This is an open thread.

62 Replies to “News Roundup: Deadlocked”

  1. The last article is an example of how complicated housing issues are. He really struggles to understand gentrification, while rejecting the supply/demand argument. And that’s understandable. Let’s take the two cases that really lead him off track:

    Empty houses in gentrified area, from investors and distant owners. How does limiting supply help this? It seems unfortunate from a gentrification perspective, but note that this happened without building significant numbers of new buildings. These investors will always outbid the working class, and you’ll empty out your neighborhood if you don’t add capacity. The right solution is to allow towers, and the investors will buy these units. A mostly-empty tower will have the same pedestrian count on the ground as a full lowrise.

    Beijing. He argues that if housing is as constricted in Beijing as it is in Toronto that reducing regulation doesn’t help. And this is a more subtle point, so I again understand how he has trouble with it. Demand going up and down without a change in supply will make prices move up and down accordingly. Adding supply will reduce these prices (compared to not building supply), but if demand increases then prices will increase. This is because it costs money to build buildings. In a growing city demand will always be higher than supply (this “constrained market” he’s talking about) – you can’t solve that without large subsidies. But less regulation results in more supply and lower prices than more regulation.

  2. Density:

    The data that Ley collected over decades shows Metro Vancouver has become similar to other Pacific Rim “gateway” cities in the way housing costs have been fueled by high immigration-driven population growth and foreign investors…

    Moos and Skaburskis found, beginning in the 2000s, “immigrants, particularly from Asia, increasingly arrived with established wealth, and many were known to continue earning income outside the country.

    So, this is the situation as in so many parts of the asymmetrical economy. This article argues that prices for the typical wage-earner home-owner-wannabe are not a factor in setting the prices (or otherwise there would be more homes in Seattle that fit the average wage earning profile of $60,000 a year).

    Large cities have essentially become banks, and their housing stock is an asset, like gold. High value individuals need a bank to store their money and want an asset that is stable and at best rises in value. They will then to anything possible to protect that asset.

    Thus the behavior over the past decade becomes more understandable.

    Say you own gold. You then to not want more gold on the market as the price of your gold goes down. At the same time, besides being an asset, some gold is actually used for industry. And this “need” for gold in some sense is an argument for maintaining the price So you have to allot a little bit of it at reasonable prices.

    Translated to real estate, you would want a stable and fixed supply of “real homes” (the SFHs that people really want) with ever increasing value. You also want a pool of “hungry buyers” sitting and waiting, and once in a while using up all their savings to acquire these expensive assets to justify the high values.

    1. “real homes” (the SFHs that people really want)

      Or other homes that other people really want. I’m perfectly happy in my apartment and wouldn’t want a SFH if it dropped into my pocket at the same monthly rent.

      1. 1. Not everyone has children, and should not be saddled with house and yard maintenance just because a stand alone house is the only type of housing available.

        2. In many parts of the world, families raise children just fine in multiple family buildings. In fact, in some parts of the world I have visited they are actually preferred by families because common play areas allow for interaction with children with all the other families living in the same building, while at the same time providing protection from going out into the street.

      2. Me either. And Possibly Ignorant, not everyone wants kids; some want them later but not right now. Some people’s kids have grown up and left home, and they may want to downsize to an apartment to avoid yard upkeep, etc. Some people never had kids and are beyond childbearing age.

      3. You all crack me up. Density is the solution to all your problems. And to the dude who said he wouldn’t want a SFH if it dropped into his pocket for the same rent……..yeah, right.

        You all should stick to transit and stay out of housing.

    2. How would you know that everyone currently owning and living in a single-family home would not have chosen a sufficiently-luxurious apartment or condo, if such choices existed when they bought their home?

      I was quite relieved to move to an apartment after my last SFH experience. But then, I was sharing rent with four strangers.

  3. Interesting article about density and prices. Although I didn’t find his premise so much about limiting density as it was an article about what happens when very wealthy people decide to park their money in real estate in a place where they don’t even live most of the time. Vancouver and New York were brought up as examples of this.

