The Rent Hike

What Happened When a New Owner Bought Our Apartment Building

Comments

1
Always expect the worst when any business is "Under New Management".
2
I admire everything about this article - the marshaling of facts, the tone - EVERYTHING. This is just fantastic work.

That aside, holy shit, I'm so sorry everyone is going through this at that building.
3
And when they finish with the renovation, it will fill back up with new tenants. Capitol Hill, for better or worse (definitely worse for existing residents) is the destination spot where everyone relocating to Seattle wants to live. I'm sure there will be no shortage of incoming white collar professionals gladly willing to pay $1400 for a one-bedroom (which is a great fucking deal compared to what they'd pay to rent in Belltown).

Maintaining and expanding the stock of truly affordable housing in this city should be a much higher priority than it is, and probably ever will be. Few years from now, no one making less that 150% of the median income will be able to live anywhere near the city they work in.

Great article. Gives voice to those dealing with the real consequences of gentrification. We don't hear from those people nearly often enough.
4
This kind of puts the lie to the idea that adding "density" (in the form of luxury condos, etc.) makes existing units more affordable. In reality it just accelerates the gentrification of the whole area.
5
Hey, where are all the Libertards screaming about private property rights and lazy hippies and welcome to the real world? I miss that fuck-you-I-got-mine attitude they used to puke all over.
6
@4: It's not just density in a vacuum; it has to be smart, planned density. I bet the developers of that huge Safeway did not have density in mind at all, speaking as someone who used to live across the street. What a poorly designed, un-navigable, ugly building.

We had a pretty sweet chance to try out some mixed-income, smart density with the Yesler Terrace redevelopment, but with Vulcan at the helm I am not optimistic. OH WELL.
7
Really, you expect owners to take a loss on the property because you want lower rent?
8
@6 This is what I've been saying for a few years now.

People have been denying it for just as many years.

Maybe we can start to get a study up in The Stranger about increasing rents and home prices vs salaries.
9
Er...that should have been @4.

I have also said planned density should happen, but rents will never ever stay down, and not when compared with salaries anymore.
10
Just another step in the hills (and surrounding areas) transformation into a white upper class enclave. Come on down south of 90, where is still dirty, diverse and fun.
12
But PLP issued rent-increase notices to three other tenants also protected by leases, and as I say to Alldredge, "This gives the impression you're testing to see what you'll get away with."

Paperwork mix-ups caused these oversights, Alldredge says.


Given how many times this has happened to me and people I know who live in Seattle, I don't believe Alldredge for one fucking second.

There are exactly zero repercussions for Washington landlords who break the law, and many tenants don't know their rights. PLP gave you you an illegal rent increase because they were counting on you simply paying up or moving out.
13
Great stuff, Marti.
14
Having a string of luck come to an end does not make one unlucky.

Anyone in similar situations: low rent, good location, high ceilings, etc. on month-to-month should try to sign as long lease and lock down that luck for as long as is possible.

15
Couldn't The Stranger have run this story every month for the last twenty years or so, just changing the address of the building in question? Gentrification is always the same story, and artsy-creative types displace poor/blue-collar tenants and are displaced by white-collar professionals who are replaced by owners instead of renters. Everyone loves it when they get that ride up for a few years, but eventually you run out of oxygen and get pushed out. Until society decides that stable, affordable housing is a human right, this will continue to repeat itself forever.
16
Where in the continental United States does anyone get a 1 bedroom for $340!?

This is not gentrification, this is like some kind of time bubble that was never penetrated up until now!!
17
artists are the shock troops of the bourgeoisie.

18
@15: silly tiktok, GUNS are a human right, not affordable housing!
19
@16 $340? Where are you getting that figure? It said pre-hike rents were $600-900.
20
Capitalism wins again! Profit über-alles!
21
The same management company is doing the same thing to my building in the Central District. The worst part is the frequent (pretty much daily) intrusions into my apartment by workers who forget that this is the one apartment still occupied. Apartment management doesn't seem to give a fuck.
22
@16 - Reading comprehension for the win! The article says that units rent for 600-900, and are going up by 50-100%. The author's 1br unit is going from $815 to $1395.
23
Croc and I live in another PLP property where the exact same thing is going on. We haven't received our rent hike yet since we're still under lease, but I called the management as a potentially interested new tenant, and the remodeled units are starting at 60% more than we're currently paying.
24
I went through something similar when the gentrified area I was living in was then mega-gentrified (super-gentrified?).

Thoroughly unpleasant to live in construction, and when the new owners want you to pay a premium to do so.

And they will always shaft the residents, pushing the edges of legality, or just plain violating the law.
25
What @15 said. Stable, decently located and affordable housing isn't a luxury good, and shouldn't be treated as one. It's the foundation needed for any individual to thrive.

Whoever decided that the market alone could provide for this basic need, got it wrong, and everyone is paying for it. Even the landlords are paying for it because they have to borrow so much to get in on the swindle.

