Sightline had an interesting report recently about displacement of older (presumably more affordable) homes by new development. They looked at 19 apartment complexes built in Seattle (all of the 8+ unit developments the King County Assessor considers as built in 2016). Those developments created 1,764 new homes while displacing only 21 older homes, a compelling 84-to-1 ratio. 12 developments on former commercial sites did not displace any older homes at all.
That’s great news, but what’s this? In Bellevue, the King County Housing Authority stepped in to buy a 76-unit apartment complex that was to be demolished for 87 town homes. Rents at Highland Village Apartments average $1,200 per month, well below the average Bellevue rent of $1,930. The KHCA spent $20 million to buy the complex, located on NE 8th St between Downtown Bellevue and Crossroads. The KHCA will now renovate the apartments, maintaining rents near their current level.
The Sightline report reminds us that development generally expands supply and is mostly good for affordability. But the story of Highland Village is hardly unique. It may be more typical in a certain kind of pricier suburban community. Highland Village look like hundreds of other older multifamily developments in this region. Two stories; on an arterial but not in downtown; surrounded by surface parking; in a low-rise neighborhood where the zoning will not permit much greater height or density (and perhaps not the market either). Rents are lower because the buildings are depreciated. Older small single family houses may get more sympathetic news coverage because they appeal to boomer nostalgia, but older multifamily units are the most affordable unsubsidized homes in most cities.
Like Highland Village, many older apartment buildings are ripe for redevelopment to higher-priced homes.
Naturally occurring affordable housing is particularly critical in high-priced suburbs. Unlike Seattle, which just doubled its affordable housing levy to $40 million a year, 15 Eastside cities jointly contribute just $1.5 million per year to ARCH (A Regional Coalition for Housing), a partnership of the cities which pools their contributions and works with affordable housing providers to build and preserve housing on the Eastside.
There is strong demand in many places for homes loosely following a single-family template. Maybe a patio rather than a yard. Maybe it is attached or minimally set back from neighbors rather than separated by lawns and trees. But no neighbors overhead, more bedrooms than the typical apartment, and with its own garage. In higher priced neighborhoods, the economics of converting older depreciated apartment buildings into such homes are compelling. Both regulation and market demand favor replacement by larger pricier homes, but the number of units are often comparable.
In a region as fast growing as ours, increased supply and densification is the friend of affordability. We can only address the housing shortage by adding more homes, and cannot afford an absolutist stance toward preservation. But the sight of new developments where there is a near 1:1 replacement of affordable units by higher priced units should give us pause. How can we tilt the incentives so new construction delivers the most NET new units, and impacts the limited stock of affordable homes the least?
In most cities, new multifamily construction must include affordable units. A typical requirement is to allocate 10% of new units to homeowners making less than 80% of median income. The numbers vary by city, sometimes neighborhood. A developer might pay a fee in lieu equivalent to what building affordable units on site would have cost.
The structure, however, is always to extract concessions from developers based on what is constructed, not on what is lost. The developer pays no more to demolish 76 existing units at Highland Village than if he were building on a former parking lot. When so many units are demolished, making 10% of the new units affordable hardly seems an adequate response.
Several policy options deserve examination. One is a demolition fee or tax. That would tilt the economics of development away from projects where the tax can’t be spread across more added units. It might even be a meaningful revenue source for suburban affordable housing agencies. A transfer of development rights (where developers get increased density benefits elsewhere for protecting affordable units) might work. Yet another option would tier affordable housing requirements so the development projects that displace the most would have to add more new affordable units.
48 Replies to “Displacement is a Thing, Sometimes”
The 84:1 displacement ratio suggests that the problem with creating new housing in Seattle isn’t necessarily zoning restrictions, but that some other market forces are slowing the growth of new housing.
The Sightline article mentions that the construction in the first part of 2016 will add 1764 homes and 2100 bedrooms to the Seattle housing inventory. Doing the math…that’s slightly less than 1.2 bedrooms per home–not very encouraging for multi-generational families. Also, unmentioned is the number of parking units in those new buildings–I hope it averages less than 1.2 spots per home.
