[UPDATE: Commenters are keen to make the point that this legislation might impact various non-traditional definitions of “family.” The original article makes clear that the Bellevue Council is very conscious of these unintended consequences and seeks to avoid them. What they’re not seeking to avoid is the broader impact on poor people, as that is the actual point.]

The Times reports that the Bellevue Council plans to ban large groups of unrelated people from living together ($):

Monday night, the Bellevue City Council is expected to adopt permanent regulations that limit to four the number of unrelated people who can live in one house.

The new rules require the adults to be sharing the entire house under one lease and not renting individual rooms on a short-term basis. Any nonconforming leases would have to be terminated within one year or when they next expire, whichever comes first.

The story says that “Neighbors had complained about traffic, noise and landlords not paying for garbage collection or keeping up the yard.”

I have little doubt that traffic, noise, and untidy grounds are sometimes a problem with boardinghouses. Indeed, homes occupied by a single family can also make noise and not keep up the yard. But Bellevue has hit upon a way to limit this that also happens to specifically exclude poor people from the neighborhood, which should concern anyone interested in social justice.

The fundamental argument for having subsidized housing in Seattle, as opposed to doing it more cheaply further away, is that it’s important for poorer people to have housing close to jobs.* The Eastside is the other major job center, and market-rate home prices are actually higher. Furthermore, Bellevue is commonly understood to have among the best public schools in the state, meaning that also limits access to quality education for small families of meager means. Bellevue residents that think this is a bad policy may want to let their representatives know today.

* Why it isn’t important for the thousands of households who can’t fit in Seattle due to zoning restrictions as a simple matter of math, or for the newcomers who may not be able to displace an existing household if we enact rent control combined with restrictive zoning, has never been clear to me.

79 Replies to “Bellevue Poised to Ban Some Affordable Housing Tonight”

  1. From what I have heard, Microsoft or other tech industry contractors will bring in foreign staff and they will share a house or apartment together.

    1. From what I have seen, Microsoft does work in many languages, and advertises for people around here to do that work.

      Also from what I have seen and read, Bellevue has fought hard to keep people from being able to commute quickly to Redmond, even while Microsoft has spent a fortune providing what is essentially limousine service for its own employees to locations all over north King County. (I don’t know about whether contractors get that service, too.)

      Also from what I have seen, houses in Bellevue and Redmond are not cheap. So, people do like they do here in Seattle: informal group housing. Is there anything wrong with that?

      If Microsoft faced the sort of NIMBYism that has taken over Seattle and Bellevue land-use battles back before they set up shop in Redmond, I can’t blame them for setting up shop in Redmond.

      1. “(I don’t know about whether contractors get that service, too.)”

        If you mean the Connector buses–the ones that run routes from neighborhoods back to Microsoft–then, no, non-FTEs can’t ride them. Anyone with a badge can ride the Shuttle Connect buses that provide intra-campus service and trips to a few nearby park-and-ride lots.

        I don’t get what this gets Bellevue. Well, actually, I get what it gets a limited set of Bellevue residents, but not how the rest of the city benefits. Maybe that’s the point.

    2. Agreed — my first instinct was that Bellevue neighbors are concerned about large groups of non-white men in their neighborhoods. The men might be earning tech salaries and wouldn’t be considered either poor or poorly-educated, but “culture” (using the term really, really broadly) has a deep-seated distrust of unattached men, especially the swarthy.

      The unbearable whiteness of polyamory (as represented in media) is perfectly acceptable to Bellevue, which thinks itself open-minded.

    1. Bellevue is not alone in terrible regulations like these, but it is poised to make a very negative change to the status quo today. Hence the post.

      1. Martin,
        Is it a terrible regulation though? A single family house shouldn’t be home to 9 individuals who aren’t part of a family? I’m not making a morality argument, I’m making a sanitation/parking/etc argument. Maybe the number should be 8 like in Seattle, but to call this a terrible regulation seems like overkill.

      2. Aren’t you making a moral argument? I tend to assume someone is when they use words like “shouldn’t”. Why is would an 8-related-person family have less impacts than a single owner with 7 renters?

      3. Any regulation which discriminates between “family” and “not family” is basically an invasion of privacy, and none of the government’s business.