NGOs, Cooperatives, Local, State and Federal governments are better suited to providing the majority of the housing in any city, not capitalists who make their living off the scarcity of something that the masses need and will die without.
26
This is the same management company that bought my low-income apartment building in Belltown and DOUBLED the rent.
27
@12 We have done everything in our power to make sure PLP is working within the law and, unfortunately, they are (at the bare minimum). We've had building inspectors come in, consulted lawyers (many) and there is nothing to be done. They all agree that PLP is doing the bare minimum within the law. When they bought the building they refused to renew leases so anyone whose 1 year lease was up moved to month-to-month and there is nothing that a tenant can do in that case - they can raise it as much as they want as long as they give us 60 days. There has been a notice for over 3 weeks that the water will be sporadically off from 8a-4p, but again, no rights so its legal...
28
@26 - Ouch. Yeah, clearly PLP has found a business model that works well for them.
29
@4 - this isn't increasing density. they're not adding more units to the building. they're able to jack up the rent so much because it's a high-demand area.

even as more housing is built in an area like capitol hill, demand still far outpaces supply, so rents continue to climb. it's not until there's MORE supply than demand that rents will stabilize. that's what could happen in ballard in the next few years. see: http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstec…
"But analysts such as Cain and Dupre + Scott's Mike Scott forecast that, in a year or so, all the new construction will start to tip the balance between demand and supply.

Vacancies will rise, they say. Rents will stabilize, perhaps drop. Landlords will start offering tenants concessions like free rent again."

this is a fucked-up situation, but it's not increased density that's the problem. it's simply the number of people who want to live in the center of the city and are willing/able to pay $1400 a month for a one-bedroom. why we need rent control!!
30
Why don't we fight back? 50% of this city rents. Surely we can get our shit together to pass an initiate to control these insane rent increases.
31
Developers and property managers are scum. This is why I get so mad when people try to rehabilitate Greg Nickels. He did everything he could to give these assholes power. And look what they do with it.

I never had my rent dramatically bumped up, but I did get a boot when developers decided to tear down my apartment building for some bullshit development. I had a very limited income at the time and it almost bankrupted me (had to move from a decent 1 br ~$650 to a smaller 1 br ~$950 as that was all that I could find).
32
*meant to type initiative
33
"Difficult decisions" = "fuck you, I got mine"
34
@27,

Yes, I know, and that's what I'm grousing about.

Tenant protections in Washington state are a joke. I've gotten the "oh, oops" excuse before when landlords tried to illegally raise my rent (last time they gave me three days' notice), and the fact that the state refuses to penalize them for breaking the law means that they will always try to get away with it. And that's not even going into the many completely legal ways they can fuck over their tenants.
35
Whining about rent? Jeez, 20-somethings, some day you'll own something and understand what private property actually means.

"Surely we can get our shit together to pass an initiate to control these insane rent increases."

Here's an idea. Hold a protest!
36
@30,

I'm pretty sure rent control is prohibited by the Washington State Constitution.
37
I'll get slammed for saying this, but I think gentrification is fucking awesome. Seattle is a desirable city and you should want young, high income professionals from all over the country flocking here. It's good for the long term health of the city. I was raised in Detroit, a place that could desperately use some gentrification. You need to get used to the fact that nothing stays the same. Urban neighborhoods either get gentrified and improve, or fall into decay. You can whine about it all you want it won't change anything.
38
"NGOs, Cooperatives, Local, State and Federal governments are better suited to providing the majority of the housing in any city"

You haven't seen housing in Pyongyang have you?
39
@37 not a slam--but it's only good if you're a member of that "gentry."
40
"I'll get slammed for saying this"

Not by me.
41
Last time I checked, the Socialist and Communist parties in this state had very few members.

Until this changes this article and comment are just whining.

You can't just convert to Socialism on one issue when it impacts you. We live in a right wing capitalist country. Barrak Obama is somewhere to the right of Ronald Reagan.
42
@39: Basically, Seattle is only for the gentry now. Everyone else is being pushed out to the suburbs. Hope they can afford the commute.
43
@37: Your gentrification argument assumes that there isn't a fairly rigid class system that more often than not, divided along racial lines.

@41: Obama isn't to the right of Reagan. Get over yourself. I am constantly amazed how Republicans see Obama as a socialist while at the same time socialists see Obama as a Republican. Perhaps if both groups looked at the average, they'd see where he really stands.
45
@44: I somehow doubt that PLP is raising the rents because their property taxes increased. They certainly haven't increased 50% in a year.
46
Some quick thoughts:

@4: Like others have said, this is only density if a pinot counts as beer. Increased density involves more units, this story doesn't add units at all. More density would make this story less common, as the increased number of apartments would increase competition and so decrease rents.

