Will a Mayoral Committee Stand Up for Renters?

The Biggest, Baddest Advisory Committee of Them All Promises to Tackle Seattle's Housing-Affordability Crisis


To answer briefly, I have my doubts with using the Murray committee strategy to 'solve' Seattle's housing problem.

Besides, as I learned from this article in Smart Growth Seattle:


Former Mayor McGinn tried the exact same strategy! The McGinn committee sat around yelling at each other, and agreed on nothing...
I also take issue with the "pro-developer vs. pro-renter" statement. To be pro-developer is to be pro-renter. Developers build, and if we let them build enough, eventually supply meets demand and prices stabilize.

It is not uncommon to want to "stick it to the man" against the developers and direct ire toward them. But we are shooting ourselves in the foot when we do. Developers and builders are simply doing what they always do: respond to market desires. Constraining their ability to meet housing demand through new supply because we over-regulate them only causes inflated housing prices.

Of course there is the segment of the population (lower income) that market forces will never accommodate and for them, we need subsidized housing. But the bulk of the housing affordability issue must be market-driven.
How is Sawant not a renter with her take home of $40k ?
Rent Control just makes the rich tech employees more able to bribe landlords a couple of grand to give them the rent controlled apartment. It never works.
Why doesn't Seattle just seize the properties from the greedy landowners.

Oh yeah, that's where they get ALL of their campaign money from. And the majority of the city's income.
@3 because the socialist has a rich husband who works for Microsoft. People forgot to mention that... and so does she.

Also, it's a simple solution: unleash the free market, allow developers to actually develop instead of creating red tape left and right, and they will build to their hearts' content until there is over-supply, which will even out supply and demand, which will make rents more competitive. Developers who are handcuffed either (i) don't develop (which reduces supply), or (ii) if they do develop, the only way they can justify the ridiculous cost of time it spends to get through bureaucratic red tape is to charge up on rents. Time is money. It's actually pretty simple, but we live among economic illiterates.
Why is the free way the only thing mentioned when we talk about people who can't afford to live in the city? Tukwila is a very diverse neighborhood as is the neighborhood around both the Othello Station and RB station. Isn't that why we built the damn thing? So people could get from those areas downtown? It's such bs to claim "Welp, they moved out of the city, only option is the car!"
@6: "unleash the free market, allow developers to actually develop instead of creating red tape left and right, and they will build to their hearts' content until there is over-supply, which will even out supply and demand, which will make rents more competitive."

So...what exactly does any of that mean? It's a bunch of small-government buzzwords. Are you saying that we should deregulate the real estate/rental market? What exactly is this "red tape" that you say causes problems? Can you name a regulation that qualifies as that problematic and needless red tape?

You're amusing for now.
@8: I'm in the development world and the city does not make it easy for developers to do what they do best -- develop. Red tape includes allowing 1 NIMBY neighbor to hold up an entire project, long delays in design review because DPD is so backed up and maybe 2-3 angry neighbors have an issue with something that isn't their property (DPD typically gives the grease to the squeaky wheel). Other proposed red tape would be the extra tax per square foot, which will cause the developers to develop less or pass costs down to renters. If properties are within code not to have parking, it's like pulling teeth to get DPD to give us departures on *creating* parking spaces that might fall into required setbacks.

Have you ever developed before? Have you read the building and land use code? I could basically site most of the code in this post to show you all the red tape that causes these projects to last a couple years and thousands and thousands of extra dollars that is useless and gets passed on to the renters. I'm not for deregulating the real estate / rental market -- I'm talking about the development world and land use / zoning code, which I'd guess you don't have any experience in based on your "comment."

And yes, government *is* the problem. I'm not for eradicating gov't, but it's currently a leviathan that needs to be trimmed. Over regulation is the beginning of a tyranny. I take it gov't is your religion? Maybe move to North Korea? Just a thought. Also amused.
@8: PS- your first question to me says it all... that you are economically illiterate if you even had to ask that question.
No: look at their background.
"@3 How is Sawant not a renter with her take home of $40k ?"