    2. This one isn’t logical, and I don’t like Seattle’s regulation of 8 people, either, but I think four and eight are significantly different. The reason is that a lot of shared houses have five or six people, (like a lot of traditional families have five or six people), but more than that is pretty rare, in my experience. The reason is that not that many people have six kids, and so not that many houses are built with so many bedrooms. On the other hand, especially if there is a couple or two, it is easy to find a comfortable shared house for 5 or 6 people. (More than six also tends to get into the territory where nobody thinks it’s their job to take the trash out and clean the floors)

      The point is, at eight people, the law is problematic, but mostly theoretical, whereas at four people, it is actual discrimination against quite a few actual people.

  2. If they do pass this, I’m wondering if discriminating based on familial relationship status is even legal. It seems to run against fair housing law, though starving college students aren’t specifically named as a protected class.

    Either way, it’s obvious that the ban will result in fewer college students being able to live in Bellevue. I think we can all agree that a married family with 6 unruly children can be more disruptive to a neighborhood than 8 quiet college students who bike to school/work and share resources to get by. Regulate the impacts (too many cars, noise, trash, etc….), not how people choose to live and improve their lives.

    1. Hell, with SSM and legally sanctioned polyamory around the corner, what the heck is a family?

      1. In the transit context, a family is up to half a dozen children with their faces up against a LINK-car window as the train comes down the viaduct from Tukwila, cheering like they’re on a roller coaster.

        And a couple of parents with Sounders hats and t-shirts, telling me that the kids now like their train trip better than anything they’re going to. And also that the ones in baby carriages who can’t even talk start pointing and indicating preference every time the get wheeled over a station, and hear a bell.

        Proving that rail transit is definitely a Family Value, which in turn makes every right wing Republican platform advocate LINK expansion. Actually, Paul Weyrich, the monarchist publisher of the New Electric Railway Journal, considered light rail a bulwark against Socialist freeways and Interstates.

        And careful about bad-mouthing polyamory. Good chance your chauffeur will bite you for disrespecting his family’s lifestyle.


      2. Hell, with interracial marriage and “free love” hippies, what the heck is a family?

        Oh, right…

    2. The article suggests that avolding discrimination against alternative family arrangements was one of their chief concerns. Give them credit for that!

      1. Maybe it’s because age-wise I’m closer than you to boarding-house dwelling streetcar ridership. Meaning that I had grandparents whose generation contained political meeting participants who voiced political objection with a shower of cats who had died of natural causes.

        Live ones were generally out of favor, not from aversion to cruelty, but because a cat had to have been dead and left in the sun and run over enough times to have any real persuasive effect.

        Unfortunately, with the age of radio, all olfactory expression had to go symbolic. Though results make some of us really long for the political civility of bygone days.

        Right now, all politics knows what 40 years without a raise will bring out in a well armed electorate when their home values (the one family value voters really care about) implode and suck their overdrawn credit cards into the same hole.

        Hence the desperate distractions that smell like dead cats and also squall louder than live ones. That also have the added effect of forcing anyone wanting to participate in politics to work left-handed so their right one can hold shut their nose.

        But the actions that truly prove the values of the US right are the multiple attempts to suppress voting among voters they know they’re going to lose. Unfortunately the general response from the other major party reveals the value they place on avoiding offense to well-placed contributors.

        Somebody gimme a calico. I mean to pet! And find a good home for! Good bumper sticker: “Cats are for purring, not for pitching!”


  3. One of the local TV stations had video of a purpose-built boarding house with 8 bedrooms and multiple entry doors. The landlord rented rooms individually. While such facilities are certainly useful to have in a community like Bellevue, they are more appropriately sited in multi-family zones.

    1. Why is that? Why is it ever appropriate to have neighborhoods where poor people simply aren’t allowed by force of law?

      1. It doesn’t even have to be poor people.

        Sometimes, you just don’t need 1 kajillion square feet of living room space, or don’t have the time to maintain such living space.

      2. Then maybe they should just do away with zoning all together and let property owners do what they want. Like Republicans say, fewer regulations lead to lower costs, therefore we get more affordable housing for poor people in Bellevue. Bingo.

      3. I’m reading a book “Dead End” that gets into that. You’d also have to eliminate or restrict private covenants. In the mid 1800s landowners could truly build whatever they wanted. In the late 1800s covenants became popular in subdivisions to prevent future lot owners from deviating from the developer’s vision. Originally the covenants mandated minimum lot sizes, open space, payments to a homeowner’s association, and excluding racial minorities, but later they were expanded to little details like the color of the house and makeup of the yard. Their biggest effect was to exclude apartments and low-income people to preserve the neighborhood’s “status”. But they’re technically voluntary: the owner promises (covenants) not to build incompatible structures or sell to an undesirable. The courts were hostile to such restrictions on property rights but gradually accepted them. Still, the book says covenants are on questionable legal grounds and they’ve mostly remained in place by avoiding court challenges. They especially become questionable after the original developer dies, yet the land uses are supposedly frozen forever, giving neighbors an effective veto on other people’s property.