The Highland Village purchase works out to about $263,000 per unit which isn’t too exorbitant considering the location (close to the B-Line), the ample parking and the fact that the property seems to be in pretty fair condition. Also, the planned new construction would have built more homes (84 versus the 76 maintained), but I suspect the 76 maintained units will have more total residents than the planned 84 townhomes would have housed.
We need at least 20,000 new units just to meet the pent-up demand and stop rents from rising, and maybe 30,000 or 40,000, so at that rate it will take 10-20 years to reach that,. 1764 units per year is not enough to make a difference, Otherwise it would have in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, or 2016. And the population keeps increasing so we keep falling further behind,. An emergency situation calls for emergency measures: upzone citywide now, and put a tax on new McMansions.
You know we don’t live in a walled-off city, right? That people can and will quickly move here from all over the country and world to snap up affordable housing in a city with a good labor market, right?
In 1996, two young men named Larry and Sergey came to me and said, “Sam, you are the smartest man we know. Please give us advice. Should we stay in college and keep working on our search engine, or drop out and open up a single store Dairy Queen franchise in Fresno?” I told them to stay in school. And the rest, as they say, is history.
You know that the people who want to move here are already moving here, right? I would like to roll back rents to $1000 but that’s probably not realistic, so the thing to do is to build enough housing until they stop going up. The fact that they’re going up means there’s a housing shortage. If you have a jar of peanuts and it’s getting low, you get some more peanuts. You don’t say, “I’d better not get any more peanuts or people will start coming from all over the world to my house to visit me and eat them and then there won’t be any for me.”
I have to add that the fact that rental vacancy rates are *below 1%* means that there is a housing shortage. A healthy housing market has vacancy rates of at least 4%, according to people who’ve studied this over the course of *centuries*.
I think a lot of the low number of bedrooms-per-unit is a reflection on the fact that most new mulitifamily is being built as rental units.
Most of the new condo construction on the market is 2 bedroom, and all the new townhouse constriction is 3+. 1bd’s are fine to rent and all, but people want more rooms when they want permanence. I think that construction will shift to multigenerational-friendly designs when the market shifts from building units for rent to building units for sale.
A lot of the recent construction is around SLU, e.g. several large apartment buildings opening up along Dexter just north of Mercer. In that neighborhood, 1Brs for rent make sense to me given the large amount of young professionals that wants to leave near work. “multigenerational-friendly designs” will probably show up more in other neighborhoods a bit farther from the urban core.
The small number of bedrooms is due to the fact that two 1 BR units generate more profit than one 2 or 3 BR unit. There’s a basic overhead of around $1200, then $400 per bedroom. If you add a second bedroom or third or fourth, then you only get a few hundred for each added room, and if it’s all rented to one family there’s a limit to what they can pay. But if you create two separate units in the same space, you get two $1200 overheads, and they two separate households so they can each afford more.
There’s also the fact that Seattle has the lowest number of children per capital in the country, vying with San Francisco, so that means there’s a lot of single and two-person households looking for apartments, and a lot of developers just go for the majority and ignore the smaller niches. That’s starting to turn around because there has been huge pushback on the lack of 2+ bedroom units, so developers have started diversifying more.
@GuyOnBeaconHill – I disagree with the comment on zoning not being an issue. The high 84:1 displacement ratio is driven by where major construction projects are occurring and is skewed by 12 of 19 projects with a #:0 displacement ratio. The zoning restrictions show up in the fact that there are only 19 projects for the year – there simply aren’t many available lots for new multi-family construction. As Mike correctly points out, we need significantly more housing units added per year, and that will require much more than 20 projects a year.
While the high displacement ratio does nicely disprove the story-line of SF family homes being torn down en-mass (at least within Seattle), a lower displacement ratio in the future might actually be preferable b/c that would show that the city is building things other than large apartment complexes. What the city needs to spread growth out across the urban villages are projects with lower displacement rations but more a scale with the villages, doing things like:
– tearing down 1 SF home and replacing it with a triplex
– tearing down 3 SF homes and replacing it with a 15 unit apartment building and a small commercial space
– tearing down a 1 story apartment building and replacing it with a 1+5 apartment building with commercial space
etc., etc. All of these projects would have lower displacement ratios because they aren’t building 15 story condo towers on parking lots, but are growing density in the city is a scale that makes sense outside of the urban core. Currently these projects are hard to build b/c of zoning restrictions in most villages.