@29, 30, and others: The answer is certainly not rent control. What happens then is that no one wants to build in the city because they can't paid enough to justify it. Instead, the same building exist for ever and, because the rents aren't adjusting to inflation, the landlords make progressively less relative to the cost of living. The outcome is an absolute shortage of apartments (meaning that the people who live here now are fine but the people who will want to move here later are screwed). In addition, the chance that those apartments will be well maintained is much lower because of the lower rents.

It's easy to complain about these sorts of things. But, if you are paying markedly lower rent than other buildings around you, it probably shouldn't come as a huge shock when your rent goes up. If we would get off of our unimformed, NIMBY asses and allow for denser development and stop worrying so much about (fake) gentrification when something like apodments are getting built, we would all end up paying less for rent. Instead, we complain about reality but propose ideas that will make it worse.
47
Thank you @37. Seriously. I live about 1.5 blocks from that place, and anyone (of any class) is seriously delusional if they think the neighborhood in question was better 5+ years ago. It was not an artsy, quirky, or desirable enclave...it was crappy, trashy, and (at least) a little unsafe. Now, circa 2013, I can walk to a Safeway, Trader Joe's, and Madison Market at any hour of the day while feeling perfectly safe. Rent control would just keep bad neighborhoods locked into destitution. Is it really such a bad thing to enjoy walking to a nice cafe/bar/interesting shop, in front of residences that people actually care about, all in relative safety? Also, the Pod Apartments in the neighborhood seem really nice AND inexpensive, as a reasonable alternative.
48
@15: Yes, but this time it happened to a Stranger writer, so it's big news.

Actually, I do have sympathy. But the next time Charles (among other Stranger writers) extol the virtues of renting vs. owning I just may point him to this story.
49
I live in the 'burbs because I know that even if I could afford a Seattle apartment now, it wouldn't stay that way long.
50
Why not organize directly against it? It sounds like this company is doing this same thing all over the city -- why not try for a general rent strike against them? You don't need a state initiative for rent control to pass before you can take direct action against these scumbags. Let them lose the money they invested in the place, they have no right to it anyways.

And yes, this is abysmally common--not to mention the fact that many of these companies then try to steal people's deposits, go back on the lease, etc. SeaSol has had a number of fights like this in the past (and won them).
51
Apparently it's time to for Marti to ask the Stranger for a raise so she can afford to live somewhere other than a ghetto under rehab. Certainly the value of being the new poster girl for the Stranger's gun control bleating should trump not being a white homosexual. Surely.
52
My building at 18th & Denny was just sold, too, but to a different buyer. We're all preparing for the worst.
53
What @46 said. It's bad policy to impose rent control, because then nobody could ever move into the neighborhood. But it's immoral to slam renters with a 50% increase in 1 year. The best compromise I think would involve capping the annual rent increase to, say, 10% a year. That way the market could keep up with demand but people wouldn't get defacto evicted because their building was sold.
54
Agreeing with Gus @2, as usual. Kudos on the article. Good work.
55
I'm with @34. Landlords try to see what they can get away with, and those that break the rules should be punished for not following the rules.

I got rent-increased out of the Whitworth in 2007, but they did everything above board.
56
@47 - This is what sucks about gentrification. The idea that a f-ing ugly Safeway and Trader Joes are considered neighborhood improvements. Just because you and you're "quirky/artsy" friends didn't find it desirable 5+ years ago, doesn't mean it wasn't a great neighborhood for lots of people and families.
57
@25: "NGOs, Cooperatives, Local, State and Federal governments are better suited to providing the majority of the housing in any city."

You've never actually visited any country where they tried that, have you?
58
@21

If you gotta leave eventually, start getting friends to come over for big parties in the hallways during the day when they're trying to work. Put a bunch of people drinking beers and hula hooping in the halls and stairs.
59
These people have been paying below-market rent for years and now are whining about an increase. Whatever. I have no sympathy for that. If you want to live in the hot neighborhoods you're going to pay hot prices. It's fucking capitalism and if you don't like it then change the rules.

I would love to live in a socialist state with rent control but that's not where we live. As it was, I did live in one for year (up in the easten portion of Canadaland) and it was great. Good luck changing the rules here. The new folks coming in want nice apartments, nice streets, nice stores and nice everything.
60
@47 good troll. 10/10 Pod apartments seem nice and inexpensive? Awesome.
61
Because of our "market-based" (yet not "free market"(way of handling property ownership and living spaces, you will in all likelihood get screwed if you haven't gotten off the ever-escalating rent world and into a mortgage by your early 30's. People's earning power starts to level off in their thirties, particularly if they have the traditional artsy/creative/cool day jobs, while the cost of living and rent keeps going up and up. If you're not comfortable moving every few years, eventually further away from the "desirable" neighborhoods or into smaller and shittier apartments, you've got to keep earning more to keep your head above water.

Otherwise, you end up moving to Portland. Or now that Portland's gentrified up....somewhere else yet to be identified.

62
Isn't this the paper that continually loses its collective shit whenever they find out an employer isn't paying a livable wage? Why isn't the stranger taking care of its employees?
63
@56 " This is what sucks about gentrification. The idea that a f-ing ugly Safeway and Trader Joes are considered neighborhood improvements."