        Zoning basically standardized these kinds of restrictions and put the force of the city behind them. The most-citied purpose of zoning is to prevent a polluting factory going up next to houses, but the book suggests cities could already prevent this under health and safety principles. What zoning primarily does is exclude apartments — as we’ve seen in the Shoreline, Roosevelt, and Surrey Downs controversies. Nimbys use them to block apartments or at least keep them small. Zoning also appeared at a time when complete separation of uses was fashionable (houses here, grocery stores there, apartments there, offices there, industry there) — thus requiring driving for even the most routine errand. That has since been relaxed somewhat with mixed-use districts, but single-family districts are still sacrosanct.

        Another factor is intentional waste. Large lots, car-dependent design, and open space create exclusivity and status. Only “useless” plants and animals are allowed: lawns and dogs, but not farms or goats. Decoration OK, food and income not. One city relaxed its goat restriction by allowing only one species of goat: the most pet-like and least productive kind. These will have to be addressed in an age of planetary resource limits and climate change.

      4. Oh, and Houston. According to “Dead End”, Houston doesn’t have zoning but instead gives city enforcement to covenants. So if you break a covenant you face not only a civil lawsuit but the police and fines. The effect is the same as zoning except it’s subdivision by subdivision rather than a consistent city plan. Without zoning there’s now way for the community to democratically decide what density they want where, so the developer’s whims are absolute: the covenants almost always mandate low density, and there’s no way for the community to upzone the area if it wants to. Another feature is that 51% of the homeowners in a subdivision can create new covenants against the interests of the other 49%, and the city will enforce them.

      5. Because that is what the consensus of the majority agrees to. I chose to live in a single family neighborhood, not a tenement neighborhood. I have no problem with laws that keep it that way.

      6. All covenants-which-run-with-the-land are voidable, under the “dead hand” principle (the “dead hand” of the past is not allowed to rule over the present) — this is why easements require a current *easement-holder* in order to remain in force. Ancient Anglo-Saxon law.

        Covenants are usually used for terrible reasons.

      7. It is should be never be appropriate. This shows that too much of the land in Bellevue is designated to single family and not enough land is for multi-family.

    2. My question, Roger, is why anybody would want their children exposed to the present lifestyle and culture of Bellevue?

      Though from what Bellevue seems to be evolving to, as current the generation of Bellevue follows Kemper Freeman off the scene as the years take their course, Nature’s usual repair for older generations will probably work.

      Transit-wise, there’s plenty of photographic evidence clearly showing street rail serving boarding-houses. Hopeful indicator is increasing prevalence of young men with mustaches right out of those daguerreotypes.

      Which will likely lead to motormen (correct term for LINK and SLU drivers) working with buttoned up shirts and brass buttons on their uniforms.

      Leading to usual two repetitive proposals proving need for Nature’s cure for boring former trolleydrivers (no, not the Route 4:)

      1. In places in the rest of the world where urban density is a long-standing and comfortable practice, architects and developers have very little problem creating homes that are quite densely spaced. Whose main problem is that they’re so attractive that the rich push each other in front of streetcars to get hold of them.

      2. The cure of which problem is to create an economy where ordinary working people can earn enough money to live in a home where their kids don’t have to take drugs to stand the boredom. Until they can escape to Seattle, as they now do in droves.

      And when the suburban runaways get here, they can earn enough money that, like refugees in the transit-riding days of the past, they can send their parents enough money at least to buy tires to lash into rafts, and be rescued by the Coast Guard just off the Arboretum.


  4. Have they studied how many people this may affect? Bellevue may find a large wave of homeless hit them as soon as a month from the vote.

    Raise your hand if you ever rented a room in a house in college, or when otherwise starting out/over in life (raises hand).

    1. What you’re predicting could also follow, Matt, as the housing and financial industries prove that 2008 was just practice. And thereby create an enormous population of homeless people in Bellevue without anybody having to move anywhere except out of their former homes.