Per county records, Sawant recently bought a home with Calvin Priest who is noted to work for 15now.org and a private school. 15now.org is reported to be the biggest recipient of Sawant's "donations" per a Stranger article from earlier this year.

Is he paid by 15now? If so, she really just be donating her salary back to her household through the 503(c) non profit. And that would be very shady (to me anyway)....if that's indeed the case. Someone at the Stranger should ask (and ask for a copy of the recent mortgage application to just double check).
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@5: Why doesn't Seattle just seize the properties from the greedy landowners.

Ahhh, its comments like @5 that keep me coming back to The Stranger! Scratch the surface of a progressive, there is a strong-arm dictator underneath nearly every time.

Regarding the issue of greed: can we assume you scrupulously avoid the appearance of greed in your own life? Such as refusing a raise at work? Turning down monetary gifts? A vow of simplicity/poverty? Living in a rented room in a house along with 6 other people, because having one's own apartment could be considered "greedy" in the right context (to the homeless, having your own apartment could be considered greedy)? I mean, who really NEEDS more than a room to call one's own, and a clean/dry place to shit and eat?

Useless comment, but the honesty is refreshing.
@9. Might as well speak in tongues. Nobody
outside of developers or real estate folks know
what the hell you are talking about.
Speak simply: If it costs more to build it,
we will have to charge you more to pay for it.
Ta da! Aka no free lunch.
Never mind the $150 per sqft building costs+
soft costs+ land cost and other goodies. Rent
should be $100 or loose change from my pocket.
Government has no business setting prices, wages, or anything else.
@18: So good to hear the white male perspective on this.
Theoretically, affordability might be accomplished solely by increased supply -- or it might not, depending on the availability of redevelopment properties and potential for profit in developing residential sale v. rental projects v. commercial projects. However, affordability cannot (I think most people would agree) be appropriately analyzed in a vacuum, while ignoring the wide range of other important public policy considerations (environmental, health and safety, zoning, historic preservation, neighborhood character, parking/ transportation) many of which are codified in existing land use or other regulations.
Looks like Seattle's developers spread the word there was an article in the Stranger. I can just see the email that went out. Make sure you use use emotional sounding buzzwords "red tape", "regulations, ' "market forces."

Yes. For once. Won't somebody please think of the billionaire bankers and developers. They sooooo rarely get what they want.
@12: @8 wasn't exactly polite in the original post ("You're amusing for now.")
What would really bring rents down is a good pandemic. Wipe out 20-30% of the population, and there would be lots of cheap apartments on the market.
"Where will all these new people be able to afford to live?"

Well, the people who are moving here are generally of the sort who can afford to live in these new high-rent developments. The fresh-faced college grads starting at 90k/year with Amazon aren't the ones who have to worry about being priced out of the city.
the "red tape" of the LUC and niggling NIMBY objections are not the reason rents are going through the roof. it contributes, sure, but it's not THE driver.

land costs are. as it is, developable land in the city is in short supply in a city overwhelmingly zoned SF.

a possible solution is for the city to re-zone NC-adjacent SF zones to allow more urban density where appropriate. the supply of available land for apartments would increase.

if anyone would like to see a hell-to-the-no NIMBY riot, please propose this before the council.
@21 Well, it is true that construction costs have shot up recently. And in some cases, code changes are part of the reason why. You can't that just because they don't fit your "evil developers" narrative, and expect your opinion to be taken seriously.

The more expensive buildings are to make, the more they charge for rent, in order to recoup the investment. There may be things that the city can do to mitigate those costs, from modifying the building codes to telling NIMBY's to shut the fuck up.
I think it's funny anyone seriously thinks this is going to do a fucking thing. Seattle's definition of being a "Green City" means middle income people who work in the city will have no choice but to move out of town (and it's already happening in droves: The Seattle Times of all places did a piece on that a couple of month's back). That means more cars on the road since we've collectively decided to cut public transit.