    This is basically what happened during the housing bubble. There were many articles claiming a supply shortage of houses and how more houses would solve the housing affordability crisis. However if one looked closely enough one would see multiple houses being bought by one person or investors in order to make quick dollars. It was “fake” demand, not actual people wanting to live there.

    Seattle however at the moment doesn’t fit any of these scenarios. Majority of the apartments are being filled as soon as they can build them, Amazon is hiring still like crazy at good salaries, and its a highly desirable city to live in. About the only non resident demand I’ve seen was an article that was about a corporate housing firm leasing an entire apt building in south lake union for amazon workers.

    The funny thing is how quickly the prices drop 30 min -45 min outside the city. Go look at Redfin and Craigslist to see how much rents and home prices are in Everett, Tacoma, Bremerton.

    1. That’s 30-45 minutes driving. It’s 1-2 hours on transit, which takes a significant chunk out of your life if you work in the city or want to spend your time in walkable neighborhoods. That’s why so many people are paying high Seattle rents. And why we need more housing in the city and better transit between suburban “urban” villages.

      1. Oh I know, its all trade offs as so much in life is. :)

        All day Sounder Service between Tacoma and Seattle would be great, even just hourly during non peak times, would really mitigate the distance factor. Also better connections between all suburbs and urban areas in general. We will get there, its just a matter of time.

      2. There’s still the last-mile problem, which accounts for 15-30 of those minutes. Sounder is not faster to Tacoma or Everettt; it’s 1 hour on either Sounder or ST Express, +/- 5 minutes, compared to 30 minutes driving (plus traffic). Sounder is only faster to Tukwila, Kent, and Auburn. People in Tacoma and Everett are taking Sounder for non-speed reasons.

    2. “Go look at Redfin and Craigslist to see how much rents and home prices are in Everett, Tacoma, Bremerton.”

      You mean to say that housing prices vary between completely different cities? I’m shocked. But cities are not fungible; what relevance do these places have to someone who lives in Seattle, unless they intend to relocate for some reason?

  4. On Tuesday, it looked like somebody (SDOT?) was doing work on the old streetcar shelter at the five way intersection south of the Fremont Bridge. Anybody know anything about that?

      1. Awesome! Despite it’s current uselessness, both distance from 40/62 stop and low usage of bus stop, it’s cool to see preservation of a historical relic. It’d be even cooler if they were able to relocate it more towards the 40/62 stop.

  5. “Fun with car ownership stats.” That’s interesting. It’s in the neighborhoods that are most dense, most walkable and most transit-friendly, that car ownership is increasing the most.

    1. Correction: car ownership is increasing the most percentage-wise . Suppose there was a neighborhood where only one person owned a car; suppose one other person bought one. That’s 100% increase in car ownership – but still, actual car ownership is very low.

      1. The data is for zip codes, and almost all the zip codes in Seattle — they are all well populated.(I did not include the zip code for the UW campus in the data because it has a very low population.)

    2. If the most nutritious organic strawberry becomes a little less nutritious, it’s still the most nutritious strawberry compared to supermarket strawberries. Likewise, if Moses Lake’s population doubles and Bailo decares it the “Eastern Washington Century”, that’s still small potatoes compared to the number of people King County is acquiring. What probably happened is the lowest-car-percentage neighborhoods reached their minimum and are meandering up and down slightly.

      (Of course, “minimum” is relative to the quality of transit and walkable storefronts we have, and inversely related to gas price and rents. If those change it could go down further.)

  6. It would be very wise to suspend the toll for the week. It’s simple math. First off, it is OUR money. So, on the one hand, we would be losing a million dollars in tolls of our money, vs losing hundreds of millions of dollars of our money in lost productivity. It’s a no-brainer.

    1. No, it isn’t our money, not any more. We sold the right to collect tolls to the bondholders who backed the state not raising the funds itself in order to build the road. In exchange, we got a smaller pile of cash up front and the politicians didn’t get yelled at for doing their job…err, I mean, raising taxes/finding the money to fund infrastructure.

