Seattle Times: "No escape for priced-out Seattleites"


Good thoughts, Dan Savage.
Dan is right on housing. Why are so many blue-cities so stupid about public transit and high density housing? Is it the red suburban voters and rural state legislatures?

Why not do what Singapore does: there's an ultra luxe freehold market for the oligarchs, and a leasehold market for 80%.…

That's public housing, built by the government, that you "own" for your lifetime but not forever, and good enough quality for everyone from workers to lawyers and doctors.

Why can't the US get its act together? Even cities like NYC that are lauded as models actually suck compared to Europe: 75 year old signaling in the subways, platforms that look like dungeons, and not the good kind of dungeons. Housing either priced for oligarchs or rat and roach ridden buildings.

The philosophy is that government is the problem in the US, not the solution, even in "blue" cities, and the free market will fix all.

Singapore with healthcare, pensions and housing for all citizens has one of the lowest tax rates and is one of the most capitalist-friendly places.
That subway graphic has been making the rounds on social media and it's bullshit.

London: 1,974 years old (settled by Romans in 43 CE)
Paris: 2,069 years old (settled by Romans in 52 BCE)
New York City: 393 years old (settled by Dutch colonists in 1624)
Seattle: 148 years old (formally established by settlers in 1869)

Conventional wisdom says that this sort of infrastructure takes time. Unless, of course, you're China and the industrialized world is shoveling all its money into you as fast as it possibly fucking can for successive decades, then you get this:…
@2: Yeah, and Mussolini made the trains run on time. Check out Singapore's record on human rights and government control of its citizens before you get too jealous. The exploitation of workers both foreign and domestic is a interesting read too.

Turns out it is easier to control and tend to a tiny, homogenous population who is terrified of you, than a free, enormous, and diverse society which demands rights.

Imagine that.
@3: "So Dan, are you ready to sell out and move to the country?"

What a stupid, stupid post.

Wanting solutions of density and the benefits of a city means that you need to move out to where there's nothing? If you're going to lazily troll at least make sense.
@Dan: That million dollar house is in one of the most sought after neighborhoods in the city. Take a short walk south in the Central District, there are plenty of homes available for half that price.

Furthermore, if you tear down that single-family house, you'll end up with two shitty town homes for 1$ million each. The economics of development mean that new housing stock is going to be more expensive than the housing it replaces so that developers can make a profit. This only drives up inflation.

@undead any rand: What a stupid, stupid post.

So far, only troll on this thread is you. No surprise there.
I'm really looking forward to the day when Amazon is found out to have committed massive financial fraud making the company totally worthless to the stockholders and the subsequent collapse of Seattle's economy.

I wonder if people will still be bitching about how high housing is then?
I'm sure Jenny Durkin will alleviate this problem once she becomes Seattle's new mayor. I bet she cares so much about transit and rezoning, yessiree...
Excellent point, Mr. X @8. #MakeSeattleGreatAgain

Yes, the Romans started building the London Underground more than 2,000 years ago. That's why they're so much farther along than we are. They got a head start on public transit and aqueducts.
@5: A few points on Singapore:

-I wouldn't call it homogeneous. It has substantial Malay and Indian populations, four official languages, and even the ethnic majority Chinese population is rather diverse, having come from many different parts of China.

- The party in power since their independence, the PAP, is extremely undemocratic, but they are also eminently competent. The PAP recruits members from the highest achieving high school students, has one of the lowest rates of governmental corruption in the world, and has over seen the transition of Singapore from 3rd to 1st world in a few decades. All this doesn't excuse their oppression, but the government really should be considered more of a meritocracy than a dictatorship or oligarchy, and the PAP is generally quite popular.

- It is one of the best run countries/cities I have every spent time in, and I think we can learn a lot from their example, even though we disagree with the political system.

On a side note, another tragic result of Trump is the message his election sends to potential democratic reformers in countries like Singapore. His utter incompetence makes for a strong argument against democracy.
@7: Plenty of homes for half a million in the central district? I wish! There is currently one single-family home for sale in the Central District / Squire Park area listed for less than $700k:…. But if you've only got $500k (well, $550k), you might get lucky and be able to buy this 600sf former storefront:… (assuming, of course, the price doesn't get bid up to six figures over the list price, which is a common occurrence these days).
@13: I am sure it is well run. My point is that it is easier to run a population that is tiny and concentrated, especially when you exploit workers, and do not have to worry about human rights.