But fear not!! We'll get to hear Chucky M bitch about the trash (middle class and lower income people) having to drive into our City to work while he laments their unwillingness to live in a box that is 10 foot by 12 foot.
Let the renters and developers fight it out. We single family home owners will sit back and watch our investment grow.

"? Tukwila is a very diverse neighborhood as is the neighborhood around both the Othello Station and RB station."

Too many ...ahem .... 'people's of color' down those places for The Stranger's readership. Not enough brew pubs and art galleries. Remember Sloggers are only anti-racist in theory.
@16 when I lived back in shared housing back in the day it was always the more left wing person was, the more likely they would be stealing your food and shit and no contributing to the bills.
@28: which is it, are we racists or snobs?

there are brew pubs in shitholes like Darrington, WA, and Wallace, ID, so I think you mean artisanal cupcake shops or Kombucha bars.

"I've got mine, therefore I judge people I don't know."
@29: "I picked the wrong roommates, so now I vote republican to spite them".
"@28: which is it, are we racists or snobs"

Can't be both?why is it Sloggers can't move to tukwilla, the RV or Seatac and take that nice train in?
@20 - So in other words, you pay for what you vote for.
Also, it's a simple solution: unleash the free market, allow developers to actually develop instead of creating red tape left and right, and they will build to their hearts' content until there is over-supply, which will even out supply and demand, which will make rents more competitive... It's actually pretty simple, but we live among economic illiterates.

Speaking of economic illiteracy, you claim to work for a developer, but you are pig ignorant as to how much constructing a building costs, regardless of government regulation, *and* how the loans developers take out mandate how much they're allowed to charge for rent.

More competitive rents? L O L
@7 the areas directly around Tukwila, Othello, and RB station are not affordable either.
The problem with "letting developers do whatever the hell they want" (which differs from what we're currently doing how?) is that whatever the hell they want appears to be building an endless supply of high-end high "luxury" apartments in what used to be one-story warehouses and car dealerships in SLU and Capitol Hill.

There is absolutely no reason to think that, left purely to their own free-market devices, developers will ever not attempt to squeeze the maximum possible dollar amount from the highest-income residents. And why should they do anything different? That's what government interference is for -- to correct for situations where the free market cannot possibly meet the needs of the populace.

I don't know of a lot of options, though, because historically it seems like an economic downturn or a crime wave or something like that is the only thing that ever seriously drives down rent. So maybe if Amazon goes belly-up?

Otherwise, better transportation to farther flung areas really is our only option. And voters just shot that down. So.

(Also, I wonder if it would be effective to institute something like a luxury tax on higher-end new development, tied to average income rather than average rental price. The tax could be offset by lower-end developments, and collected funds would go toward improving transportation and other civic amenities in farther-flung areas.)
@34 - I think it's obvious that any development must pencil out. Yes, anything new will still have higher rents, even absent red tape. It's called inflation. It's also pretty basic that excess supply will bring rents down. Many developers, especially at the end of the bubble, will get burned when there is excessive supply. Either they must sell or eat the loss until they make money on rents or sale. It's been fairly common in the last 10+ years for developers to go into a project knowing full well they are speculating. In other words, they will not make a profit right away.

Regardless, there will always be a population that must be subsidized in order to live in the city. I would argue putting that solely on owners only ensures even higher rents.
@36 - I would argue demand isn't infinite. I'd also contend, while it's costly to build anything new, even basic construction, older properties (doesn't mean deficient) are subject to supply and demand too.

Look at Phoenix or Vegas where land is plenty. Whole classes of renters move up or down the rental ladder in the development booms and busts. I'm not arguing we model them.

Most honest and rational people wouldn't argue for unrestricted development.
@21 - you can have a discussion absent of any diversity and pat yourself when you come up with another failed grand solution. There are owners both left and right who care about their customers, however nobody goes into the for profit rental business to lose money.