(I’m all for condo towers replacing parking lots, but I concede they aren’t preferable outside of the central core and maybe U District)
“The high 84:1 displacement ratio is driven by where major construction projects are occurring”
Good point. They’re not occurring in the three-quarters of the city where only single-family houses are allowed.
(And McMansions have become a loophole under that, the same way apodments and townhouses were a loophole.)
The Highland Village case shows that we don’t want just any kind of new buildings. We want building that increase the unit density on the lot. Buildings that are 1:1 replacement are a wash at best, and a route to higher rents/prices at worst. We don’t want buildings that lower density, such as the townhouses proposed for the Highland Village apartments. We want townhouses where single-family houses previously stood, not where apartment buildings or commercial buildings previously stood.
Why not? Other cities like Vancouver and Toronto have condo towers all over the place. Not just in a few select districts.
Chris – I’m with you, but that’s not the current preference of the City of Seattle. Hopefully we’ll get some high quality residential towers in places like U District and Northgate. Right now it looks like battle is more to get places like Kirkland and Federal Way to move from 1 story to 6 story development, rather than getting, say, Bellevue to upzone Eastgate TC from 6 story to 35 story TOD.
If you want condo towers in random spots adjacent to transit, lobby in support of the Point Wells development & a new Sounder station…
Why not what? How do Vancouver’s condo towers related to the previous comments? I have long supported towers around stations. But we need to realize that towers are not the main solution to the problem. Most of the housing in Manhattan, Brooklyn. Paris, Boston, etc, is in buildings ten stories or less. You can fit a lot of people in seven stories or even four stories if you build them over an entire 2×2 mile area and eliminate excessive setback rules. You can even leave a few single-family houses scattered among them, as Chicago’s north side does. Chicago has a few thirty-story towers on the lake shore, but the rest of the north side is 3-10 stories with some row houses and single-family houses. The problem in Seattle and Bellevue and south King County is we’re allowing 7-story buildings on tiny islands of a few blocks each, and the setback and parking requirements prevent the surrounding “lowrise” areas from reaching their potential.
Point Wells is not a random tower. It’s an entire planned neighborhood. A random tower would be like the one on Beacon Hill and the one in Madison Park.
Mike – I think the thought is that because we are only allowing density on select “islands,” we need to maximize the density on the islands b/c we are not developing the blocks upon blocks of row houses & 3-10 story developments. Further, the area immediately adjacent to a HCT stop is a logic location for a high rise development. Hence, the angst when a city like Issaquah or Kirkland settles for 4-5 stories buildings over 15 story buildings immediately next to transit stations … contrast Bellevue’s aggressive zoning around East Main vs. less aggressive around Spring District
As always, it’s a both/and. I’d like to see more infill lowrise development (DADU, Row houses) everywhere, more robust mid-rise (5~7 stories) in suburban town centers & Seattle urban hubs (dozens of options), and more spots for high rises (U District, Bellevue, Lynnwood, etc.)
FWIW, I actually like the random towers in Beacon Hill & Madison Park – I think they spice up the skyline, and if done well can anchor a neighborhood like the UW Tower.
The most recent Talking Headways podcast (STB Sponsor shout-out!) spent a lot of time talking about what makes a “good” towers vs. a “bad” tower, and distinguishes smart development from “vertical sprawl” – a really good listen wrt topic.
The 84:1 displacement ratio suggests that the problem with creating new housing in Seattle isn’t necessarily zoning restrictions, but that some other market forces are slowing the growth of new housing.
Wow, I completely disagree. I think it pretty much proves it. Of course there are other dynamics in play. There are a number of things that can drive housing costs up, including the cost of construction. Raw material or labor costs can simply make it not worth building things. But there are really two big things that can drive housing costs up:
1) Competition by people of a similar means. This happens all the time. Pomegranates suddenly became a lot more expensive because people suddenly thought there was a huge health benefit from them.