It has nothing to do with disagreements about the "political system." It has to do with disagreements about if humans should have certain rights or not.
@4 @12, comparing Seattle's light rail to systems in younger, smaller cities like San Francisco, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland make our meager, lil' single track seem even more pitiful.
@8: But replacing single family homes with higher density townhouses and row houses would satisfy some of that demand. That is why moderate up-zoning in neighborhoods such as Wallingford or Ravenna are so important; they are the perfect places to provided this middle density housing which is largely lacking in the city.
@8 - Indeed! Very much needed for growing families. Great for children instead of apartment life.

I wonder'aeo
@15: I guess I feel attributing their success to human rights violations is a specious argument.

Exploited foreign labor makes construction less expensive (of their subway for example), but this is largely unrelated to the choices to have a public subsidized housing market, focus on public transportation over highway development, encouraged density, have high excise taxes, restrictions on foreign ownership of land, etc.
*excise taxes on cars
It's morbid but get rid of the cemeteries and build. Like Poltergeist. Who gets buried anymore?
All the housing units Seattle will need for the next 50-75 years, low-income to market rate, can be put into 10-story apartment blocks right up both sides of the Aurora Av N corridor, from the bridge right up to 145th, without touching the existing residential neighborhoods. Put all retail and services on the ground floors, run an elevated monorail right down the middle, over the bridge and right into downtown, and problem solved.
You know the saying about real estate: location, location, location!
Being a culprit implies intent. Lack of quantity cannot demonstrate intent. Hence 'scarcity is the culprit' is illogical and once again illustrates the sophomoric assaults on our language and intellect the left spews out every day.

Actually, he's NOT missing the point, YOU are, because it's not JUST single-family housing that's a hot commodity in our market, it's literally EVERY KIND of housing: SF, four-over-ones, six-over-ones, high-rise condos and apartments, duplexes, triplexes it's all undergoing superheated price inflation because demand has far outstripped available supply. The huge influx of tech workers pouring into the region NEED some place to live, but we're not building out a nearly a fast enough rate to accommodate all of them, plus they're competing against substantial foreign capital coming into the market looking for shelters, and so they're desperately grabbing up whatever housing stock is available, and the sheer amount of competition for the relatively limited amount of stock is pushing up prices throughout the region, as people are now having to look farther and farther out from the central core for something they can not only afford, but that they can actually acquire.

It doesn't really matter if you can afford a $500K or $700K or even $1mm home around here, if there are hundreds or even thousands of other potential buyers who can also afford that, plus a little bit more and are willing to pay it, because only one of them is going to get that home, and the rest of them will be back to bidding on the next unit that comes up. And the next, and the next, and...

From the Merram-Webster Online Dictionary:

Culprit noun:
1: one accused of or charged with a crime The culprit pleaded “not guilty.”
2: one guilty of a crime or a fault The culprit expressed remorse at his sentencing.
3: the source or cause of a problem "Lack of exercise and poor diet are the main culprits in heart disease".

To paraphrase the famous line uttered by Inigo Montoya "I think that word actually does mean what you don't think it means." So much for sophomoric assaults on our language and intellect the Right spews out every day...
@2 Modern Urban Progressives are the children of White Flighters, and apples don't fall far from trees. "Gentrification" is essentially the exact same thing, just in a different direction.
I have seen a complete shithole get a $500/month increase. The poor dude barely makes $19/hr. I personally got stiffed with $100/mo but that was from a "good" landlord (I still ended up with $600 heating bill because I have single pane windows and giant cracks in the apartment, plus the colder-than-usual winter).

Even with the recent law changes to help with security deposit and up front money, the landlords are already mobilizing to "fight back", saying that it is a form of rent control. Yet a building in the UD just went for $146 M, my landlords are sitting on probably 8 to 12 million. Yeah, they are hurting, poor landlords.

I'm not against people making an honest return for their investment, but they are on the gravy train, so good citizens of Seattle, you are left with a decision, which isn't much of a decision at all. Get out of the city and be stuck with the ridiculous commute as a result of poor city planning, or stay and get the blood drained from your gray corpse. Ironically, even the outside areas are quickly running up in price.

New programs of unionized workers specifically aimed at building the city, but this is going to not be before much of the "chaff" has been removed by the Gentry. So I foresee a period of continual shedding, and by the time sufficient space becomes available, possibly a re-stabilization of rents. Until then, hang on to your hats, it's going to get exceedingly ugly. Last night's drive through the marginal area (under the bridge) has gone from sparse tents and trailers to highly populated. Not sure if this was in part due to the recent "cleansings", but it's way worse than a few months back.