    2. Tolls would not reduce congestion. They would just make people feel better about having to detour and sit in traffic. So you mean “we would be losing a million dollars in tolls of our money, AND losing hundreds of millions of dollars of our money in lost productivity.”

  7. I rode the 26 Express from downtown to Fremont yesterday afternoon. Easily the worst experience on transit I’ve ever had. 1st, the bus had no AC, everyone was sweating, and I’m surprised some people did not pass out. The bus took approximately 20-25 minutes to go from 3rd and Blanchard (I believe) to the entrance ramp to SR 99 just north of the Battery Street Tunnel. That’s a distance of less than half a mile. The bus was 23 minutes late to my destination, and I still had to walk to the main part of Fremont.

    This trip crystallized in my mind several things:

    1) It is absolutely absurd that the bus must share lanes with SOVs,
    2) The rolling stock is in poor condition if this is what people have to deal with,
    3) Members of the County Council have likely never ridden this bus,
    4) I ride transit for many reasons, (even though I own a car) among them is a sense that by riding, I’m doing something for the common good. And for that I felt like I was being punished for doing so.
    5) If that ride approximates the daily experience of Fremont denizens, I don’t understand how they can be expected to continue to vote for more money for KC metro.

    1. I’ve ridden the E Line and 16 several times through that stretch of Belltown / South Lake Union this year. Both took only a few minutes for this segment every time, with comfortable climate control Your trip appears to be an outlier, but I suppose new construction re-routes could have a prolonged impact.

    2. The 26X is arguably the worst route in the city. I couldn’t move out of Fremont fast enough because I hated commuting on that bus so much.

    3. I’ve had good and bad days in that area. A lot of cars use the bus lane with no consequence. It’s pretty shocking to me actually, that so many people have such disregard for the law and common courtesy. I hope they can step up enforcement there soon.

      It’s an effect of the lane reduction/curves on 99 just North of there, in addition to the usual traffic. Bus lanes on the actual ramp would help a lot, but I’m not sure if there is room.

    4. There does seem to be an enforcement issue on the E bound bus only lane – particularly between 4th and 5th where the SOVs turning from 4th onto Battery either block the bus lane while waiting to merge into the car lanes or just camp out in the bus lane. In the evenings the 26 local can seem faster going E on Blanchard then 7th to Dexter.

      I am a daily 26X rider southbound and, in that direction, it works great. Northbound I don’t usually head home until after 7 so I’m usually on a 26 local or 16 but when I do get the last 26X around 6:10 it does seem significantly more crowded than it used to.

  8. Is it time to throw in the towel on East Link? Nobody wants the VMF which must be constructed to enable operation of the line, the floating bridge may not work and limits eventual capacity significantly, and ridership is expected to be rather low for an expensive light rail facility.

    The directional full time HOV’s have created an opportunity to create a busway out of the two lanes of the reversible section more easily than laying rails. How about creating an Orange Line (LA) like busway following the same path as the proposed East Link tracks through Bellevue. “Captive” double articulated ETB’s would provide base level service between Seattle and Overlake but the busway could also accommodate non-captive hybrids from other eastside centers.

    I know, this would be a radical change and certainly not attract as many riders. But the system simply can’t operate without a maintenance center expansion, and there is insufficient room in SoDo to support the new vehicles for East Link.

    1. Sound Transit has to build a new Operartions & Storage Facility somewhere to hold more trains for East Link, Lynnwood Link, and South Link. It doesn’t need to be on the eastside. Whichever line ends up with the new base will have better early and late operations until another base gets built farther on along one of the lines.

      If you are suggesting ST hold the construction of East Link hostage to an agreement to build an O&SF on the eastside, ST could play the same game with Lynnwood. A variation on that theme is building one in north Seattle, and warning Lynnwood that only half the trains will go beyond north Seattle.

      I’ve pondered the feasibility of turning the SODO O&MF into a multi-story garage, but I haven’t found any examples of such stacked trainyards.