2) Competition by people who have more money. This happens in real estate all the time. An area might suddenly be popular with those who have big bucks, and they begin to buy up all the big houses. They tear down smaller houses and put up big ones. In New York, they tear down the walls between apartments, and connect them all to build big ones, thus actually shrinking the number of units available.
Of course Seattle has both dynamics happening at the same time. But by and large, the former dominates the apartment market, while the latter dominates the single family housing market. Small bungalows are being torn down in relatively low income neighborhoods (like mine) and are being replaced by million dollar homes. These are simply too expensive for someone who isn’t wealthy (the vast majority of the neighbors). Thus the first dynamic isn’t happening. Unless you are wealthy or have a very high income, you can’t possibly afford a million dollar house. You can’t “stretch it a bit” the way that so many renters do.
But in the rental market, this just isn’t happening. 84:1! That implies masses of people just wanting to get an apartment.
The solution is of course based on zoning. Increasing the amount of available land for development will of course lead to a reduction in the cost of development.
Can only offer carrots to developers, not sticks.
A demolition tax would have some perverse incentives to keep the oldest, most rundown properties even longer. It would also irritate homebuilders, which eastside cities are not willing to do.
Buying this particlar parcel might be the least worst solution, but its a lot of money for a currently depressing parcel that isn’t at all walkable, but should be.
The current super-super block road grid in Bellevue (1/2 mile on a side) makes it unlikely any sort of real neighborhood will be built there.
Zoning is a stick – can mandate minimum density, maximum parking, etc.
I don’t understand the hatred of downtown Bellevue on this blog – there are 5 or 6 condo towers in the pipeline, plus a full block recently purchased by Vulcan and major developments on the 3 lots east of East Main station. In 10 years it may be the densest neighborhood on the Eastside, directly on top of the light rail. Will it be as lovely as downtown Kirkland? No. But many people don’t mind living in glass towers if it means they have nice views, good access to amenities, good schools, and short commutes (walking within Bellevue, rail to Seattle/Redmond). Transit advocates should be fully supportive of the major development & ambitious zoning in Bellevue.
The reason for this purchase was to support 84 low-income families. That’s twenty times the number of units Seattle developers will be setting aside in an average building. And the Eastside with its lower height limits and and fewer buildings would have significantly more difficulty replacing that many units. In fact, they flat-out couldn’t without a several-year lead time, which is why they bought the building. I don’t know exactly where it is but it’s somewhere near Crossroads, which has a lot of garden apartments that are the lowest-price in Bellevue. It’s not very walkable but it’s not a cul-de-sac either, and a lot of low/moderate income people live there, people who are transit dependent or for whom RapidRide B is a nice budget-stretcher to have available. In Eastside terms it’s the most walkable area outside downtown Belleue and downtown Kirkland, and these people absolutely can’t afford to live there. Theoretically they could move to Seattle, but most of them don’t want to and their job is in the Eastside, and if they have a King County housing voucher that’s separate from the Seattle Housing Authority, so transferring to SHA would be time-consuming and you might fall through the cracks. So they need to live in the Eastside, and really Crossroads is the best area for that, and these garden apartments until something better can be done.
This is a good 20 blocks from Crossroads, and 30 blocks from downtown. As downtown extends through the Wilburton commercial zone it will approach this area, but these will be garden apartments, as you call them, for a long time to come.
8th Street has great bus service both ways. I don’t know what busses run there–the Rapid Ride B, as you mention–but there are always busses running up and down the street. And it’s a reasonable street for pedestrians and bikes (at least that far out of downtown it is.)
I am not a fan of inclusionary zoning rules or other indirect taxes for affordable housing – explicit investment from tax proceeds is cleaner and simpler (politically more difficult maybe?). We need a pipeline of money dedicated to below market rate units located in transit oriented locations and we need government to assemble land for public private partnerships creating affordable units in those transit friendly spots.
