El Centro de la Raza - 110 Affordable Housing Units. Beacon Hill, Seattle WA

When Mayor Murray first announced his Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee, there was always a risk that it would be undermined by a lack of specifics. To get the committee on track for a May announcement, the mayor recently announced a goal of 20,000 affordable units over the next 10 years, nearly triple the current rate of production.

Funding these units will be difficult. (One would assume that the sometimes-maligned linkage fee, which Martin described last fall, will play a role.) Given that it costs $20,000 or more to build an urban parking spot, it would be counter to the spirit of affordable housing to spend scarce funds on private car storage. For the purposes of this blog, then, it’s interesting to consider how these 20,000 units might be oriented around transit and walkability, and what that might do to the transit landscape.

Ryan Curren, who manages the City’s Community Cornerstones program, told me that the city has financed “several really interesting affordable housing mixed-use projects at light rail stations” in the last few years, including projects at Mt. Baker Station (Artspace), Beacon Hill (El Centro de la Raza) and Columbia City (Mercy). All of thee projects feature limited parking and a mix of commercial and residential uses.

Financing and construction for projects like these would need to be expanded dramatically to hit the Mayor’s target. It would also mean acquiring more land near transit at a time when the cost of such land is at an all-time high.

“Land costs are an obstacle, specifically the escalating cost of land over time and land costs at stations relative to land located further out along corridors,” Curren said. Federal and state programs can help, but they’re limited.

Rather than chase the expensive land near current transit stations, the task force might consider how to bring frequent transit to more parts of the city. That would open up more neighborhoods to potential affordable housing. It’s encouraging that Prop 1 and Move Seattle, along with Metro’s long-range-plan, all nod in that direction. The housing task force could be another voice pushing for fast and frequent transit in more parts of the city.

64 Replies to “To Get More Affordable Housing, Build More Transit”

  1. Don’t we have to worry about the opposite—increased transit permeation makes more neighborhoods attractive to the well-paid twenty-something transit riders who currently fill all the new construction in existing transit-served neighborhoods like SLU, Ballard, and Capitol Hill?

    If an outer neighborhood becomes convenient enough, I might depart my $3000/mo 1br in SLU for a $2000/mo 2br in Haller Lake—the one which the previous tenant was paying $1100/mo for.

    1. Or maybe due to there being such a limited amount of housing in desirable transit-accessible areas the prices in those areas shoot up. In which case the solution is not to maintain undesirable locations; it’s to spread the love around more and make it so there are enough desirable locations that the supply isn’t so damn constrained.

    2. I might depart my $3000/mo 1br in SLU

      That’s a hypothetical, right? Please tell me that’s a hypothetical. Please reassure me that you are not blowing $3000/mo on a single bedroom in SLU. Because that is a crazy price tag for such mediocrity.

      1. Crikey, $2000/mo will get you a 2br apartment in a lot of spots in the city with decent transit access.

      2. Sounds like the $1300 apodment on Eastlake or the other $1300 apodment Matt Yglesias lives in. For that price one hopes that the first one is a block from Amazon and the second one has a jaw-dropping rooftop view. Before anyone has a heart attack, most non-new apartments are are in the $1100-1500 range, apodments $700-1000, Summit studios $750-900, and brand-new apartments $1500-2000 with some around $2200. And remember that apodments include utilities and I think Internet, which is a $200-300 add-on for regular apartments.

      3. That’s a bit of a high estimate for utilities on a small-ish space, methinks.

        My building has an insane algorithm for apportioning the water bill (which chronically overcharges me) and two of my apartment’s walls are 20 vertical feet of brick haphazardly thrown together by drunken sailors paid in akvavit (and whose heat-sucking brickwork shows it)…
        and my utilities still aren’t that high.

      4. I was trying to cover the maximum for a large apartment. Maybe my minimum was too high for a studio. But $50 for electricity (if you have electric heat), $100 for water/sewer, and $50 for Internet is not uncommon. In the suburbs where electricity is higher I’ve seen over $100 for electric heat.

      5. I’ve even had a few months of electric heat that high — again, courtesy the drunken 1904 bricklayers — but those are amply balanced by the summer months when a modest apartment’s electric bill is about the price of a cup of coffee.