      1. Brent,

        I’m not advocating extortion; I’m advocating facing the music. The Bellevue folks want the advantages that they believe Link will bring them, but they don’t want the responsibilities. First they killed the much more reasonable Bellevue Way route with a station at Main Street in Old Bellevue; they killed the tunnel under 106th which would have interlined with the Transit Center much more directly (one escalator ride away) and been closer to the density center of the city.

        Now they don’t want to host a VMF because it will reduce their tax revenues and “nobody wants to live by a train yard”.

        OK, sometimes it’s a good idea not to push the river. Instead, offer a reasonable. proven alternative which doesn’t involve a large new base (the ETB’s could be maintained at Ryerson, right next to the busway. The only changes needed west of South Bellevue would be construction of the Rainier/23rd Avenue and Mercer Island stations, but that’s a wash because essentially the same stations would have to be built for Link. All the track structure costs, the electrical insulation problems, the “interface” section between the floating and fixed parts of the span would be saved.

        Yes, a two track railroad line at grade has fewer impacts on the environment than does a two lane busway. According to the Community Guide to Final Design, Link is to be at grade only along 112th, on either side of 120th station, east of 130th street until it attains the freeway right of way and then between Overlake Village and Overlake TC. Presumably it will also be at-grade for most of the distance on to Redmond, should it be extended. Those places will have an impermeable surface rather than a rail line with gravel ballast, so they’ll have greater runoff impacts. Rubber tires are also more of an particulate matter generator than steel wheels. But overall the environmental impacts would not be great.

        There are several at-grade vehicle crossings in those stretches, but I am certain that the money saved by not converting the floating bridge to rail would more than pay for short underpasses that ETB’s could navigate but LRT trains couldn’t. That would be necessary to ensure that the ETB’s provide the same level of service as would Link.

        Yes, operating costs would be somewhat higher, but if “double-articulated” buses were used, single vehicles could be provided during base service times; during the peaks of course headways would have to be shorter than that of rail. But that’s not a problem with ETB’s because they’re not nearly as heavy as are rail vehicles. The restriction that only one vehicle can be on the bridge at at time — a potential problem if schedules get jimmied by the at-grade sections — would disappear. A new busway could surely accommodate an ETB every two minutes with hybrid expresses from other east side points not served by the trunk scattered among them.

        Now obviously this leads to the problem, “where do the buses go in downtown Seattle?” It is not easy to solve, but for a first step I’d start with “Marketizing” Third Avenue. That is, ban cars 24/7 and add a second set of bus stops in the center of the street for the ETB’s running to the east side. If the ETB’s had left-side doors — something that would be useful for the constricted stations in the reversible roadway and in downtown Bellevue — a single set of platforms would accommodate the passengers both boarding and alighting. They should continue north to Blanchard and Bell, then turn east to a layover on Eighth Avenue.

        I admit that the special work would get complicated wherever an in-city line turned on or off of Third Avenue.

      2. @Anandakos: ETBs can’t go freeway speeds. The speed/reliability problems on 3rd Ave have very little to do with car traffic at any hour of the day. 3rd Ave isn’t wide enough to add center platforms. The good news is that if you eliminate ETBs you can forget about the trolley wire complication…

        And, better yet, regular old buses could run straight into the DSTT, preserving joint operations forever! Maybe with off-board payment for the buses joint ops won’t be so bad — maybe!

        But what about the through-route service pattern for trains coming from the north? Easy! Half the trains from the north will be through-routed as buses to the east! We’ll just need to commission a collaboration between (FTA Administrator) Peter Rogoff, Brian Tracey (of Ride the Ducks fame), and Hasbro (American producer of Transformers toys) to build a vehicle truly fulfilling the promise of “rail on wheels”…

      3. @Al,

        How many people are going to ride from Bellevue to the U-district via Mercer Island, especially with HOV lanes on the new 520 bridge and the second Montlake Bridge? Honestly; just run turnbacks at Stadium or SoDo for the extra trains from North Link.

        I’m not certain I agree that ETB’s can’t go fast enough. There are several posts you can find with a simple Goggle query stating that they commonly go 55 mph or “100 kph” (= 62 mph) in regular service. I also know from personal experience that the SF ETB’s regularly hit 40 to 45 late in the evening on the 5 and 6 lines.