You know what sucks worse than ugly buildings? Paying through the nose for crappy groceries.
64
I'm with 58.

I'm Alicia, nine year tenent of this beautiful building!! I moved in at 17 years old. And stayed nine years in my very first apartment. I grew up here. I created a family here.

Lets party!! All good things must end only to begin new and better adventures :)

(+) = (-)
Every action has an equal and opisite reaction
65
@53 the problem is that this wouldn't have changed situations like this except in the most unusual circumstances.

It sounds like the previous owners weren't anywhere near keeping up with market rates (or maintenance, but that's a separate issue), but in most cases owners will. If this building had been owned by a 'standard' landlord for the past few years, rents would already be above what these renters could afford even with the law you propose.

While I appreciate wanting to maintain neighborhood character, it does seem like there's an undercurrent in the article and comments of wanting to rely on good will from landlords, and acting surprised when they exhibit anything else. Yes, it'd be nice if landlords would take 'neighborhood character' into account, but based on mountains of past evidence, this will usually not happen. Instead of asking for something from someone who you really ought to know won't listen, why not take things into your own hands?

If you want rent control, it's effectively available: buy a condo. You get a lifetime guaranteed rent, no hikes. You get a reserved spot on Cap Hill (or wherever) for as long as you want. I know it's not for everybody, but the rents you're describing for this building are very close to what you'd pay on a mortgage. And with rents going up like they are, in a couple years you'll be way below market rate. I know there are a bunch of people in my building (2 blocks from Bauhaus, great area) paying 1100 or less for nice 2 bedroom places that would easily rent for double that, because they bought several years back.

Yes, landlords should be nicer. But I wish more people would take active steps to take back control of the neighborhood in the other ways they have available as well.
66
@65: That's always the mantra of realtors--"For what you're paying in rent, you could own!!", but that usually doesn't take into consideration condo/HOA type fees, all the repairs that you're on the hook for (renters never have to buy a new fridge/dishwasher/clothes dryer/etc.) and of course, the down payment to get you in the door. Plus, usually not in the same desirable location as your blissfully-under-market rental unit.
67
Isn't this just the story of the region? All real estate? A couple mile radius from downtown a house is 500K for something decent...300k for a shithole that needs a lot of work. Go to shoreline or lynnwood you get a really nice house.
68
I wouldn't be surprised if things like this spark rent control. In the meantime, PLP is banking on a neighborhood that is spotty at times, so if they get suckers to rent at their prices, with a company that treats their "customers" (this IS a business, after all) that way, for high rents? Well, their reputation will get trashed.

One thing's for sure: PLP better comply with EVERY little law, because the Landlord Tenant Act does have teeth in Seattle, and they're opening themselves up to unhappy, sue-happy yuppies who would be more than happy to sue when they don't.
69
I am a tenant of the Prince of Wales.I have not stopped coughing since they broke through the walls of the apartment next to me. The air is thick throughout the building and the floor continues to vibrate. The new owners tried to prove that I did not pay the rent, but I had photos of my checks and bank statements so Franklin, had to give up the eviction. The environment is stressful and unhealthy. Yes I will be moving soon, if I can just stop coughing long enough to pack.
70
Judy Nicastro 2013.
71
Not easy, but here's an example of residents taking some control of their collective future:
http://apexcoop.org/
72
@66

Several years ago my apartment building got sold and converted to condos. I was paying about $650 or $680 and was told I could buy and pay $1500 (it may have been more, but that's what springs to mind) a month. I forget if HOA fees were included in that, but either way, it would have been more than double, which I could not afford.
73
So, I agree that this sucks, but I fail to understand how it's news (oh, wait, it happened to a Stranger writer, so it can be a features story requiring minimal work). You were getting a steal on your rent, and now you'll be paying market rates in a central part of a city that is still fairly cheap compared to other coastal cities scoring lower on most quality of life indices.

Let's break it down: as of 2009, the median income in Seattle was 40k/year for individuals, 60k for households. Given that these are studios and 1BR apartments, let's focus on the individual.

Let's assume that residents are making 20% below the median, or 32k/year. There are no state income taxes, so you'll be bringing home approximately 28k/year after you consider SS withholding and federal income tax.

You were definitely getting a good deal: less than a third of your income to live in a very desirable part of Seattle, dense with transit and walkability. Now, not so much.

That is, of course, if you were only making $32k a year. If you are making below that, you should probably reconsider your career choices if you've been working for the Stranger (or any other employer) well into 30s, and/or alternatively consider you're in fact living beyond your means. Want to know what makes things cheaper? Roommates. I had them when I was making a shitty wage in my late 20s as a graduate student, and have tons of thirty-something friends in Seattle making the median wage who have roommates so they can save money.

