A seven-story building will rise from a property near those trees.
A seven-story building will rise from a property near those trees. Charles Mudede

The Mount Baker Hub Business Association Board has had enough. It wants a development with market-rate apartments. This business about affordable apartments has gone too far. The area by the Mount Baker Station (the most poorly designed station on the Link line) already has one such building, the Artspace Mt. Baker Lofts. The one planned by Mercy Housing Northwest, which will replace the National Pride Car Wash, and is backed by the city's prince—Seattle's Medici, Paul Allen—would mean even more apartments devoted to people who are just making a living.

From Puget Sound Business Journal's article, "Seattle site of Paul Allen-funded low-income housing project revealed":

Some in the Mount Baker community have supported affordable housing, but think the Allen project should be built elsewhere so it won't "hamper the badly needed development and market investment of our town center."

So, building apartments for ordinary people is not seen as "needed development." It's merely charity. It's do-goodism. And that sort of thing gets you nowhere. Or it will get you to hell, the road to which is paved by do-goodism. Market investment is what matters.

This is how affordable housing is coded by the pro-business types. And this coding (market = development/affordability = no development) is very important. For example, despite the fact few poor and working-class people wanted to leave public housing in the years of demolition, the 1990s, it was coded, again and again, as a disaster that could only be resolved with wrecking balls. This coding won. And a huge amount of our public housing stock was removed and replaced by neoliberal Hope VI developments.

This is why words like "affordable" and "subsidized" and "hope" are bad. I do not even like the name "Mercy Housing Northwest," though I admire the work that the people in this organization do. It's not about "mercy," or pitying the poor. The problem is not them or the working classes; it is the market itself. It has serious limits when it comes to projects that demand massive amounts of capital and time. This has been an economic fact since the days of railroad capitalism. The reason why no one says enough about this is because very little work has been done on fixed capital accumulation. The kind of economics taught at places like University of Washington is marginalist—meaning, it's concerned with the cost of a unit of something in relation to demand. This is fine for a scoop of ice cream, but it's useless when dealing with capital-intensive projects that require the kind of investment and waiting that can easily wipe-out the fortune of a one percenter.

As John Maynard Keynes wrote in a book that most students of neoclassical economics have never opened and may even have never heard of, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money:

The outstanding fact is the extreme precariousness of the basis of knowledge on which our estimates of prospective yield have to be made. Our knowledge of the factors which will govern the yield of an investment some years hence is usually very slight and often negligible. If we speak frankly, we have to admit that our basis of knowledge for estimating the yield ten years hence of a railway, a copper mine, a textile factory, the goodwill of a patent medicine, an Atlantic liner, a building in the City of London amounts to little and sometimes to nothing; or even five years hence.

The future of a small business can be knowable, but not that of huge masses of fixed capital. Because of their scale in space and time, their future is basically unknowable. At this point, the government must support the market by building a stage on which its investments and returns are knowable and the nonsense in the mathematics and models of economists is reduced. (Indeed, there are theorists who believe that government—in terms of bridges, roads, hospitals, and so on—provide a way to absorb and remove capital from the market and thereby avoid macro-level saturation.) And so, when we consider what is happening in this city, and in the neighborhood of Mount Baker, think of it not as a matter of being all nice to those poor and unfortunate people; it's a matter of who has the political power to direct government action and resources.

Construction of the seven-story apartment building will begin in the fall of 2018 and be completed a year before three new stations open on the Link line.