        In any case, they don’t have to keep up with the freeway traffic if they have adequate priority on both ends of the lake. Seventy five percent of normal traffic flow (about 50 mph) would be adequate.

        Third Avenue may be wide enough to add a set of single center platforms. If not it’s back to the question “where do the buses go in downtown Seattle?” Maybe contraflow lanes on Second and Fourth would be a good choice.

      4. I thought I read that Metro’s ETB’s can’t go above 30 mph, at least not on an every-run basis.

      5. @Mike Orr, given the condition of the shocks on the Bredas and abrupt stops some of the trolley drivers perform, I’m not sure I’d *want* them to go faster than 30mph.

    2. I would suspect that your opinion is based on more than just the VMF, but the overall point seems sound. East Link as it is currently conceived is very weak sauce. Usually the trade-off is between high service level or low cost, but East Link seems to have discovered a low service, high cost alternative.

      It isn’t at all obvious that a bus-based solution could not achieve the same level of service for far less money. And it also isn’t at all obvious that Sound Transit shouldn’t be pushing for a higher service level. This is an important route, and contrary to the Sand Point enthusiasts, it will be the only new transit link built across Lake Washington for a long time.

    3. Too bad that we can’t scrape up enough extra money to push the OMF out into Redmond, Offer Redmond a link station in exchange for no arguments on the OMF, Site the OMF where the original plans had it East of 520, north of Marymoore.

    4. My favorite quote from the article:

      Greg Johnson, president for Wright Runstadt, told the board he’d recently met with the chairman of a major company interested in relocating 5,000 employees to the Spring District. The conversation soured when the uncertainty of a maintenance facility came up, he said.

      “He said, ‘That’d be crazy. I thought this was going to be a transit-oriented neighborhood,’ ” Johnson said, adding there was nothing he could say to ease the potential investor’s mind. “I haven’t gotten a call back.” Johnson is also chairman of the Urban Land Institute’s Seattle District Council.

      Because clearly the LRT trains that give him this “transit-oriented neighborhood” fly back to their nests in the wooded foothills of the Puget Sound at the end of each day.

    5. I’m going to keep hoping one of those disheartened investors gets the idea to deal with ST and make the yard a sub basement of a large awesome development. Have your cake and eat it too.

      1. Unlike a double-decked train yard, this idea seems to have some merit. It wouldn’t be much more expensive than another floor to the building.

    6. It’s not time to give up on East Link yet, and the ST board is far from considering it. But this is one of the two biggest potentially-blocking issues (the other being trouble on the bridge). Bellevue and Lynnwood have to understand, “No base, no train.” The developer from Europe that fled the Spring District investment was right in an absolute sense, but he failed to consider the constraints in the US, constraints not just in Bellvue but all over the country. In Europe they’d just put the trains and urban villages wherever they’d be most functional. In the US, single-family neighborhoods are sacred so we can’t build there, and trains must not get in the way of cars or parking. But there’s still a market opportunity for a Spring District with a maintenance base: it’s just not as effective as something in Europe where the two are separate.

  9. The City of Kirkland reviewed the Sound Transit LRP on Tuesday night, and are preparing comments for the draft EIS.

    They seem to have entirely given up on anything better than bus alignments on the 405 serving Totem Lake. Comments featured a request for Totem Lake bus service to serve more of that neighborhood than just the transit center. Lots of lengthy commentary on how Sound Transit should think about alternative modes (monorails, gondolas and personal transit all make an appearance, so I guess it’s somebody’s hobby horse). There is an interesting notion about street cars from Totem Lake to Hospital Station.

    What’s really significant is their ambivalence about the BNSF rail corridor. Nobody is pushing to get transit into any of the population centers south of Totem Lake. And there’s a concern about noise and other issues from rail on the rail corridor. There was some outright opposition to rail on the corridor (a thinking that somehow the trains would race through Kirkland without stopping, bringing noise but not much else). Some ridiculous complaints about train-induced land slides were quasi-endorsed by Council in the discussion, but thankfully didn’t seem to make it into the letter to Sound Transit.