Alternatively, you don't get to live in the desirable neighborhoods, and have to live further out. I really don't understand why there is this undercurrent on Slog of people who think it's a human right to have their own affordable (in fact below market rent) apartment that isn't tiny in one of the more desirable parts of the city. Newsflash: it's not.

But I can definitely understand lamenting a place you were getting a great deal on, being run by good people (because most landlords are barely a few steps above house cats on the pure evil scale). I had one of those (on the Hill!), and considered myself very lucky those two years. Of course, I made sure to not take the option to go month to month, knowing that I was getting a good deal and how the law works.
74
everyone here misses the larger issue by about a light year. Seattle-government game plan is to tear out single family home ownership and make the populace scant more than sharecroppers. Renters are much more malleable than home owners, as they do not see property taxes. I challenge you to compare voting records in predominately single family home districts vs. rental areas. Remember what Alki used to look like? Think it's better now? Look at the plan for California Avenue in West Seattle. Stacks of rental units displacing single family home owners. Seattle has bitten into the failed rotten apple of all other cities that think 'more is better' which it sometimes can be, unless you don't know the price for it.
75
@3 I was just trying to sell my girlfriend on moving to the CD. Guess this narrows it down to the UD or Fremont.
76

@65 & @61: I should think the recent real estate bubble/bust has proved that buying isn't going to save you either. As @72 pointed out, historically speaking, the exact same property typically goes for A LOT MORE MONEY when it gets converted to condos. Plus, there's a downpayment. So, you can only "save money" by spending more in the first place. In a good building and a good location, you might get that money back in the long term. But again, the housing bust should have proven there's no guarantee in that.

That's the thing. With market forces, there is no guarantee of anything, ever.

That's why some things have to be socialized, and I'm with @15 and @25 in thinking that basic, decent housing is one of those things.
77
@73's got it. The attempts at mid-lease rent raises are pretty sketchy, but aside from that there's nothing "immoral" about fixing up decrepit old buildings and charging market rates. You're not entitled to live in below-market housing in an affluent part of town simply because it's always been that way.
78
You know, I lived in Seattle for quite a while and it always bugged me that anyone bothered with capitol hill at all. Terrible, congested, ugly little area. IT'S SEATTLE FOR GODS SAKE, ALL THE AREAS ARE AWESOME.

I wanted a fun young area with lots of hot young gay guys drinking and doing drugs, SO I MOVED TO WALLINGFORD.
79
@76 What's your model? Saying "socialize it!" without a specific plan is... useless, to be polite.

Council flats in the UK? I doubt I'll even need to tell you how those worked out. The projects in the US? Ditto. Rent control that has been shown to only drive up prices and most benefits the middle and upper middle class (e.g. NYC)?

How about the Swedish system? There you can't legally rent a place for it's market value... even if the person renting would pay it. In fact, to make a scant 5% return on investment (remember: inflation!) you'd have to be able to charge more than 70% above the floor set by the government. That, and extremely generous tenants rights coupled with lots of restrictions on what landlords can do means the private sector has been completely removed from the equation. This is necessary, because generally speaking if you can, you avoid the government.

So the government takes care of things: they build the buildings, you rent your apartment from them. Of course, there being no real market pressures, and thus no stabilization between supply and demand, you have to wait. A long time. In Stockholm, we're talking multiple years. The average for the city is 2 years. Then something comes open, and maybe it's not exactly where you want to be. Desirable areas of Stockholm can have a wait time of 20 years.

Oh, shit, you got a new job and need to change where you live? Not easy. Going to go study at university for a couple years? Hope you got on a waiting list well before.

Result: you go gray market, and rent from someone with a place. Who charges you more than they pay. And who has you over the barrel like most landlords do, because, well, you're not actually a lessee, you're just sub-leasing it. But hell, you're glad, because to get your own lease you'd have to wait a few years. And guess what? The price for your apartment in Stockholm is, compared to comparable European capitals, more.

It's almost as if there were economic forces at work here. Issues of supply and demand, of equilibrium. Of incentives.

So, again I ask those calling for socialized housing: what's your specific plan? (Ideally also explain how you'd make it fiscally viable.)
80
Seattle is a terrible city to rent in.

Get 2 years of steady work history under your belt and get a mortgage. Buy a tiny WWII era 2bd bungalow in so-so condition or a run-down 1970's era condo, and you'll be much better off.
81
We have a lot of this in Vancouver - we call it "renoviction". As an aside, many years ago, I successfully fought a large rent increase (we don't have rent control but we do have a cap on increases when there has been no renovation). As we walked out of the arbitration office my landlord looked me straight in the eye and said: "it would be terrible if my brothers were to do anything to you because of this". I called the cops, who told me they could only do anything AFTER an attempt had been made to hurt me. I moved out. At the end of the day, the landlord always,always,always has the upper hand. Sorry about your luck, Marti.
82
Poor (literally) Marti. Poor, poor Marti. Come sit on your grandpa's knee, so he can tell you what the adults know.