The Seattle of what it thought it was has become the Seattle it hoped to never be.
I'm not following how building more transit will lead to more (and cheaper) housing. Anyone care to explain (no links to Charles Mudede articles please)?
@Ken: these sky high Seattle real estate prices may not last. Not even President Trump can repeal the business cycle.

Every trader and finance person I follow agrees a financial crash/recession is on the way (personal debt is at an all time high with growth outpacing jobs and wages, stock market is currently propped up by artificially low interest rates, etc. ).

The effect on the local Seattle market will be minimized, however, by the presence of Amazon smack dab in the middle of the city. That company will continue to grow until it fulfills its destiny of holding a monopoly over the retail industry.

The idea that prices will drop if we build more housing is fantasy. People don't build or sell homes at a loss unless they are forced to by something like personal bankruptcy. They will either make a profit on their investment or they'll hold out until market conditions improve, and as a result, prices will hold or rise.

@28 Fucking white people. Move out of the city your a "white flighter", move into the city your a "gentrifier". Always wrong, amirite?

Way to miss the fucking point.
@ShimmyDoWop: Fair enough. I count 5-6 homes for sale right now in Beacon Hill that are within walking distance of the light rail station and under $600k. As you follow the light rail tracks south, prices head south as well.

@32: There goes those unnecessary and racist color adjectives again.

Don't expect them to hold at that price point for very long; most SFD's in this market are selling well above their asking price. In fact, I've heard from a couple of people I know in residential real-estate that they're telling their clients to deliberately low-ball their list price by several thousand dollars, as that attracts more potential buyers who will in turn compete against each other by upbidding, and that in most cases the sale will still come out well above the price they originally intended to set.
@30 More transit options mean more people can live outside of the city proper, where real estate and rent are typically cheaper.
@36 But that just encourages the sprawl. I wish we'd concentrated on adding the trains inside the city instead of running them far north and south. It takes forever just to travel a couple miles inside of Seattle sometimes.
Kinda like @22s suggestion.
@36 I understand your point, but Dan is saying: "Building rapid transit lines out to neighborhoods and suburbs that are themselves becoming increasingly unaffordable isn't going to solve the problem." This is why I was asking how building more transit would result in an increase in affordable housing.

I mean, Dan is putting forth New York, Paris, and London as examples of what he wants to see as far as transit. I don't know if you've looked at rentals in any of those cities lately, but despite abundant transit, they are not cheap places to live. So, again, how does building more transit lead to more affordable housing?

That subway graphic has been making the rounds on social media and it's bullshit.

London: 1,974 years old (settled by Romans in 43 CE)
Paris: 2,069 years old (settled by Romans in 52 BCE)
New York City: 393 years old (settled by Dutch colonists in 1624)
Seattle: 148 years old (formally established by settlers in 1869)

Conventional wisdom says that this sort of infrastructure takes time.

This may be the single stupidest thing ever posted in the comments section of slog.
London, Paris and New York all have traffic gridlock.
We're all well educated, forward thinking, multicultural liberals; yet most of us wouldn't last a year in an affordable 200 sf apartment in Tokyo despite the amazing access to transit, shops, cheap ramen shops, bars, community resources etc. (Okay I'm being smug, I lasted exactly a year there.)

Well, no shit. They've also got populations many times larger than Seattle's, with said gridlock mitigated exponentially due to expansive public transit networks. Isn't this common knowledge to reasonably well educated middle schoolers?
Forgot to mention Whatcom County, just an hour and a half north from downtown Seattle.

200 ft/sq sounds pretty cushy compared to a 28' sailboat, and I made that work for nearly 5 years. Sure, it was a tight squeeze, but at least you can move it around whenever you want.
The idea that prices will drop if we build more housing is fantasy. People don't build or sell homes at a loss...

"housing" <> "homes"

We're not talking about lowering the price of a singe-family home; we're talking about more housing of all kinds across the city. Quintuple the number of apartments and the rents will go down.

They will either make a profit on their investment or they'll hold out until market conditions improve, and as a result, prices will hold or rise.

Except that holding out costs money for property taxes and maintenance.

Thanks for some common sense Dan.
It's amazing the convolutions people go to to explain why the solution to a housing shortage isn't more housing, or the solution to inadequate transportation infrastructure isn't to build better transportation infrastructure.
I've read The Stranger for 20 years. Slog for 15? It's been terrible the past 5. Are you under some contractual obligation to post X amount of content? The analysis here is that supply is low and demand is high so it's increasing costs? I'm shocked. Just link to the ST and be done with it. Why pretend?