      Then it’ll be Seattle’s problem to keep them out of the alleys and doorways of Pioneer Square- joining the hordes of the similar dispossessed flooding in from their repossessed condos in South Lake Union. As the late Washington Mutual used to have for its loan policy slogan: Woo Hoo!

      Remind me. Did the Federal regulators spend so much time in a certain giant southwestern state that they didn’t sense a problem when they heard that for the millionth time?


    2. No, they’ll just ship off the newly homeless to seattle, where there are actually services for them. All cities over a certain number of people should be required to provide these type of services.

      this country has a homelessness crisis that’s rooted in not taking poverty and mental health seriously. I just read somewhere that there are 140000 homeless people in Chicago. That’s insane for a city with such crummy weather.

      1. In the UK, it is settled law dating back to the *Middle Ages* that each parish is required to provide housing for all its residents, and can’t simply ship them off to other jurisdictions. I have no idea how we failed to get similar laws in the US.

    3. Yep, I rented rooms in my Wallingford house during my start-up years. Those folks were part of my household, my “family” if you will. What I did not do is add 5 bedrooms to my house and rent out each one separately — while I lived elsewhere. Two rather different models there. Bellevue is trying to accommodate the former and prohibit the latter; not an unreasonable policy goal.

  5. The first sentence of the last paragraph is confusing, as is the footnote attached to it. What does subsidized housing in Seattle have to do with maximum-unrelated-tenant policies in Bellevue? Both cities have subsidized housing, and both have long waiting lists for it. The “large rooming houses” are more equivalent to Seattle’s apodments than to subsidized housing. The rents are lower than regular apartments but they’re still higher than low-income housing, so they serve a different market.

    1. The rationale for both is that affordable housing close to jobs is important. If it weren’t, we could house them all in Auburn and afford many more units.

      1. Maybe we should take advantage of the housing and construction boom that is happening right now. Make it a stipulation to have affordable/subsidized units in EVERY condo building that is being built. It’s a win for the city and a win for low income workers, since all the condos are going into neighborhoods where lower income workers can find jobs. Plus, low income workers aren’t forced to live in overpriced, unregulated boarding houses.

      2. Yes, but understand that even 25% in every new unit would not be enough to address everybody who’s paying more than 30% of their income on housing. And again, there’s a gap between those who qualify for these affordable units and those who can easily afford market-rate units.

      3. A percentage of affordable housing in every building with lots of units is generally a good policy, as several countries have found out; it’s good to sprinkle the poor in with those who are doing well, rather than concentrating all the people who are having financial trouble into one place.

  6. The bigger issue of affordable housing is that Seattle is becoming the next San Francisco, where everyone lives in SF proper, and works in the silicon valley. No one wants to admit this yet however, and the reality is that Bellevue and Redmond need just as much, if not more commuter transit service as Downtown Seattle has. Including Sounder and express bus service. But… no one wants to admit this reality yet.

    1. Well as long as Seattle manages to add more than 500-1000 new units of housing a year I doubt prices will become as crazy as San Francisco.

      In the Bay Area it isn’t just San Francisco that is expensive it is anything within a semi-reasonable commute of either San Francisco or the tech corridor between Palo Alto and San Jose.

      Most Bay Area communities are pretty horrible about allowing new housing to be built. The NIMBY crazy isn’t just limited to the city proper.

      1. 500-1000 sounds ridiculously small if you live in one of the many apartment complexes outside The City. A single apartment complex, built with the traditional 3 story buildings, and green space can often have that many residents.

        And that is what they should have built more of…along fast, regional, heavy rail lines to the central work and entertainment areas, while at the same time encouraging “just enough” local development so you don’t have to run off for everything.

    2. Seattle’s average rent has gone from $1100 to $1400 since 2008, and it was probably $800 in 2000. That’s still far lower than $2000-3000 in the Bay Area, and they’re building enough that the increase has already slowed and may stop in a couple years. Rents in Silicon Valley are almost as much as SF, because the vast majority of the city and suburbs are off-limits to density. It’s not a one-way reverse commute. A lot of people both live and work in the Valley, and a lot of others still do the traditional commute to the City. Caltrain is full both directions. :)

      My friend considered a (non-tech) job in SF and turned it down because he’d have to live in a shoebox in Hayward or further out; instead he took another opening with the same organization in Sacramento, where he could have a large apartment downtown with a guest room and walk to everyday needs and the light rail, and take the 2-hour Amtrak ride to SF occasionally for entertainment.