Marti, you were incorrect to call it "our apartment building." That implied that it someone belongs to the people who live there, But poor Martin, the building belongs to its owner. Do you own the building? No? Then it's actually "someone else's apartment building." You just happen to live there.

Poor, poor Marti. No one gives a shit about "texture." How stupid can you be? The owner bought the building for money. There's a mortgage payment to make. All those tax levies you voted are part of the taxes. Which just went up a whole bunch because, with the sale, the building got revalued. Poor, poor Marti. You didn't think renters have to pay for tax levies. Wrong about that one too, Marti.

Poor, poor Marti. You were getting a great deal on your rent, from a kindly owner. Did you ever thank the kindly owner, either then or now? Nope. Why thank anyone? Now the owner is no more, and the new owner isn't so kind. Poor, poor Marti. Have you thought of an apodment? Let your grandpa know how your new dorm room works out for you.

Poor, poor Marti, you will pay whatever the fuck the market will let the owner charge. You didn't think grandpas curse at you? Wrong about that too, you stupid little brat.

83
Supply and demand, baby. Just because you're an artsy bohemian who makes the neighborhood interesting, you're not entitled to eternal low rents. The neighborhood's been discovered, and more people want to live there, so you're being outbid. If you don't own, you're vulnerable.

There are upsides and downsides to rent v. own. You have lower housing costs, and the flexibility to pack up & go pretty much whenever you want, so don't bitch when the party comes to an end and the rent gets jacked up.

Want security? Accept more responsibility. Sorry to harsh the buzz, but that's Adulthood 101.
84
@76 You misunderstand. I'm not arguing that you will save money (at least not in the short term). Clearly down payments and maintenance (I'm including HOAs in maintenance) will often make your costs higher in the short term.

The thing is, it's a somewhat higher cost, but it's a fixed cost. And if you're faced with market rates going up 10% every year, even a fairly large jump in total costs when you go to a condo is going to turn out to be below market rates before too long.

Yes, you pay more now, but you're paying up front to get a lifetime fixed cost. Yes, there are risks. If you buy into a bubble and it pops you may be stuck paying more than you could sell the place for. Even so, you're probably going to be paying less than market rates for renting a similar place within 5 years.

Again, not for everybody. And yes, there are up front costs. But your rent can never double on you, and there's a LOT of power in that.
86
there are so many empty apts in seattle, What I want to know is what kind of tax break owners get for empty buildings. empty niegbohoods are prevalent in seattle. RICH PIGS seem fine with having empty buildings. We need RENT control.
87
@84: No, it's not a "lifetime of fixed costs"--unless they freeze property taxes and you stop having to do repairs and upgrades, but in the medium term (10+ years), the benefits start to kick in....assuming that the property values have continued to rise where rents start to routinely exceed mortgages. One unexpected (and they're ALL unexpected) $20k plumbing incident (damn trees!) sets you back for years on that "I'm getting a good financial deal from owning!".
88
@85 - I'm not sure the cost driver in this case is as result of monetary policy as local supply and demand. While rents in a select number of desirable neighborhoods is going up, the overall rise in the CPI nationally is very low. What we are seeing is a continuing trend, temporarily stalled by the Great Recession, of people re-discovering how great in can be to live in the city, as traffic congestion, rising fuel prices, and - paradoxically - lower income (and more crime-prone) folks moving to the 'burbs because they're being gentrified out of the city neighborhoods. The City is becoming a hot property again, and rents in desirable close-in neighborhoods will spiral up as the city continues to invest in useful infrastructure like Light Rail.

I love articles like this; besides the youthful exuberance of the Stranger's writers, I also get a kick out of the constant theme of naiveté, where writers seem to honestly not understand why they can't afford to live in cool, funky apartments in cool, funky neighborhoods on what they make as baristas, musicians, or - wait for it - alt-weekly writers. Sorry kiddies, that fantasy only happens on movies and TV. Otherwise plan on living in Kent and commuting, or live next to a crack house.

Or take the hard classes in school, do your homework on weekends rather than partying, deal with the 9-5 drudgery, and then maybe you too can afford nice digs when you're older.