        Up to $300 in utilities still seems an overly generous amount to be crediting Apodment landlords with graciously including in their not-especially-value-driven rents.

  2. Imagine how many more units of housing could be built on land currently dedicated to surface lots in high density areas. Things like:
    https://goo.gl/maps/tzRMU
    seem much more appropriate to Federal Way rather than close to downtown Seattle.

    At the very least, some of these surface lots could afford to have buildings put above them
    https://www.google.com/maps/@47.6168322,-122.3336632,175m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

    Is there no way to make incentives or otherwise help create “mixed use” that would add other uses to lots that are otherwise parking only? Those close in surface parking lots occupy some pretty valuable places.

    1. The location (3rd/Battery) in your first link was going to be developed back before the financial crisis. The old small brick building there was torn down, but then everything fell apart and the owner decided to make it into parking instead of leaving a pile of rubble. At least it is a parking lot generating tax revenue – there are/have been lots in Belltown that are fenced off and not used at all.

      I expect many of these lots will not last much longer – however, there are literally dozens of parcels in Belltown alone that could be built on so this particular plot may not be the first to go. Developers have a lot of options. Belltown could increase in density by ~50% or more just by capitalizing on the unbuilt and under-built areas. However, these opportunities are not without risks. To maximize the density and height limits in Belltown requires an expensive concrete tower, not the wood-frame buildings that dominate Pike-Pine. Concrete means longer build times and deeper pockets from investors, but also more potential profits.

      The Insignia condo development just 2 blocks away has been selling quickly, so we might see some additional condo developments in Belltown as investors and developers get comfortable making big bets again. There’s very little new condo development right now: besides Insignia, there are some small projects in Ballard and other neighborhoods but that’s it.

      1. Quite a few of the apartment buildings are, however, being built under the terms of the Washington Condo Act so that they can be converted relatively easily should the situation warrant.

    2. There are so many plans for towers in Belltown. The DPD has a long backlog of projects, many of them high roses, that they’re trying to keep up with. Here’s a map of some (not even all!) of the construction projects around greater downtown:

      http://seattle.in-progress.us/

      There aren’t even enough construction workers and engineers to keep up with the work right now.

    3. I’m confident the next Google satellite photo will show that many, if not most, of these urban parking lots have been developed into high-rise structures — each with multiple layers of automobile parking in basement levels…sigh….

  3. The affordability issue extends far beyond those who actually qualify for subsidized housing. A large segment of the middle class earns too much to qualify for subsidized housing but not enough to live near their jobs. We’re seeing the “barbell effect” in new housing construction (as is NYC among other cities): lots of high-end, heavy-parking (in Seattle, at least) developments in the hot neighborhoods and a strong push to build subsidized housing for lower-income people. This leaves a huge gap in the middle.

    Developers don’t want to “waste” valuable land on a middle-income development when, for a modest increase in overall development costs (nicer fit & finish, more parking, “roof decks,” etc.), the same building can attract much higher rents when positioned for the higher end of the market. Middle-income residents must compete for an effectively-fixed supply of less-expensive housing with many of the higher-income residents who can’t find luxury apartments because overall supply has not caught up with demand. These people, I’d wager, are the largest segment of the transit-riding population. Many may be forced to move to the suburbs for cost reasons, especially if they have children and need a 2nd or 3rd bedroom.

    1. This is just another result of the currently constrained supply. There are only so many upper-middle to upper income families in Seattle (though it may at times not seem so). If we build enough housing, we will run out of people out bidding the rents. If that portion of the market becomes saturated, then developers will target the next category. While it doesn’t quite help middle income people in the short term, easing development restrictions will have a net positive effect on livability in Seattle for people of all incomes.

      The 700 units at Insignia, while priced out of many people’s range, mean that 700 other units in the city won’t be occupied by the people willing to pay the high rent there. So even if developers only focus on the high end right now, they are in effect saving the rest of the current housing supply for the rest of us. Go ahead and build 1000 units priced at $5000/month (if there really are that many people willing to pay that much). Then those people won’t be living in the $3000/month units. And the people who can afford to move up to the $3000/month units won’t be living in the $2000/month units.

