, right? Or have none of you been to Hong Kong or Singapore? Or any other non-western city with density?

You see, cities have these things called Cafes, Bars and Diners. You know, places where people can "live" outside of their apartment.

I feel like a good 50% of hatred towards apodments is simply an inability to believe that someone living in one of those could be fulfilled.
26
Imagine living in a single-family home (a house that you worked hard and saved for years to buy), and one of these apodments is built next door, after your former neighbor's SFH is torn down. The sky you used to see is now blocked out, you are looking out of your window at 6 or 8 of your neighbors' windows, you have 20 neighbors where you used to have maybe two or three. Not only do you lose the light you used to have, you have more noise, and more of everything else 20 or more (probably young, probably single) people bring with them. More pets, more cars, more garbage, more parties. More people firing up their cars or motorcycles at odd hours, so you sleep less. The tenants are not likely to stay very long, so they don't have a commitment to build a relationship to you, or to the neighborhood. These impacts are all very real, very unpleasant, and not imaginary. I would fight it, tooth and nail, and so would you.
27
The Stranger: Shill for Slumlords! This crap wasn't housing. Neighbors who CHOOSE to live in mixed-used neighborhoods rose up against this despicable unsustainable unaffordable human warehousing foisted on us by a loophole-exploiting developer and an intellectually-dormant DPD designed to be dorms-without-meal plans for Amazon interns during these boomtown times. Well, neighbors have to live with these flophouses after the boom quiets down. Mike O'Brien had the common sense not to follow Richard Conlin into forced retirement and heard what the neighbors were saying. And now we are on the verge of legislating a generation of affordable, sustainable, entry-level Micro-Housing -- a model for the nation. The Stranger? Still sucking on developer lobbyist Roger Valdez' dick.
28
You all do realize that some people like living in apodments, right? Or have none of you been to Hong Kong or Singapore? Or any other non-western city with density?

Notice that the "no one should live like that" never actually feel the need to include any actual arguments. or anything. It's just all so obvious--they don't want to live a certain way, so no one else should be allowed to. It's comparable to the people who oppose SSM because they're grossed out by the idea of sex with other men.
29
The NIMBY reasoning of @26 is counterproductive to the discussion of how Seattle housing should be regulated. As much as individuals in certain areas may not like it, density is necessary to the city's growth.

However, it is fair to have concerns over the standards of living arrangements we allow to be built. Disagree? Should developers be allowed to build homes without running water, sewage, electricity, or modern fire safety considerations? By requiring such "amenities," are we squeezing the developers' pocketbooks too much and thus discouraging increased density?

This situation pits a supply&demand argument against a market psychology argument. The standard economic/supply&demand argument has some merit. Less regulation means more incentive to build more densely. Conversely, there is the concern that Apodments may change the psychology of the housing market, with the Apodment becoming the new base-level housing model, while everything else is considered a luxury, justifying even higher rents for today's ordinary apartment tomorrow. The people that will live in Apodments are needed by the city. They are the cooks, dishwashers, retail clerks, and cashiers that keep the city moving. Many of them are willing to live in whatever conditions they must, but the city needs them just as much as they need it. The city will be willing to bring them in at whatever cost it must pay. Allowing the growth of Apodments, which lower the expected standard (not legal standard) for living in the city, is the city's way of cutting costs, drawing a line, and asking the city's future low-pay laborers to tighten their belts.

Five years ago, with the state of the economy in question, I would have found more merit in the supply&demand argument. Today, however, construction is booming around Seattle. This is not the time to worry that developers do not have the immediate incentive to keep developing. This is the time to think about the long-run future, and buildings last a long time. Lets not take a step backward in the housing standards of this city.
30
Dandan,

That's the point though. Guess how much a new studio apartment costs to rent at 52nd and University Way? About $1300 w/o utilities.

They are building new apartments, but only the apodment setups have come even close to being reasonably priced. Otherwise, you're stuck living in old school apartments, which I can say, from experience are mold-riddled and poorly managed.
31
Oh, yup.

There's the change.

Mark it. On September 16, microhousing became "affordable housing," thus ensuring that no bedroom apodments are the new standard for poor people.

Look, I'm not saying that there aren't some people who may want to live there. But, not everybody who can't afford a $1500 1-bedroom apartment wants to love in an $800 0-bedroom apartment.

Since Dominic is sucking off these microhousing developers (and has been for years), it should be obvious that he's not trustworthy as an advocate for actual affordable housing, or rent control, or anything having to do with the poor.
32
Bravo, Stranger! It's about time somebody stood up for the ghettoized voices of billionaire developers in this city.

And boo to the city council that dares to stoop to base democracy by responding to the foul peasants that make up it's constituents. Why, they were bought and paid for by developers fair and square. A deal's a deal.