It's the 'Ant-and-the-Grasshopper' story all over again; play now or play later; your call.
89
ha ha ha, I love this article. If this were north, south or west seattle everyone would be chiming in about a bunch of NIMBY's. Well the lot of you are a bunch of NIMBY's too! Shoe meet other foot.
90
At some point I stopped reading all the replies. I think it was around #52 I started skimming, and at #68 I was done.
I see a consensus for the most part. It is the same consensus that Occupy Wall Street was principled on. It is the same consensus that humanitarian efforts are principled on. Treating people with respect. Knowing that no one is attempting to live in a bubble or get away with anything, but merely attempting to pay what they can to live where they want.
Let's face it, it was the "quirky creative-type people" that made Capitol Hill an attractive hot spot to begin with. Now, the vultures are circling. They have homed in on wounded prey, and are ready to start picking the bones for every last scrap of meat they can get into their gullets. These vultures are raising the rent on the very foundation of the neighborhood they hope to mint their continued fortunes from. If the neighborhood was filled with gangbangers and prostitutes PLP may have passed this opportunity by as not lucrative.
The problem with our current state of affairs is that these companies want us to buy their goods, live in their buildings; basically suckle their tit, but the milk they are giving cannot sustain us. The smug are grinning and thinking "great, more for us" but they do not realize that everyone is interconnected to the failure or success of this country.
Everyday I read about how Obama is going to create a 'commie regime' and change our country to a socialist society. I have news for you; it isn't Obama that is changing this country, it is the citizens, the businesses, and the attitude that more is better. This house of cards that has been stacking up is going to topple.
PLP is a symptom of the plague of greed that has beset our society. What is interesting is that if there was a movement to move a large majority of the "quirky creative-type people" out of Seattle to Detroit, where building owners would be happy to rent a large number of units out at any price; that city would soon be on the upswing with a different type of re-gentrification. Companies like PLP would soon turn their site toward the Motor City, as scavenger and parasites always turn toward the blood to feed their unquenchable hunger.
Being from Baltimore, I have seen this all before. Having lived in Seattle for almost two decades, I can say I honestly hate this city. This place where everyone feels entitled; where great ideas get lost under the money game; where the biggest crimes are in the ways we treat each other; the way the city and county governments spend our tax dollars, wipe their greedy mouths and ask us for more, even as the infrastructure continues to crumble.
People of the Prince of Whales, if you are truly unhappy with what PLP has done here, simply light a match and watch it burn. Revolution will be coming to America. Why? Because our republic is becoming a oligarchy run by the corporations that want to pay as little as possible, and own everything; including the people it pays. The writing is on the wall.
91
@62 That's always the kicker, isn't it?

Same thing with unions issues. If I was Tim Keck, I'd be laughing my ass of about it every single day.
92
@90 You claim to have lived in Seattle for two decades, and grown up elsewhere, so I'm confused about having to say grow up, but there it is.

You don't get it, this isn't fantasyland. People "attempting to pay what they can to live where they want" isn't reality. Some places are more desirable than others, and thus cost more. Fuck, in your hippy utopia apparently people don't even have to pay what they can, then only have to try to, and that's ok. You're like my undergrads who don't understand why they got a mediocre grade when they tried so hard!

But let's take your logic to it's natural conclusion: I want to live in Central London, lower Manhattan, or West LA and pay under $1k/month for a livable 1BR! That's about what I can pay if I want to save, so I should be able to, right? Despite the fact that tons of people want this, but we can't use the market to sort it out in your fantasyland, I'm sure things will work out for the best.
93
Well I will address your comments in a minute @90, but I first have to give you props for pointing out "your undergrads" to give us all a sense of your smug superiority and intellectual upper hand... NICE JOB!

As far as measuring Capitol Hill (or Belltown for that matter) to "Central London, lower Manhattan, or West LA", well I needn't tell you how far from any of these place Capitol Hill is.

When I said "attempt" it was pointing to this economy that we have helped the banks create for us.

I own my own home, and wouldn't deign to live ass to elbow in Capitol Hill, Belltown, the U District; whatever. However, many feel that this is a way to save money. They sign a lease to live close to work, and public transportation, they build up a neighborhood over time, and then are pushed out because some greedy fucking company decides the time is right to squeeze more from a property. You are right Hatter. In the "fantasyland" I live in (or would like to) people cannot be exploited to their breaking point. The elimination of the middle class in this country is a process of erosion. When the underpinnings are gone and the whole thing topples, I hope you have prepared yourself.

Conversely, if you are prepared to the tune of $450,000 a year or more, enjoy your new income tax. You've earned it.
94
what's glaringly missing is the true identity of the owners behind the corporation. Are they rich folk who might be embarrassed if identified with, say, photos of their homes, or reports on their stature in the community, etc. Could be a juicy story.
95
@94, I agree, but we know that most rich people have no shame...just look at the Walton kids...
96
My rent just shot up $50 a month (I don't live in Seattle).
I love where I live, utilities are included, rent's higher, and I'll have to budget myself for it. But I'd really prefer to stay renting where I am than save for a condo in my town. The condos I could afford right now are new construction, but in shitty neighborhoods. Hopefully this isn't suddenly the beginning of a vicious, greedy new cycle of "who is the bigger, badder slumlord".

Alldredge sounds like the slumlord I once rented from in Ballard who lived on the East side, and griped if any of his tenants "bothered" him with residency maintenance calls, taking him away from his precious country club. Ironically, he sold his building to a wonderfully competent, older couple near Sandpoint---just before we moved out and signed a mortgage agreement!
Sorry, Marti! Being at the mercy really bites.
97
You guys. Seattle's average salary vs. price of living is one of the lowest in the country.