      1. Agreed. You could probably sell 2 more Insignia’s worth of high-end real estate and barely dent the foreign investor market, much less the (much larger) “dual-Amazon” income bracket. There’s nothing wrong with high-end housing as long as people do actually live there. That’s one argument in favor of building apartments vs. condos – nobody rents an empty apartment as an investment.

        When nobody uses the property, however, it does nothing to alleviate the housing crunch. I think we’re starting to see this in Seattle, just as London, NYC, Miami, and others have experienced. In London, apparently, some flats are bought and not even furnished. I’ll wager than more than a few of Insignia’s units will turn out to be pied-a-terres or owned by foreign investors who don’t even rent out the units. Some may end up on Airbnb.

        Bottom line, Seattle needs a lot more housing or we will become as unaffordable as San Francisco or Manhattan.

      2. Yeah, I agree. Generally speaking, you aren’t seeing too much of this (building to the high end earners). It is usually the opposite. You are seeing builders trying to build Apdoments which are way on the other end of the spectrum. The zoning laws encourage the construction of luxury apartments, but so far I haven’t seen it. For example, the Apodment loophole (now closed) meant building apartments with only a few kitchens, which meant that it could be built without a review. Someone could actually do that now (make actual luxury apartments with very few kitchens — thus adhering to the original and now amended statute) but they haven’t, because there isn’t that much demand. The demand is not coming from the top, it is coming from the middle.

      3. We need a lot more non-luxury units near Link stations and RapidRide stations and future trunk corridors, and we need to make lots of full-time frequent corridors throughout the city. Some of the transit will be coming with Prop 1, and then we won’t be pulling our hair out fretting about 30-minute evenings.

        The London/New York/Vancouver effect is only partially applicable. For the normal market (residents and newcomers), there’s an upper limit on the number of affluent yuppies who can pay $1800 rent or $350K condo, and who will put up with Chablis-priced, Bud Light-sized fleecemongering crap in Ballard and downtown. Developers will always chase the highest-income segment but there’s a limited number of wealthy/gullible people to fill the units, and they’ll target down rather than having too many remain empty.

        The London effect is a worldwide “globalized” real-estate market, where there’s an effectively infinite number of rich foreigners who want to park their money in safe US real estate and obtain green cards, whether they intend to live here or not. Currently they’re targeting London and Vancouver. The Eastside is already on their radar with its top-notch schools, but, y’know, it’s not London or Paris. Seattle’s hotspots are getting a bit of this but it’s not overwhelming yet, and it may not spread to Rainier Valley or Lake City if they look too mundane. Time to dust off Lesser Seattle and stop trying to be a World-Class City. We should just aim to do the practical things right: a convenient city (good transit, walkability, potholes), not a boutique city. But that’s easier said than done given the explosion in tech jobs which will reach the jet-setters’ radar soon, and the Port’s shipping trade which is playing it up (e.g., the murals in the SODO busway), and that Starbucks roastery stuff.

      4. Is there some place we could put investor-bait units that’s not near our Link stations?

      5. “Is there some place we could put investor-bait units that’s not near our Link stations?”

        On top of hills or next to the water. Mike, you’ve hit on a good reason to not build a station on upper QA.

      6. “Tukwill-ah, It’s where the cool people live! Fash-i-on at your doo-oorstep, nightlife galo-ore! We don’t need no stinkin’ trains, ain’t working in Losertown anyway! Our stocks make money while we sleep! Tukwil-ah, close to two air-ports! Fly in and meet me in Tuk-willa, yeah yeah yeah!”

      7. While there is a lot of demand to live in Seattle, and the surrounding are, there is only so much. This is why there was a small decrease in the average rent for a one bedroom apartment in Seattle recently. If you look at various Seattle Times articles over the past year and a half, you will see this. In May of 2014 Seattle averaged $1445 for a single bedroom, Nov 2014, $1513, but the most recent article on rent (march 2015) has rent at $1445/mo. This includes a decrease in Ballard ($1628 down to $1533). Bellevue has had an even stronger decrease. $1635/mo (may 2014), to $1432/mo in march 2015. Other cities that have decreased in this time period include a 20% decrease in Everett, Federal Way, and SeaTac. Rent has increased from November 2013, but this decrease helps moderate the prices, and shows building high-end housing, or housing, period, helps everyone in the long run.

