Seattle Transit Blog

What Apodments Can Do For You

Sigh. Now the news is full of apodments. I like saying the word, apodments, because it sounds like part of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address that was edited out. I hear him saying, in that beautiful Boston accent, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask when you can move into an apodment!”

Your new apodment?

But seriously, apodments are good for our country—or at least our city—since they offer an affordable alternative people who want to squeeze into city life affordably. Some neighborhood groups are beginning to band together in a kind of pan-NIMBYism to halt the spread of this kind of housing, but I think it’s misguided. People worried about the price of housing should love apodments. And so should neighborhoods.

From an economic standpoint, apodments make sense. As I wrote in another post, smaller, compact, and tiny apartments are an efficient use of space, creating new development projects that can lead to construction jobs. If someone owns two single-family lots in Eastlake, why not let them create a project that will maximize the use of that land, and allow people to live how they choose to? I’ve been going on and on lately about how we Seattle liberals need to let go, and let the market when it comes to land use. Apodments make sense, encouraging property owners to maximize the use of their land.

And housing price, something I think we shouldn’t worry and fret about so much, is something that still troubles Seattleites. The problem, the price worrywarts say, is that, “Seattle is too expensive.” The apodment, tiny and more affordable units right in the heart of active vibrant neighborhoods, is an excellent way to open up real estate renters could never afford.

Living in dense, vibrant neighborhoods means a person doesn’t need a car. Neighbors who live by proposed apodments express a worry about parking. I’ll admit, the parking in Eastlake, especially on the street where the apodments are proposed, is really bad. Could it be any worse? I doubt it. And I don’t think the City should be subsidizing parking by mandating that developers build it. If nobody wants to rent an apodment because it has no parking, the price of the apodment will come down, and people won’t build them anymore. If they do, it’s likely that the renter doesn’t own a car in the first place—saving money is part of why they’re moving into an apodment.

Apodments aren’t for everyone, but why not see what happens with them? I think it’s weird that neighbors, particularly in Eastlake, who own big, spacious homes, are coming out on their lawns to defend the poor, pathetic, hapless, future apodment renters. “A pod is not a home!” declares one flier. Why not let potential apodment renters decide for themselves whether they can make a pod a home?

The thing about local opposition to apodments that discredits it almost immediately is that the opponents are saying that the potential renter of an apodment doesn’t really want to live there. If that’s true, that potential renter won’t rent an apodment. If enough people walk away from apodments, the projects will go unrented and they will fail. On the other hand, if lots of people love apodments, renters will pay rent and forgo a car.

Let’s give the apodment a try. If it’s true that nobody really wants to live there, then these kinds of projects will lose money, and nobody will build them anymore. If they succeed, then we’ve created some good, infill development for people who don’t have a lot of money to spend on rent and cars, but want to live in the heart of the city. And yes, if I could, I’d live in one myself.