Yes. What this city needs is "Affordable housing" that's $50-60 dollars a square foot - nearly twice the average rents per square foot costs of larger apartments. As we all know once one of these babies goes up in your block, at twice the square foot rate of surrounding housing, eventually all those awful smelly old people and families will make way.

Make way for our new class of Techie itinerant Libertarians, with no community stake or bothersome civic involvement to hold them back. These Free Thinking Ron Paul Voters will surely have plenty of disposable income and spare time to spend on the bars that and clubs that are the Strangers lifeblood. Win, Win!

No more will the old NIMBYs suck out the life blood of endangered beleaguered youth of Seattle. Rarely seen Youth that have to scurry from bar to bar like pariah. They will at last be able to hold their bearded heads high, that is when they aren't vomiting expensive micro brews and hate speech all over the sidewalks of the Hill.

Bravo, Dom and the brave Stranger who so valiantly look out for the underdog money interests of Seattle Real-estate who so rarely get their say.
33
@25 It's one thing to live in so-called "microhousing", which is totally fine. I've stayed in a couple. One in Amsterdam. And one in London. They were great.

Those were, however, highly regulated. Rates commiserate with surrounding apartments and generally rent controlled. These aPODments are NOT.

The issue here is the cynical manipulation of regulation and zoning ordinances by billionaire developer interests getting billed as "affordable." $50-$60 per square foot is not affordable. Allow this to happen and eventually you will see rents skyrocket everywhere even more.

The NIMBY's may have incorrect as selfish reasons for opposing aPODments, but at least SOMEBODY is standing up to developers in Seattle.

Right now aPODments are essentially a developer scam to skirt regulations and zoning to pack as many people in as small a space for as much fucking money as they can get away with AND get tax breaks by classifying these as "affordable" when are are almost twice the square footage rates of other apartments and will be owned by the same property management monopolies that are driving up the rents already.

It's fucking scam and Dominic is a witless stooge.
34
Agree that these should be controlled as to size, common features and most importantly, exterior design and lot coverage. Not happy about the shared kitchens, which I imagine will be places that cater to the lowest denominator in the building. Most residents will live out of a micro-fridge and microwave, along with eating out.

What galls me the most is that good design is not expensive, but it requires thought and perhaps a few more dollars for a structure that all of us live with. The gaming of design in this city must stop. The Walgreens on 15th was a so called 'remodel' of the prior City People's (whose 'progressive' owners gave not a shit about the mess they left behind by selling out without regard to what followed). What we ended up with is a suburban store, with so called 'windows' as required on 15th, covered with posters and not looking inside at all. Likewise the nearby Safeway, with 'windows' to nowhere along the street. The clapboard materials of so many new housing and especially apartments/condos with meaningless balconies, failing stucco and more. We should require every building be designed by an architect and that the city have design standards that have heft. We should not permit full lot coverage in new structures in single family neighborhoods. Parking is a conundrum as folks own cars and will fill the streets absent included parking. Nobody has a 'right' to live anywhere. We can add to housing stock by building upwards on real arterials, but building quality buildings as a basic requirement, even if this means that they cost a bit more.
35
I have been asking the City to respond to the micro housing issue for YEARS!! I live in a single family neighborhood zoned SF 7,200. For those who don't know, that means homes need be built on large 7,200 sq ft lots. Let me tell you what happened a few blocks down the street a few years back. First some property along the freeway was bought for a song from the state, all the trees were cut. First bad thing and resulted in a fine. Then it was subdivided as much as the law allowed, so much easier without those pesky trees Then we have SIX micro-housing units built side by side, because the code allows up to 8 unrelated people to share a SF home. These were clearly sleeping rooms with a bit of communal space. City says nothing can be done, its all fair and square. That 48 humans and their friends in a tiny area, completely out of step with the rest of the neighborhood . All I ever asked was for this type of housing to be banned in single family neighborhoods, now I'm not even sure that is in this bit of legislation and have a call into the mayor and council. Developers are making a killing on this and don't think for a minute they aren't. Also they will continue to charge and do whatever they can get away with.
36
"The NIMBY reasoning of @26 is counterproductive to the discussion of how Seattle housing should be regulated. As much as individuals in certain areas may not like it, density is necessary to the city's growth."

There's that NIMBY thing again, pulled out whenever an individual or a neighborhood fights to protect their homes and their neighborhoods. "NIMBY reasoning" means I care about what happens next door, because it impacts me. What's wrong with that? The "individuals in certain areas" you refer to are tax paying citizens of Seattle. We ought to have a say in how our neighborhoods are shaped, and we have the right to challenge the city on how it grows, and we are so tired of being steamrollered by developers and their pals in city hall- whether city planners or elected officials.
37
Those were, however, highly regulated. Rates commiserate with surrounding apartments and generally rent controlled. These aPODments are NOT.