  4. Let’s run those numbers out. $20k per parking spot x 20k units = $400,000,000. I imagine you could do quite a bit of bus route upgrades for $400M. That could even be the down payment of a new subway system.

  5. Seattle needs to stop focusing so much on income-restricted affordable units. The very poor and upper middle class are going to be just fine. It’s the middle class Seattle needs to worry about keeping and attracting.

    1. Because housing is pretty fungible, added housing at any level eases price increases at all incomes. The best way to add housing for the middle class isn’t through subsidy (though that would be nice, if you could come up with a source for funding), but through reducing building restriction. If we can’t/won’t do that, the next best thing is to add housing to the high end so that the rich don’t buy middle-class housing, or the low end so that at least when they do we don’t need to be kicked out of the city.

      1. Housing is demonstrably not “pretty fungible”, in myriad physical/locational/financing-systemic/human-behavioral ways that would be too exhausting and too off-topic to enumerate here.

        In fact, housing is easily the least fungible of all base-need commodities.

        If urban advocates are ever going to succeed in winning the hearts and minds of those who fear that upzones are tantamount to forced-sale edicts, or who have watched shabbily-built, overpriced crap replace the existing unremarkable-yet-affordable (and then sit empty rather than drop below an “aspirational” price point), then they are going to have to stop regurgitating their single-semester Neoclassical Econ 101 bullshit that has been so amply contradicted by reality.

      2. We’re going to need to talk this one out, exhausting or not. There will never be an empty unit long term, no matter what type of housing unit it is, as long as there’s high demand at any level for housing in Seattle. If we have 250k housing units and you build a thousand more *of any type*, we suddenly have 251k households that can afford to live here. The market adjusts in complicated ways to make this happen, but it always happens. Anyone left with an unrented unit will eventually drop their price until it’s rented, anyone with a unit that’s snapped up too quickly will tend to raise their prices.

        For extreme examples, consider the NYC warehouses that were converted into high-end studios, the high-end hotels I visited in Belize that were converted to low-wage family housing, the Craftsman houses throughout Seattle that were bought out of a Sears catalogs that now go for close to a million…

      3. There are half-empty buildings sitting at the corner of 15th and Market right now, whose owners either won’t — or, thanks to the terms of business plan that their financial backers signed off upon, can’t — drop prices. Losing money hand over fist. Unit rents not budging.

        So that fucks your base Econ 101 proclamation.

        Furthermore, where development projects encounter high acquisition and financing costs that have little to do with any real value added by any overhaul to the property, yet which add significantly to revenues required to turn a profit. Your replacement stock winds up more costly than any quality or locational equivalent, for reasons that have little to do with either tangible improvement or pure market demand.

        So that fucks your illusion of perfect elasticity.

        And lastly, where there is a finite supply of age-deprecated units in accessible locations, and these are wiped from existence by replacement projects, there is by definition no equivalent “replacement” to be found in settings with other unique conditions.

        So that fucks your explicit claim of “fungibility”.

        Google around, Matt. You won’t find anyone but Chicago School purists who treats housing as “fungible”. That blind spot is a huge part of the problem with how development operates in our growth markets, and it shoulders a great deal of the blame for the pushback our development policies generate.

      4. My comment above is a bit unkempt, as it was rushed.

        The dual crux is as follows:

        1. The exact conditions of a given unit of housing — siting situation, age, and any number of tangible and intangible determiners of quality or desirability — are by definition unique and not found even in similarly built or similarly transit-enabled locations. Housing units are the literal definition of non-fungibility. This is true even before the wrenches of human behavior are thrown into your illusion of perfect market behavior.