Also, it's business. Smart businesses work (and last) because they make enough revenue to cover their expenses and make a profit. You want to talk inflation? Think about that last book you bought at Elliot Bay ($30 for a hard-cover, what?!) or that cute little pair of shoes you bought at Edie's Shoes in Capitol Hill ($80)... and you don't call that inflation or smart business?

The City of Seattle doesn't provide any tenant rights except rent hikes above a certain percentage in a year (or within the span of a lease). If you're upset about rent hikes, please band a group together and take it to the city - I'll certainly sign that petition!

High standards of living generally don't come cheap. In Seattle, we've been living in a bubble for quite a long time, and even though prices are still low compared to the rest of the US, we should all expect to see rent go a little higher.
98
You guys. Seattle's average salary vs. price of living is one of the lowest in the country.

Also, it's business. Smart businesses work (and last) because they make enough revenue to cover their expenses and make a profit. You want to talk inflation? Think about that last book you bought at Elliot Bay ($30 for a hard-cover, what?!) or that cute little pair of shoes you bought at Edie's Shoes in Capitol Hill ($80)... and you don't call that inflation or smart business?

The City of Seattle doesn't provide any tenant rights except rent hikes above a certain percentage in a year (or within the span of a lease). If you're upset about rent hikes, please band a group together and take it to the city - I'll certainly sign that petition!

High standards of living generally don't come cheap. In Seattle, we've been living in a bubble for quite a long time, and even though prices are still low compared to the rest of the US, we should all expect to see rent go a little higher.
99
@93 Not sure how me pointing out what I do is any different than you referencing Baltimore, but whatever. The point was that your entire position is entitled whining because you think you deserve something for some reason that escapes me.

Of course the Hill isn't Manhattan, London, or West LA. But your logic applies: I get to live wherever I want even if tons and tons of people want to live there.* On whatever I make at whatever job I choose, seemingly. And they get to continue living there, apparently, until they decide otherwise, at whatever it was they were paying whenever it was they moved in.

Neighborhoods change (the CD today isn't the CD of 25 years ago). Property values change, and in places that are nice to live--be it for bars and restaurants or schools and parks--they go up (as a home owner you know this). This isn't some evil nefarious scheme, and when a building gets sold, the property re-evaluated (and thus likely the taxes go up) and renovated the rents are also going to increase.

How is raising the rent from below market prices to market prices greed? Or exploitation? Oh, wait, nevermind, I forgot: because it infringes on everyone's basic human right to be able to live comfortably anywhere they want, despite other people's desires.

Because that's all this is: people's desires. This isn't some evil corporation exploiting people. It's the fact that other people want to live in this area too. And these people are willing to pony up more money.

Does it suck to get priced out of an area? Yes it does. Is it some huge injustice? Well, no, not really. We're only reading or writing about this because someone working for the Stranger can't afford to pay to live in the neighborhood they work in. Is that the fault of big bad developers, or a--gasp!--corporation not paying its employees enough so that they can live near work?

*Though I'd take the Hill over all of them, as I actually love living "ass to elbow" in a marginally dense neighborhood.
100
@74: Bingo---your comments are why I had to leave Seattle in 1997.
It just isn't the city I once knew as a kid, anymore.
Anybody remember Frederick & Nelson? Fun Forest at Seattle Center? The Bon Marche (before it became Macy's)? Trader Vic's at the Westin?

@81: "Renoviction". I hope I don't become another victim of it.
101
@97/98 A thousand times this.

I couldn't be bothered to find city-specific data, but for MSAs Seattle is absurdly cheap.

DC: http://www.apartmentratings.com/rate?a=M…

LA: http://www.apartmentratings.com/rate/CA-…

Boston: http://www.apartmentratings.com/rate/MA-…

San Francisco: http://www.apartmentratings.com/rate/CA-…

Seattle: http://www.apartmentratings.com/rate?a=M…

25-50% cheaper than all of them. For frame of reference, we have the same median income as DC, and a higher median income than Boston or LA. Only San Franciscans earn, on average, more than Seattleites. But they also pay 2.5x what we do for rent.
102
Siiiiiiiiiiiiiigh...okay. One more comment, and then I'll shut up:

I see my recent rent increase comparatively speaking, as a homeowner who see increased property taxes to support a passed public school levy.
While it's rarely fun to see rents or property taxes (and even worse to also see assessed home values go down!), it's cost and maintenance. I'm fortunate to have on-sight handymen (something I DIDN'T have in Ballard).
So that extra $50 I'll be coughing up per month until further notice will pay to ensure that someone is nearby should my toilet overflow, there's a gas leak somewhere in my stove, or a pipe is about to burst.

My main concern is the idea of getting priced out by a ruthless buyer's market.
103
Arrrgh! My keyboard's being stubborn!!! Please forgive the following typos!
What I meant to type was thus:

re: @102: "....as a homeowner who sees increased..."

"While it's rarely fun to have rents or property taxes hiked..."

Okay, now I'm done. I hope everyone's situation, whether you're a renter like me, or a homeowner, works out for the better.