Why not both? Seattle wants inclusionary zoning and a housing levy.
“Affordable” has nine letters. How much does Government waste adding four needless letters to cheap?”
“Unions”- six letters, good compromise. Because along with “eight hour work week” and “pension”, these organizations saw to it that average worker could own a “home.”
And in periods when private enterprise couldn’t, or didn’t feel like hiring people, like during the Depression before the one we’re in now, a Democrat who was President hired people to rebuild the Country.
And if his Democrat of successor had restarted this program before he bailed out, instead, of jailing the presidents of the “banks”, his party’s current “candidate” would be able to run on a platform having more “planks” than the name of her “opponent.”
Whom voters whose “wages” could let them “afford” things would tell to send his “badger” to the “cleaners.”
Remember. Letters add up to computer memory. Pokemon could make our defenses go as dark as my screen keeps doing.
Nice reminder of what Labor Day used to mean… especially since we ignore International Workers’ Day (aka May Day – the real labor day). So much for solidarity, right?
I happen to live right next to a beautiful apartment building in Brooklyn built in 1886 as affordable housing for employees of Astral Oil Works. It’s almost unthinkable today that this sort of thing used to be quite common.
Well, zoning makes it illegal now.
Zoning was, in terms of its results, the most classist thing done in the US since the end of WWII, and one of the more racist things.
Zoning doesn’t make employee subsidized housing illegal…
Lets not go further down any paths like introducing a demolition tax. The issue is simply supply and demand, make sure our zoning permits the construction of adequate supply. And if we are not able to build fast enough give incentives or interventions to increase construction. I would rather see the city issue bonds and actively begin major projects itself than provide disincentives for development.
This is happening in Seattle, as well. There’s a ton of demand for Single Family (or Single Family Like) homes, and fixed supply, so it is becoming profitable to tear down a 6-unit apartment to build 5 tall-and-skinny small-lot single-family houses. (Misguided design review and parking requirements are exacerbating this, of course.)
This will continue unless we expand the amount of low rise land and/or open up the Single Family zones for more development.
Ironically, every tear down will elicit more sympathy for SFZ protectionism, which will in turn cause more apartments to be town down. Etc., etc.
My street/neighborhood is a lot like this too, a mix of 1950s-1960s apartment buildings and new SFH. And many of the SFH owners would like to get rid of the apartment buildings. Nobody loves an ugly block and big parking lot across the street.
I don’t think current zoning would support adding units. If they were upzoned even modestly (not happening anyway now that the SFH are interspersed), it might accelerate the loss of the existing units. So it’s ambiguous whether that would be a positive.
The SFH owners can go to hell, since they’re trying to make hell for everyone else.
Fundamentally, they have no property rights in the property across the street, but they act like they have. If they wanted easements they should’ve paid for them.
I haven’t seen much of that (apartment buildings being replaced by town homes). In general all I’ve seen is increasing density with everything but the single family market. An apartment with 12 units might be replaced by a luxury apartment with 24. This gets people upset, and complaints about displacement get lodged. But it misses the point. Without more units, the folks in those apartments will be displaced when the landlord decides to raise the rent.
But it does stand to reason that one to one replacement will increase. It is simply a manifestation of zoning that is based on density (and just about all our zoning laws are). Eventually, you get no other choice. Just as the guy who wants to live in a six bedroom mansion is better off buying a bungalow and leveling it, the same is true for someone who wants to live in a nice apartment. If the city doesn’t allow growth, then of course developers will gladly replace the 12 unit apartment building with 12 town houses (or a luxury 12 unit apartment building).
It is simply a symptom of the bigger problem: zoning that is inappropriate for this city. There are plenty of things that can be done, short of going “full Tokyo” (allowing big apartment buildings next to existing houses):
1) Get rid of the parking requirements (everywhere).
2) Liberalize the ADU laws. Folks are quick to point out how Vancouver has problems despite the more liberal ADU laws, but that ignores the fact that they were able to keep apartment costs relatively cheap until they simply filled the city with them. We are nowhere near that, because our ADU laws are so onerous.
