Seattle Times' breakdown of the current construction boom is depressing. We are building apartments like never before, but almost exclusively for the luxury class—9,000 apartments are set to open this year alone in Seattle, and none of them are for people who earn working-class and even middle-class wages. The average rent of an apartment is currently $2,400, and so you need "to make $96,000 a year" not to be rent burdened. Meaning, if you earn nearly $100,000 a year, 30 percent of your income will go to your apartment. Many who earn that kind of money are young and in the tech sector, and so also have college debt. After taxes, they are not sitting as pretty as you might think.
If you consider all of this in the light of the strong resistance from businesses in Mount Baker to the Paul Allen-supported plan to build just 95 apartments for low-income families, you have a very good idea of how dismal the situation is. And then there are the reports and posts by market urbanists that promise we will be rewarded in the future when the weight of all of this construction finally breaks the back of high prices. These class of urbanists wittingly or unwittingly (I bet on the former) see the situation in neo-classical terms of pricing and complete markets. In this view, housing prices can be trusted. They represent the real world because "market prices are good indicators of rationally evaluated economic value" (Robert Skidelsky, Keynes: The Return of the Master).
Market urbanists are not alone. The press is with them almost all of the time. In a recent story, "Downtown Seattle’s construction boom surges to new record, with no end in sight," Seattle Times business reporter Mike Rosenberg writes: "What is everybody building, and why? The short answer: [luxury] apartments, because so many people are moving here and want to live downtown." Prices, prices, prices. We might say it is the only answer that is ever provided. And we will keep giving this answer until it's too late.
What we must remember in all of this is there are more roads to density than market competition.