      Likewise here, many people commute from Seattle to the Eastside, but many others both live and work on the Eastside. Others commute from the Eastside to Seattle, and that number will increase with Expedia’s move and Amazon’s expansion and probably others after them.

      There may be insufficient peak transit to Bellevue and Redmond jobs, but if so, it’s not clear that the biggest underservice is Seattle-Eastside rather than suburb-to-suburb. Bailo has mentioned the skeletal amount of transit from South King County to the Eastside. In any case, high-volume Seattle-Eastside transit is coming, both with Link and the proposed 520 reorganization.

  7. At the very least, children should be exempt from these kinds of regulations. There are plenty of children who are in foster care and being cared for by non-relatives — and this would seem to hurt them most significantly than other sectors of the population..

  8. If someone builds a house that’s 5,000 square feet and has three servant quarters on the premises, it would be illegal is this passes. It is really going to hurt billionaires! I’m also wondering what “unrelated” means because I’ve met professionals from South Asia living with second cousins (a culturally expected household according to them), that could potentially be defined as unrelated here. These kinds of restrictions have plenty of unintended consequences and really smack of white power superiority over other cultures around the world..

    1. Servants’ quarters are so two centuries ago. Nowadays maids take the bus. Their employers may have to start subsidizing their housing costs though.

      1. Sorry to tell you this, Mike, but I’ve met several professional chefs and nurses that currently live with wealthy people in Bellevue and Medina.

      2. I suppose they could technically be called servants, but to me that connotes demeaning social norms and yes sir and silly uniforms and at its extreme slavery. I think modern plutocrats would have more respect for their employees, and treat them more like office employees, and professional chefs and nurses wouldn’t put up with being treated like servants because they can find a good job elsewhere.

  9. Does this specifically exclude adult family homes? Typically these house up to 6 (by state law) unrelated people with live-in staff. The staff may rotate, but there are always staff on site, generally 2 or 3. I’m sure the “noise” and “maintenance” issues are not the same as these folks seem to fear, but I would also expect a legal challenge were they to be zoned out completely as that could be considered discriminatory.

    If you live in a single family neighborhood, you may live near one or more without even knowing it. They have been a godsend to our family.

      1. Thanks for the info.

        This mindset is yet another reason (there are many) I’m glad we’re packing up our firm and moving to Seattle this summer. Not big enough to get the Expedia treatment, but still, it’s something.

  10. I agree that this is a problem from a density perspective and an availability of affordable housing perspective, but the deepest problem, for me, is still that it defines an appropriate household by the people living in it rather than by the building that houses them. If Bellevue wants to ban purpose-built boarding houses, it is elitist and anti-density, but they can go ahead and set up a minimum number of square feet per bedroom and bathroom (because obviously they’re not going to ban mansions), etc.

    But this would focus, even if it is not the direct intent, on prohibiting certain people/lifestyles from being next door. That is just not OK. You don’t get to choose if your neighbors are young or old, black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor.

  11. This law would have banned the living arraignment I had my first year and a half out here. When I first met her, my girlfriend was sharing a house with 3 other people. By the time it was all said and done we’d gotten married and there were 8 of us in the house. Three couples (we were the only married ones at the time, although Trav and Lisa married 5 years later) and two singles.

    One of the best times of my life. 6104 123rd Ave SE, the Cat House. *raises glass in toast*

  12. We live in Seattle now but until 2007, in a three-person family, close to downtown Bellevue and the Spiritwood neighborhood that was getting so many converted boarding houses. As has been the case for many years, the stereotypes of the eastside by those who live on the westside seem uninformed, even prejudicial.

    Do you understand that Bellevue has proportionately far more foreign-born residents than Seattle, and is second only to Federal Way in the whole state? Do you know that over half of Bellevue’s housing is attached units? it’s not a golf-playing, Republican-voting suburb anymore. It’s the second largest economic city in the state, with several buildings over forty stories high, and is really a second downtown to Seattle’s. It has a far more viable downtown than Tacoma or Spokane, and in effect has cities like Kirkland (82,000+) and Redmond (57,000+) as its own suburbs.

    Bellevue has grown up, and is experiencing a wave of neighborhood pushback that also recurs in Seattle. Now I am no fan of Kemper Freeman and really resented his lawsuit against East Link. And I think something is really lost in a downtown with a huge mall, even if it is the most successful in this entire part of the country.