3) Remove any reference to density with the existing zoning laws, but keep the height limits. It is crazy to think that it is OK to tear down a bungalow and put up a mansion, but putting up a *smaller* set of town houses or apartments is not OK.
These changes would have a profound effect on development, because it would change the rules on *most* of the available land that can be developed. Low rise, high rise, urban villages and all that represent a very tiny part of the city. Only by changing the zoning in the single family areas (even with minor changes like these) can you expect to see affordable housing.
>”The Sightline report reminds us that development generally expands supply and is mostly good for affordability.”
>”They looked at 19 apartment complexes built in Seattle (all of the 8+ unit developments the King County Assessor considers as built in 2016)”
The report and its 84-to-1 ratio is not representative of all redevelopment because it only selected new developments with 8 or more units. There are very many duplexes and single family homes being built with little positive effect on housing, merely taking advantage of the high market rate, and gentrifying along the way.
Agree. As stated in the article, the majority of the large developments in this sample are replacing commercial structures. If there is displacement occurring, it’s with smaller developments, such as the classic 4-blocker townhome on a single lot. While I’m personally happy with a 4:1 displacement ratio in a SF zone, the 84:1 displacement ratio cited here isn’t indicative of the construction that is upsetting people in Seattle.
But, AJ, also let’s be clear that the “demolition a day” crowd does not really want a higher replacement ratio, they want 1:1 replacement ratio only when they want to upgrade SFH into a bigger, shinier macmansioner SFH.
I recently looked through the development in Eastlake and it curious how SHF lot after SHF lot is densifying but while some add 4 maybe 6 units, other similar lots add 25. Overall, however it seems to me that Eastlake SFH owners lost the battle, and that whole neighborhood is tipping to apartments and town homes. Which is curious.
This article highlights the neighborhood I first moved to after graduating from college, Crossroads, and an apartment complex almost identical to the one I lived in, just a few short blocks away. I had student loan debt, a clunker car, I was broke, I had credit card debt that I’d used to pay for groceries during my final three months of college, and a brand new job with a paycheck that was on its way in about 6 weeks because of the lag time of my start date after graduation and the lag time for payroll processing. I paid $800 per month in rent, and that was a huge stretch. Now, we are calling $1200 per month affordable, and in order to get it, you increasingly need to go through King County Housing Authority. Do we really expect new graduates, young people, people paying off debt, and people in-between jobs to live in public housing? This is completely absurd. How are young people supposed to make ends meet? Where are lower-paid professionals, like teachers, supposed to live?
Young people, new graduates, please apply for jobs down here in South King County and Tacoma. You can afford to live here.
This is what ZONING does to a city. Remove the height limits, remove the FAR limits, remove the “single family” requirements, and you’ll find that developers will double, triple, or quadruple the number of apartments (while making them larger). Then, and only then, will rents go down.
Nathanael, no arguments. Same goes for industrial areas as well. We create artificial scarcity by requiring such ridiculous requirements as landscaping, street trees, and native plantings in industrial parks. One of my favorites is a requirement to screen busy streets from parking lots with a landscape berm. Are they not both places for cars to operate and be stored??? Yes, eliminating zoning, or even modifying zoning requirements to allow the market to fulfill demand, would go a very long way to fixing this problem. I don’t believe that eliminating zoning is the answer. We don’t want a stone quarry that operates 24/7 to be located adjacent to a residential use, for example. But zoning requirements need to meet the needs of the population, and right now they are so far out that they are actually harming the population.
Folks haven’t really thought about what this actually cost the developer. They must have spent a fortune on the old apartment building (which was generating quite a bit of money) only to tear it down. That only happens because other alternatives weren’t available (and that was because of our zoning laws).
In general there seems to be little thought to the actual cost of development. Building these town houses isn’t cheap. Building a six story apartment building (often with required parking) isn’t cheap. Yet one of the cheapest forms of adding units is ridiculously difficult. The construction cost for converting a house to apartment, or adding construction onto the backyard is really low. Yet it is rare because of all the hoops that a developer must jump through.
If it costs a bunch to build something, it only makes sense to build it when rent is high. The end result is very high housing costs.