What the hell are you talking about? This is a debate between the city council and the mayor about the precise scope of the regulations that should govern these regulations. That they should be regulated is exactly what this debate is about

You think they should be cheaper than they probably will be, and so do I. We can't get that through rent control, but if we stopped using height limits and setback rules and too much SF zoning to radically restrict supply, more normal apartments would and could be built, and their price would be contained, and microhousing would have to compete for a smaller market share, thus limiting how much they can charge. Of course, hypocritically, the same people who decry the cost of microhousing also support restrictive zoning that allows developers to get away with charging so much for them.
38
There's another way developers can put in high density housing.

Current code allows up to 8 unrelated members per dwelling. So, apartment buildings can be constructed with 4+ bedroom units and, voila, high density micro housing pretty much anywhere multifamily dwellings are allowed.

Plus, depending on location, such units might be desirable for families who need more than two bedrooms.
39
fights to protect their homes and their neighborhoods. "NIMBY reasoning" means I care about what happens next door, because it impacts me. What's wrong with that?

What's wrong with it is that if NIMBY's had their way, neighborhoods would virtually never grow, the increased competition for housing would lead to even greater growth, sprawl, and a city filled with nothing but rich people and people who bought at the right time. Meanwhile, the NIMBY's financially benefit, as they inflate the value of their investment by using the government to eliminate competition.

That such people are so focused on blathering on about "greedy developers" seems like a pretty clear case of projection.
40
Zoning regulations give city planners some sense of what is required in a neighborhood. Think schools, water, police , garbage, parks, traffic, parking ,all kinds of amenities. If zoning regualtions are ignored there will be problems for sure. I have always been for enforcing a minimum amount of growth in zoning areas that can handle it. The city says, and maybe rightly so, they can't FORCE someone to lets say build ten stories if they only want to build 2. It has been proven over and over there is plenty of opportunity for more density in Seattle but it needs to be in the right places that can deal with it. The reason developers want to trash our SF zones is the property is cheaper to buy than the cost per sq foot of property zoned for larger. My SF property value is still no where close to what it was before the recesssion, and I'm very far from rich. There is no benefit to me to sell my house because I couldn't afford another one. My home is just that, not a financial investment. Sorry you think its all about rich landowners and there is no such thing as greedy developers.
41
Cartelization and securitization of rental properties? Skyrocketing rents? Apodments? An "alternative" weekly that's A-OK with all this? I grew up in Seattle, but as soon as the elderly relative I'm looking after dies, I'm outta here.
42
@37. Yes if there's one thing about Seattle it's that there's virtually no new construction anywhere and that developers have just been soooo hamstrung. Poor dears.

Oh. Wait.
43
"...if NIMBY's had their way, neighborhoods would virtually never grow, the increased competition for housing would lead to even greater growth, sprawl, and a city filled with nothing but rich people and people who bought at the right time." Implicit in your statement is the notion that growth is good, even if it destroys neighborhoods and the quality of life for those who "bought at the right time." I didn't time my house purchase to make money, I bought a house in a neighborhood I liked, so that I could walk to work and ride a bike to shop. Now I have to defend it, or sell and move out of Seattle, a city that used to pride itself on being the most livable city in America. Growth at any cost? No thanks. Screw the whole South Lake Union Bauhaus architectural wasteland. Seattle is losing its soul, selling out in the name of "growth."
44
Implicit in your statement is the notion that growth is good,

Implicit in your argument is that it's perfectly fine to price poor and many middle class people out of the city, contributing to environmentally destructive sprawl, to coddle their reactionary fear of change and outsiders. The anti-apodment version adds a nasty classist dimension to this dynamic, as many people who probably consider themselves progressive mobilize to make sure poor people aren't allowed in their neighborhood, except when they take the dreary bus ride in from Kent to get to work so they can make your latte.

I bought a house in a neighborhood I liked, so that I could walk to work and ride a bike to shop. Now I have to defend it, or sell and move out of Seattle, a city that used to pride itself on being the most livable city in America.

You don't have to defend your house, you own it. You're trying to stop other people from using their property in a way that will allow them to live the lifestyle you enjoy. Why does your enjoyment of this city depend on other people, who have less money, being denied the same opportunity? Because the buildings aren't to your aesthetic liking?