    On the positive side, they do want to see ‘last-mile’ connections from downtown and perhaps elsewhere to the higher-capacity routes on the 405. But not even a hint that anybody was wrestling with how that would work. There’s nothing remotely walkable near the 405. Most of the walkable neighborhoods in Kirkland have better transit today along the north-south arterials (even in mixed traffic) than they could ever have by going over to the 405 for a connection.

    1. Thanks for the update on Kirkland. This will probably be the decisive factor against light rail in Kirkland in ST3, since its primary purpose is to bring Kirkland into the rapid-transit network. What’s interesting is that Kirkland isn’t actively opposing it, it’s just resigning to it being out of reach this round.

      I wonder what Issaquah is thinking right now. I can’t see an Issaquah – Bellevue line without a Kirkland – Bellevue line unless it’s significantly less expensive. Because that would be giving an emerging area light rail while the second-largest city (and urban villages) on the Eastside go without.

      1. The complicating twist is that there is no single investment on the east side that seems like a no-brainer (other than extending East-Link to downtown Redmond). If subarea equity wasn’t a concern, it’d be tempting to say “let’s punt on all the big east side options, put a few buses out there for now, and consider something more meaningful for ST4”.

        But they have to do more than just go to Redmond or the overall package will be too small to do what they probably want to do in Seattle. So maybe they do spend all of the money in Issaquah after all. But I worry that ST will do something that’s just big enough to lock the East-side into a transit model of park-and-rides for freeway buses.

        However, I didn’t hear anything to suggest the City has any more information than we all do. Quite the opposite. Certainly, nobody at the meeting suggested they’d gotten any more insight from ST than the slide decks we’ve all seen. Maybe even not all of those – the council packet had slides from the ERC and I-405 studies, but no mention of the ST Kirkland-Issaquah studies. So maybe the Council is just not engaged, but what does ST do if they don’t have a relationship with a City?

        Recently, the city approved a master plan for the pedestrian/bike elements on the corridor. That process featured an unpleasant exchange of letters with ST over who would be liable for moving the trail if it was impacted by future ST use of the corridor. The relationship between the City and Sound Transit looks pretty dysfunctional from the outside.

  10. It’s interesting that the council has not given the go ahead for cuts. They should get on this so king county riders can feel the pain of their neighbors to the north and south. In reality while I don’t support the frequency and span cuts, eliminating the low productivity suburban services like DART to refocus the service in the urban cores is a good tactic and should happen if the cuts go through or not. It will also be interesting to see what ideas KCM and ST come up with to better consolidate and intergrate their services.

    1. The executive vetoed the council passed resolution that authorized the September cuts.

      1. The executive vetoed the council’s decision to abandon the Service Guidelines rather than go through with the first round of cuts.

        Fixed that for you.

  11. The problem will all the commentary on the link between house prices and foreign investment is that no one really knows what the actual numbers are. All of this is based on anecdotal evidence. And the popularity of these anecdotes is driven by media folks looking to drum up a story, real estate agents trying to frighten people into buying now or buying never, and plenty of disgruntled folks unhappy with how much they pay for housing. I tried to find any evidence of big capital inflows into real estate from abroad by looking at balance of payments data etc, and I could find nothing. Certainly no obvious changes in trends. (I’m not an economist so I don’t really know what I’m doing, but if there are people that do know what they are doing, they might try having a look as well.)

    1. There is data that suggests that at least some purchases of residential real estate in word class cities as a more or less pure play capital storage, There’s also data that suggests that there is a significant amount of unused or significantly underused residential property in these cities. The question is how much of the latter is caused by the former. It would be interesting to understand how well each of the following has been considered when looking at unoccupied residences:

      1) pied-a-terres
      2) part year residences (consider snowbirds in NYC or Toronto)
      3) executive housing (the cost of a couple night a month in a suite at a good hotel will pay for a substantial mortgage).
      4) redevelopment delays caused by regulatory fights.
      5) redevelopment delays caused by disagreements about who is to provide infrastructural upgrades
      6) fraud (residences officially unoccupied, but in fact in use)
      7) large residences retained by parents to support holiday gatherings of their children.
      8) wealthy persons trying to mitigate political risk by establishing a residence out of the reach of their local authorities. (Who wil Putin turn on this week?)