What about population control? Why does our species need to overbreed our habitat in the first place? Tax incentives for smaller families, tax hits for large ones, free birth control, rational education, etc etc.
Raise the status of women to the level of equality.
The problem in Pugetopolis is not directly related to worldwide population trends. The worldwide number of children per woman is going down near the 2.2 replacement rate, but because there are millions of people involved in the transition over decades, the population is expected to rise from 6 million to 9 million before stabilizing. In other words, even though the current cohort is having fewer children, the cohort itself is large because of the previous generation, and it takes decades for a trend change to become fully reflected in the population size. Most of these births are in developing countries. Some European countries and Japan and Russia are actually shrinking because their birth rate is fare below 2.2 per woman. The US is just breaking even due to the larger percentage of families who for religious reasons don’t use contraception or have several children. The US population is increasing because of immigration. Canada has an aggressive immigration program for skilled workers because it’s native-born population is shrinking and it’s concerned about a future labor shortage.
Pugetopolis is not causing the worldwide population increase. If Pugetopolans were to stop having children, it wouldn’t make a dent. The reason Pugetopolis’ population is rapidly increasing is mostly people moving from other parts of the country for jobs. So they aren’t new burdens on the planet’s resources, they just need housing here now.
First time I’ve seen Malthusian Theory applied to real estate prices.
High rent prices is a local issue- you can drive 3 hours and get super cheap rent across the mountains. Malthusians are concerned about global population growth, not local growth.
I almost thought my dad lived in those apartments, but he was a bit closer to Bellevue on 8th. He lived in Bellevue for over a decade, but the rising rents eventually forced him to downgrade from a two-bedroom to a one-bedroom and then to a studio before even that become unaffordable. Thankfully, he’s ended up in a Renton Housing Authority operated apartment which promises to have much more stable rent for a few years.
I actually really like the location of this apartment complex. If I had to live in Bellevue I’d happily live there. It’s right on the RapidRide line, easy walking distance to Crossroads. Good school access and it’s right near a public pool at Odle.
Practically nobody cares whether they *have* neighbors overhead. People care whether they can *hear* the neighbors overhead. I think a soundproofing law for apartment buildings would be popular….
People do care. And most HOAs have soundproofing rules.
I think you are missing the big picture here. A building that charges $1,200 a unit is still more valuable than most of the property in the city. Why did they choose to tear down a very profitable building, and put up a slightly more profitable one? There are really two possibilities:
1) The city has developed to a point where there simply aren’t many cheap properties around. Like Manhattan, you can expect 25 story buildings to be replaced by 75 story ones. In this case, you can expect giant mansions that take up the entire lot to be replaced by huge apartment buildings.
2) Zoning has simply restricted the amount of available land. There are plenty of vacant lots and old buildings that are much cheaper than this apartment building, but you can’t build on them.
It should be obvious what is happening in this city, and articles like this are just a distraction. These sorts of things happen, but only because you can’t build the town houses in most of the city.
I plead guilty, sort of, to missing the big picture. This isn’t a comprehensive treatment of all the affordability agenda. I’m trying to get at one piece which deserves more attention. Old apartment buildings are important for affordability. There are a lot of them in lowish-density places because there was a lot of demand for those in the 1950s and 1960s.
Meanwhile, there is a lot of demand chasing newer SFH/townhomes in the region and it is going to displace something, whether it’s strip malls or farmland or existing SFH or old apartment buildings.
Inescapably, swapping traditional single-family for smaller lots or townhomes is a large part of the solution. I endorse everything you said in your other comment about parking and density requirements too. I just didn’t get into it in this article because it was already long and plenty familiar to our readers.
I was asked on Twitter about zoning for the triplex unit in the last graphic. Current Kirkland zoning wouldn’t allow more than two units on that site. Fixing that is part of the affordability agenda too, even if they would be a million plus per new triplex unit.
But there’s something screwy with the affordability incentives not paying attention to the former land use. Something in the policy toolbox should be making displacement of Highland Village more expensive to a developer than displacement of the strip office building across the street.
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