    1. Tom, the reputation of Bellevue is cemented in the minds of most Seattlites. Seattle is an extremely white bread city but likes to think of itself as a special place that is better in every way.

      These laws are quite common in college towns back east. I’ve always heard of a limit of three unrelated people. Bellevue’s proposed four and Seattle’s eight are generous. In this case, boarding houses being made from single family homes next to Bellevue College instigated the uproar. People are afraid of the area becoming a student slum of sorts.

      Bellevue’s council is trying to craft this law carefully but in my opinion they must fail. This is a tightrope over and alligator pit if I’ve ever seen one.

      1. I think there may be some conflicts with Federal and State law as regards siting group homes and adult family homes.

        The Bellevue City Council needs to be damn careful they don’t create some really sympathetic victims of this new regulation.

      2. Indeed, Chris. This was my point above. This law could make some sense if crafted properly and with some attention to details like this, but rushing it–apparently–to a vote without considering these things is clearly a knee-jerk response. (If not, even worse–that would mean they thought about things like group and adult family homes and simply didn’t care.)

      3. The Bellevue City Council has been considering this since at least September 2013. Nothing hasty in the decision. Just google the topic.

      4. And many Bellevueites think if you go to south Seattle you’ll be shot or carjacked.

        I grew up in Bellevue. What I’ve seen the past thirty years is Bellevue and Seattle growing more like each other. At first the suburbs thought they could escape “big city problems”, but by the 80s it was clear that that was not the case. At first the problems were small — four homeless youth counted in Kirkland when I was in high school — but the city governments knew they could not bury their heads in the sand; they would eventually have to address the problems the same way Seattle does. Meanwhile in the city the growth of University Village, the breadbox apartments, the changing nightlife, the redemption of neglected neighborhoods, have a somewhat suburban character. It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference, in the people, in the activities, or in the physical environment.

  13. Another unintended consequence is impact to historic houses, though I suppose that there aren’t as many of those in Bellevue as there are in places such as Queen Anne.

    Some of these larger older homes are simply uneconomical as a single family residence today. In fact, their example house in the article is described as a “three bedroom rambler” that was chopped into 9 bedrooms, which should tell you a bit about how large the place is.

    Suppose you have a choice: divide up a larger, older, attractive home into four units:
    or, demolish such a house and replace it with equivalent four separate houses in the same footprint, all of which are about 10 feet wide:
    Which is preferable?

    With this restriction, you get the four new 10 foot wide houses.

    1. Most of these ramblers are 1000-1500 square feet. They’re not the Bellevue mansions that are talked about much in comments here.

      Bellevue (like all the cities around here) has subplatting rules that would prevent four 10 foot houses.

      What the existence of this problem points to is a lack of multi family zoning in this area. An apartment building–targeted at a similar dlice of rent–would fix all the issues.

      1. And “historic” is relative. Something 60 years old in Bellevue has historic charm. Think Midcentury Modern.

        In Europe they’d laugh at the idea of Queen Anne having history. In Egypt, they snub their noses at Europe.

      2. To Martin’s assertion that “What they’re not seeking to avoid is the broader impact on poor people….” There are a number of income-restricted housing units in Bellevue. The 56-unit LIHI project downtown is just the latest. There may not be enough affordable housing, but this action is little evidence to the article’s main assertion.

      3. Of course Bellevue has affordable housing programs. That doesn’t change the fact that the proposed legislation will make the situation much worse.

      4. There’s a gap between those who qualify for affordable housing and those who can easily afford a market-rate apartment. Especially if they’re trying to save some of their paycheck for old age or college expenses. That’s where a wider variety of housing types would help, and why this legislation is destructive.

      5. Yes, Martin & Mike: the proposed legislation will decrease the amount of affordable housing in these neighborhoods. What I’m saying is that the correct way to fix the lack of affordable housing is to change zoning regulations to allow affordable housing to be built.

        These boarding houses are taking single-family homes and turning them into multi-family homes. The exact number of unrelated people that determines a “family” is immaterial. Seattle says eight, Bellevue wants to say four. Whatever. The fact remains that this neighborhood isn’t zoned for multifamily housing.

        I would far prefer that Bellevue recognize that there’s a market demand–both on the customer and supplier side–for multifamily housing in or near these neighborhoods. Allow people to build boarding houses, apartments, apodments, whatever. But do it intentionally. Don’t just let some slum landlord chop up a single family house and rent it out as rooms.