You're trying to use government to limit other peoples rights in a way that artificially enhances the value of your investment, with huge environmental and social justice causes. That is your right, but please don't pretend it's anything other than a selfish and cynical "I got mine" move, or in any way consistent with progressive values.
45
I find it ironic, david jw- that your progressive orthodoxy is about property rights, and a developer's wet dream. Who's pretending? We are talking about my home, not an "investment." As for "artificially enhancing" my property value, poppycock. There's nothing artificial about it- it is market demand in an in-city residential neighborhood that has been up zoned. I get offers to buy all the time, especially from a certain notorious slumlord who wants to buy my home, knock it down, and put up another one of his poorly managed chicken coops. By your logic, I would knock down my house, build a chicken coop on the lot, move to Mercer Island, and when I wanted to visit the city, drive my Mercedes to town. No, wait, I would move my family into one of the chicken coops- that would be adhering to the progressive orthodoxy wouldn't it? Ultimately, this is a political fight and you are on the side of slum lords and developers. Good for you.
46
The fact that you're not interested in cashing in on your investment now--or that it's also your home, and has non-financial value--doesn't make it any less true that you're trying to influence government to take steps that a) enhance the appreciation of the value of your investment while b) contribute to negative environmental and social justice consequences for people less fortunate than you.

Everyone's greedy, some greedy person benefits from any path we take. Your game is to sneer at "greedy developers" so much that no one notices your own greed and selfishness. I'm glad we have a mayor who can see through that BS.
47
You're absolutely right, david jw. I am greedily and selfishly trying to preserve my home, and my neighborhood and its livability. I should really just knock down my house, build a (very profitable} chicken coop in its place, and move to an exurb- in the name of social justice. So should my neighbors who also live in SFRs- let the dominoes fall! "Enhancing the appreciation value of my investment" just increases my property taxes- already becoming prohibitive. I get it. The city wants me out. They might just get their wish. But your argument is contradictory- building a chicken coop would be the highest and best use for my capital, in terms of recap rate. Staying here and fighting "social justice" is not nearly as remunerative as selling out would be- which I would do if it was all about greed.
48
@46 Oh for fuck sake. Yes. "Won't somebody please think of the developers!"

You are full of shit. There is nothing in zoning for or constructing aPODments that is about affordabliliy or aimed at low income people. They are owned by the same property management monopolies that own everything else and thier rents just as outrageous. You don't know what the fuck your talking about. Acting like this gaming the system is about helping poor people. It's about lining the pockets of developers at the expense of families that have built the livable communities developers want to exploit. And cancerous unchecked development has destroyed livable communities time and time again.
49
Seriously, I'm tempted. I think I could rack and stack 18 or maybe even 20 units on my lot...at hmm...average probably $800/month...wow. Plus, I would be acting for social justice! Guilt free! Screw my greedy SFR dwelling neighbors, they need to get with the program!
50
Did I say $800? Pfft... my greed knows no bounds! Having researched this a bit, I think I could cram 25 units on my lot, for at least $850 each! Woot! Seeya, suckers!
51
preserve my home,

The level of self delusion involved in turning "preventing other people from living in all buildings or small apartments near my home" into "preserving my home" is off the charts.

News flash: your home is yours. You own it. If the bulldozers show up, call the cops. You do not own exclusive access to the parking spaces near your home, the air above neighboring properties, or the right to determine the socioeconomic status of people who live near you.
52
ack, s/b "living in tall buildings"
53
@50 many aPODments are $1100-1200. For 200sq ft. Yeah. That's targeted for people who need "affordable housing" alright.

I'm FOR density. Hell. I live in multiunit housing - we own a condo. Over the last decade our neighborhood as gotten totally over run with shitty looking expensive apartment and aPODment developments... and guess what? Rents continue to rise exponentially while families and older people are driven out. just blindly adding inventory has never - NEVER- lowered or even stabilized rents in a growing city.

That's not density. That's cancer.

These big investment property group monopolies and developers have been corrupting city after city, getting what ever they want at the cost of both affordability AND livability. The push for aPODments is just another scam to rake in money and skirt regulations and fuck up neighborhoods in the process. Any push back is good, though likely futile in the long run. But at least it will force some developers to at least pretend to care.

But I love the hearts and minds winning argument that families and old people are somehow how these greedy evil people for using the democratic process. While billionaire developers and investment monopolies are, golly, just trying to help the poor people by outright buying off mayors and city councils and throwing up their ungodly luxury units and few token ugly "affordable" slums.

54
Oh, clearly you are so right, david jw. I am going to bulldoze my house myself, and build whatever would be most profitable on it. My neighbors have no right to complain- it's my property!
55
It's EXTREMELY profitable to destroy neighborhoods. Check these guys out: http://liveatfootprint.com - they're up and down the left coast, including a neighborhood near you! So green, and so appealing to city planners and politicians! The trick is to be the first to build one in a newly up zoned neighborhood, before the quality of life degrades and you have to lower your rents.
56
How much longer is it going to be before Savage has The Stranger renamed The DSA Weekly? What is with the "We've never seen a building we didn't like." attitude of late? Without resorting to sexual analogies, The Stranger certainly seems to be supporting corporatist ideologies over progressive ones these days, and it is beginning to cause nausea in many.