        2. Where existing units in possession of a set of defining attributes — aging units in small apartment buildings in transit-enabled locations, for example — are in extremely limited supply, the destruction and replacement of these units with a fundamentally different housing form so dramatically reduces housing stock of the former type as to make finding equivalent replacements fundamentally impossible. Again, a good that can be permanently lost, and can be “replaced” only by decades of gradual stock deprecation or by a precise retread of specific historical conditions in a near-identical location, is by definition non-fungible. Before human-psych market distortions are even introduced.

        Urban boosters, of which I am wholeheartedly one, need to expunge some of their worst American Economic Dogma impulses and embrace carefully-managed growth that aims to encourage heterogeneity and gradual evolutions across the urban realm. That may mean greasing some process wheels such that smaller projects stand the same chance as deep-pocketed ones, but it most certainly does not mean throwing all regulations in the garbage and assuming a beautiful old-world city with access for comers at every income level will magically appear before our eyes.

        Those are wholly different outcomes that will yield wholly different urban futures. Even at the same population numbers. Because people and lives are not fungible either.

      5. d.p.

        I don’t disagree with you about fungibility, however much of the the current travesty is certainly caused by too much regulation as is the even worse housing trai-wreck in the Bay Area.

        To wit:

        1. Making it impossible to build anything in a growing region makes that region extremely expensive, even for substandard units in undesirable locations (see SF).

        2. Quarantining density in narrow strips puts tremendous pressure for redevelopment on existing stock that happens to be in those narrow strips.

        3. Few new DADU and ADU get built (at least legally) due to over-regulation by the city. Get rid of the parking, lot size, and owner occupancy requirements and you will see many more of these in Seattle.

        4. Banning apodment developments reduces the supply of relatively low cost units in desirable locations.

        5. Parking requirements reduce the number of new units and increase the cost of new development.

        6. The ugliness and horrible built form of n-pack townhomes and bread loaf apartments/condos is driven by the Seattle land use code. The superior built form of similar construction in many suburban cities much less locations like Vancouver or Portland proves better codes give better outcomes.

        7. While the state legislature is in part to blame for the lack of small condo developments something about Seattle is causing even fewer to be built here than in other jurisdictions in Washington.

        I’ve run across few density advocates who want a complete libertarian free-for-all when it comes to regulating new development. However most support some easing of our already burdensome requirements that lead to outcomes everyone seems to agree aren’t desirable.

        By the same token though I wonder if it is possible to take a page from John Fox and the Seattle Displacement Coalition and perhaps start demanding affordable housing replacement from developers to one extent or another.

      6. “There are half-empty buildings sitting at the corner of 15th and Market right now, whose owners either won’t — or, thanks to the terms of business plan that their financial backers signed off upon, can’t — drop prices. Losing money hand over fist. Unit rents not budging.”

        The equalibrium may not reach every single building, but there are only so many buildings that can remain half empty before developers stop building them. Then they’ll target downward, find a better financing plan, whatever. If they don’t, smaller developers will step in to build more mainstream units.

      7. Chris, I agree with each and every word you wrote and regulatory point you enumerated.

        But I would note that both Matt and Martin have, in fact, explicitly endorsed libertarian free-for-alls as development policy. Martin as a thought experiment, and Matt because he truly believes the napkin-level version of Neoclassical Econ governs such complicated realms as physical cities.

        That kind of reductionism is as dangerous (and smug, and simply incorrect) as any John Fox anti-density tirade.

    2. the very poor and upper middle class are going to be just fine.

      Those lucky bastards. I wish I was very poor.

      1. djw, While most people don’t wish to become or stay poor … to quote a top economist … “a poor person who is enrolled in a dozen or more income-tested free and reduced benefits, can live a comfortable life in an expensive city.” A middle class person in an expensive city is both less likely to be able to afford to live there, and if they can afford it, will have a less easy time of affording it than a poor person.

        (Quote is by me)

      2. How do you define “easy time”? A family on a middle class income can surely afford the equivalent of a subsidized apartment in a city.

      3. And that poor person has to requailify every year with income documents, and deal with humiliating interviews and stressed staff and lack of appointment openings, and going to the agency office which may be hard to get to without a car. And the benefits often have gaps, which means you can’t get a certain service or you have to fill out an extra form and get special permission for it, or the benefit may terminate abruptly if the agency’s policy changes or its funding is interrupted.