        When I was looking at condos in downtown Bellevue I saw one where they had a mattress in a closet. The agent said between 12 and 18 people lived in this two-bedroom condo at any given time. That’s probably not acceptable to the people who are living in the units next door to that unit.

        If that’s not a sufficiently ridiculous reduction, how about this. When my aunt lived in Manhattan, homeless people created houses out of cardboard boxes on the sidewalk in front of her brownstone. The police would eventually come out and clear away the boxes, thus destroying affordable housing that was desperately needed in Manhattan. Is that acceptable?

        Please leave the Bellevue baiting out of the conversation. Bellevue is far more ethnically diverse than most cities in the state and I’d bet that the income range is pretty broad as well. And Seattle has its own zoning issues–including outlawing houses of over eight unrelated people.

        The solution here is proper regulation and zoning and potentially entitlements for building affordable housing (as is the norm.) The sleazy landlord who’s cutting a house into a dozen rooms isn’t a friend of the poor and downtrodden.

      6. Of course Bellevue has affordable housing programs. That doesn’t change the fact that the proposed legislation will make the situation much worse.

        Specifically, it makes college style housing more difficult right next to a college. If you’re going to live in a place right next to a university, expect students to want to live there.

      7. @Glenn in Portland, I couldn’t agree more! The one nit I have with your statement is that Bellevue College is only a college, not a university. Heck, a few years back it was a Community College (not that I know the distinction…)

        I firmly believe the city should recognize that foreign students want housing near Bellevue College, if in fact foreign students do want such. Or students without money (yes, all students) want housing near Bellevue College. And the city should create more multifamily housing near the college.

        Maybe they’d piss off a few single family homeowners, but that’s the breaks. They can’t be more pissed than the ones whose houses were condemned for Sound Transit. There is clearly a need for more dense and affordable housing near Bellevue College and the city should respond in a way that addresses the real problem rather than trying to sweep the dust under the rug.

        I’d be the first guy in line to vote for apodments at the corner of I-90 and 148th Ave SE, right next to Bellevue College campus. Heck, I’d even vote in favor of apodments next to my neighborhood which is reasonably near Bellevue College and downtown. But I sure as heck don’t want a multifamily boarding house next door to my bucolic, if tiny, single family home.

  14. If the average renter in a Bellevue College-area boarding house is an international student, and the average international student comes from a middle class family, should this issue really be framed in terms of affordable housing for poor people? Look up the definition of an appeal to emotion argument.

    And a pic of a newer BC-area/Spiritwood neighborhood boarding house. https://goo.gl/maps/BkUMc

    1. Are college students, even of middle class parents, not poor? My homeless argument was a bit strong, but it’s no small crisis to have to drop out of school or leave the country because you can’t afford rent.

  15. But Bellevue has hit upon a way to limit this that also happens to specifically exclude poor people from the neighborhood

    Kemper Freeman and his lot’s opposition to transit similarly “happened to specifically exclude poor people” from coming to downtown Bellevue more easily.

    There’s a lot about Bellevue that “happens to exclude poor people.” I believe this tendency is finally bending to reality, but it’s not a coincidence that this has been a common thread in Bellevue zoning, transit options, and a million other tiny ways for decades.

    1. References, Nullbull? You can’t just say “Kemper Freeman” and win every argument. In my experience, Bellevue is trying hard to be inclusive for a diverse range of people. Sure, it’s taking a long time to move from the lily-white car-focused suburbia that they’ve been to the urbanish city that they’re becoming, but they (we) are trying.

      There’s a lot about Seattle that “happens to exclude poor people.” Here’s an actual reference with some real facts: http://2035.seattle.gov/affordable-housing-and-seattles-diversity-infographic

  16. Update: Bellevue City Council passed the resolution. I support the resolution because I think that boarding houses (which are too frequently slum housing that takes advantage of the poor) aren’t the solution to the problem. I think the problem needs to be addressed head-on. Specifically, Bellevue should encourage more multifamily housing in the area.

    And it looks like I’m getting at least some of what I want. Bellevue College is now building a dorm: http://www.bellevuereporter.com/news/299112821.html. Previously they had no good guidance for students looking for housing: http://www.bellevuecollege.edu/oiegi/student-life/off-campus-housing/

    1. Boarding houses are a good thing and there should be a hell of a lot more of them. I’m not sure why they got such a bad reputation; they used to be very popular for single men and women, back in the 19th century.

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