      Even the pure play investment situations don’t all look alike. Consider my family. My mother still owns a flat just outside Central London (TFL Zone 2, in the City of Westminster). She hasn’t been back in five years, and frankly is unlikely ever to return. It’s hardly been used since she moved away. Before that she lived there roughly 9 months a year, spending the winter in her flat in Florida. Because of her mental condition, and because the family didn’t establish clear power of attorney before she reached her current state, it’s difficult to sell. She doesn’t — yet — need the money. Note that this is a property bought as a principal residence that has, over time morphed into an unoccupied store of capital. When she first moved, there was considerable cleanup that needed to be done [filing, distribution of family treasures, etc.], and in any case the market was temporarily not great for selling. At this point, it’s mostly inertia that stalls the sale [although it certainly also makes it easier for the rest of us kids to visit my brother]. I suspect that we’re a bit of an outlier, but that so are the cold blooded .01%ers buying without any real intent to inhabit.

    2. That’s because Seattle isn’t “world class” enough to be affected by it as much as London, Vancouver, or New York. If it were, we’d see a lot of owned-but-empty condos and houses around town. But when investors see the $900K or $1.5 million price tags here they probably say “Seattle’s not worth it” and go elsewhere. Instead what we see is high-end apartments being leased and occupied by upper-income tech workers and executives, which is a different thing and at least makes the buildings “lived in”.

      This buying second homes as investments really took off in the early 2000s. Bush/Greenspan refused to raise interest rates when the economy recovered from the dotcom bust and 9/11, so investors had to look harder for high returns and saw that mortgages were artificially cheap and lucrative. That bothers me immensely because the necessities of life shouldn’t be treated as mere objects of speculation like gold. If you have extra money, go invest in a company or start a company! Don’t bid up the price of houses and throw average people on the street! But people do it because they can. Foreigners do it because western countries are stable, and it can also help them obtain a visa later if their own country melts down or imposes confiscatory taxes or they want to put your children into a good university.

      It’s not an either-or situation re density and housing prices. Both the “More Units Lessen Upward Pressure on Prices” and the “Plutocrats Drive Up Prices” are true. They’re both affecting the market simultaneously. One may be more prominent in some cities; the other in other cities.

      What the article doesn’t address is, if we reject the notion that density can help stabilize prices, and thus keep zoning restrictive, what do we do to keep prices from skyrocketing? If only the rich can live in the inner cities, then we must build a lot more walkable neighborhoods and high-capacity transit in the suburbs because that’s where the 99% will live.

  12. I like the height-increase-for-park-space deal. We density people get what we want, densi-phobes get park space, which absolutely everybody loves (and makes density much more pleasant), and the developer gets to complete their project.

    I don’t like that they’re doing this by holding a current bit of public park hostage – I’d rather it go into new acquisitions for open space.

    How about a rule – developers can go up to 50% over the zoning in a location, if they put the same percentage of the cost of the building into a fund for public parks? Parks would be in the neighborhood, of course.

    Of course, funding transit in this way wouldn’t be bad, either.

    1. If the intent is to fund public benefits that benefit everybody, why are you targeting your tax at just a very limited type of real estate development, rather than taxing all new development or just taxing everyone on a fair and equal basis? As is all these zoning incentive taxes just make it more and more un-affordable for the middle class to live in high rises, no matter that they may want to.

      1. when you decide to do things correctly, they cost more. we could have cheaper places, but they wouldn’t be as nice. the rub is in the tradeoff. and nothing is without a tradeoff.

  13. Today’s SoundTransit ridership numbers are incredible. 20+% increase in year over year ridership for CentralLink for May.

Comments are closed.