    3. No, the poor and middle class are both screwed. Really the difference is more straightforward — if you are an owner, you are fine. If you aren’t, then things aren’t going so well. There are plenty of low income people who are paying a mortgage, and as long as they are locked into a low rate, they are fine. But renters of all sorts are paying a lot more (even the rich ones).

      Easing restrictions would allow the market to supply a lot more housing to middle class renters. This in turn would put downward pressure on the market, which would eventually lead to lower rents (all other things being equal).

      But that doesn’t mean that it necessarily provide enough housing for low income renters. Middle class renters can squeeze out low income renters. That is happening to some degree now, but the problem is made much worse by the fact that owners are squeezing middle class renters. The city makes things a lot worse by having really bad laws, which prevent owners from even trying to make things easier on renters (e. g. it is damn near impossible to build a new ADU or DADU, which is why, even with this crazy construction boom, so few have been built).

      So this requires a two fold approach. Liberalize the zoning laws (especially the ADU/DADU laws and the parking requirements). This will help the middle class renters. Second, subsidize low income renters (through vouchers or projects like those mentioned). Such subsidies will be expensive, but they will be a lot less expensive when you do the first thing.

      1. Oh, I should mention that trying to get subsidized housing in this city requires waiting an extremely long time (as it does in most cities). So assuming that the “poor are fine” is simply not true. Some poor are doing OK, but most are making do, waiting to be placed higher on the list.

  6. 130th station is an excellent example of this. We can do an inclusive upzone and lobby for a rail station on existing funding.
    The area around 130th was highlighted in vision 2035 in the transit oriented upzone option. It was a good idea then and its a good idea now.
    What kind of housing should the city build? 5 story, zero parking, full lot, stick built on small lots. Its as cheap as housing gets and attractive to boot. The city can build some units and let the market build some units in our new inclusive zones.

    1. Not a bad concept…. we could use some new energy near 130th… especially right around Aurora.

  7. The kind of place I live in, a low rise, high greenspace apartment complex would be the ideal to construct. It has apartments from studio to three bedroom, and is in walking distance from schools. Thus it can accommodate singles and families.

    It is on or near to several bus lines including express and local circulators.

    it is within a mile of Kent Station Sounder and 15 minutes away from the Angle Lake site.

    This goes back to argument of “Building More Seattle”. Instead of building up, build out, and connect it all with fast regional transit.

    Thus “Seattle” turns into what used to called Puget Sound. Only we make it all good (with some of the shops, amenities, cultural events middle class people want) but at the levels of affordability they can pay for.

    At the same time we have a new form of GMA for populated areas that maintains population density to norms acceptable for moderate cost housing.

    Then we hook it up with superfast trains, and buses and Uber cars for the last miles.

    We assume people will never be 100% transit and will want spaces for cars, or access to hourly rental cars, or will use Uber in these Sub-Urbs (there is an Urb in Suburb).

    1. To a certain extent, building low rise is building “up”. If memory serves, you live in one of the more densely populated areas south of Seattle.

      But it really isn’t the direction that is important. Smaller lots with backyard cottages or basement apartments or houses converted to apartments can all hold a lot more people than a typical housing tract in Seattle or Bellevue, where residency is strictly limited and lots are huge. Those are things that can be built (and would be built) by simply allowing our laws to catch up with the rest of the Northwest (Vancouver BC and Portland OR).

  8. Here’s another idea… have DPD upzone the affordable housing land after the city buys it. That way the value boost associated by the upzone is captured completely by the city and is not lost in the purchase price of the land.

    They could build a lot more housing per lot as well.

  9. I think that merely counting units doesn’t get at many of the comple issues around housing. The ownership status and the number of bedrooms should be a big part of the discussion. Because affordability for most income groups is affected by the marketplace, I’d want to more fully understand the needs by household mix before implementing strategies.

    1. Exactly this. What percent of our housing being built is one bedroom or less? Even at an affordable rate, these will never be homes for families. I’d say we’re doing pretty well supplying the demand for young singles moving to the city but what about when they decide to have kids? It’ll be straight to the suburbs for them. The only family sized units in the city will be hoarded by a very privileged few.

      1. I’m glad you see the problem, barman. These goals should be listed by number of bedrooms at the very least — and not by an aggregate total. We should also be looking at whether we should be encouraging ownership more or not — a topic that never seems to be vetted in housing affordability discussions.

      2. No, we aren’t “doing pretty well supplying the demand for young singles moving to the city” and this is putting pressure on the entire market. Why build a three bedroom apartment when you can get a ton of money for a one bedroom one? For that matter, build an Apodment. Wait, they are illegal now. So, the folks that were willing to rent an Apodment just get a one bedroom. The guy who wanted the one bedroom has to pay more (a lot more). The gal who looked at the nice two bedroom realizes she can’t afford it, so she rents a one bedroom and has the kids sleep in the bedroom, while she sleeps in the living room (I’ve done that).

        If we legalized inexpensive housing (http://daily.sightline.org/blog_series/legalizing-inexpensive-housing/) it would lead to a lot more housing. It might still be pretty expensive to get a two or three bedroom apartment, but it would be a lot cheaper (all other things being equal).

      3. Family-sized units can also be split with roommates. It’s much cheaper to have roommates than living alone in a studio and for many people it’s way more ideal. Maybe a large part of the Seattle ‘freeze’ is that this city has the highest percentage of people living alone. If you move to a number of other cities, you’ll move into a situation with one or people immediately in your social circle.

  10. Why cram more people into existing crammed high priced spaces? Solution? – Choose random empty space with-in 40 miles of downtown, perhaps near an existing small town. Build a high speed rail link to city that has less than 4 stops along the way. Build variety of single and multi family houses on cheap land, build a bunch of shops, install local bus transit aligned with train time tables. Problem solved. People can live in affordable houses with a bit of space for the car (weekend use) and stuff, with everything else you need near by and work in Seattle. Crazy idea? This scenario already exists – Sumner and Puyallup, houses are cheap, space is plenty, Sounder train downtown ~40min trip with a few stops.

    1. Personally I’d move to Tacoma or Everett before I’d move to most of the Seattle suburbs including small towns like Auburn, Sumner, and Pyuallup that have been eaten by the sprawl.

      1. Everett is actually starting to redevelop pretty nicely in some areas. They will have a few new town center shopping options soon and a modest number of apartments.

        If they can keep the express buses running on time it wouldn’t be half a bad place to hang your hat if you need cheaper housing for working in Seattle.

      2. People are moving to Everett for cheaper housing, so that’s good to hear. Are all these new developments downtown, or are they other places too? Has Everett figured out what to do about development around Everett Station so it’s not so alone?

  11. I was initially put off by the title, but I agree with the text of this post. First of all, I think transit can only do so much to make a place desirable. Plus transit can only be so good. It will always take a while to get from Tacoma to Seattle, for example, because it is a long ways (and there is no cheap way to make traveling between there fast).

    But I think we shouldn’t worry too much about whether a place is convenient for transit or not. Bus lines can change pretty quickly. So if the city buys up land and builds a lot of housing, the bus routes will accommodate that. Furthermore, we simply shouldn’t bother with building parking. I know there are a lot of low income people who own cars and would appreciate a parking spot, but tough. There are a lot of people behind that person on the waiting list. A lot. We shouldn’t waste money on parking when we can provide more housing. This is true regardless of where these are built.

    What do you think happens when folks get tired of waiting for their name to get to the top of the list? They rent some place in the suburbs. Bus service it typically way worse than it is for those in the city (even the worst part of the city for transit). So I think regardless of where you build this in the city, you are likely to have a better transit network than most places the person would choose to live. Don’t worry if it is outstanding for transit — it is a lot better than the alternatives.

  12. …that is, if the goal truly is affordable housing. I suspect that for a a significant percentage of the people with power in our country, the “goal” is to get folks to repeatedly buy cars and homes and to incur the debt that goes with that. Alternatives are to be deprecated.

    1. That’s certainly the goal of the real estate industry and car dealers. But an economic hiccup six years ago showed that this isn’t a bottomless route to prosperity. Bank loans aren’t the same thing as a money tree.

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