287 Replies to “Weekend Open Thread: Initiative 135 on Feb 14”

  1. Reminder that if they put a funding mechanism on the initiative, it’s likely to have violated the single-issue requirement.

    I-135 won’t solve the housing crisis single-handedly, but it will have a unique capacity among the many publicly-managed housing orgs to balance “middle-income” 80-120% AMI rents against <80% AMI rents.

    Also reminder that a the household Area Median Income in Seattle is currently ~$105k.

    1. When the Eyman initiatives were tossed for violating the single-issue rule, they were quite different. In 1999, I-695 not only limited the MVET to $30 tabs, but also changed governance. What do scholars or lawyers who study the Washington Constitution say about its application here? I-135 reminds me of the early monorail measures (ETC) where they did not included funding and relied on fairy dust to construct it.

      1. I guess we have Eyman to thank for plentiful case law on initiative structure and acceptability.

  2. It’s unlikely this body will ever have enough money to be more than a nuisance, but the economic illiteracy in their proposal is fairly mind-blowing. It’s a real flaw in the initiative system that something this half-assed, a brand new housing authority that seems designed by Twitter blowhards, can make it to the ballot unvetted.

    1. The good news is this initiative shows Seattle recognizes “affordable housing” requires public subsidies — often forever — and admits the city will not have that money in future budgets that will require significant cuts.

      The bad news is the initiative repeats the mistakes of the past by creating even more layers of progressive administration with highly compensated staff who have no objective criteria for results or success. This region as a whole spends close to $1 billion/year on supportive and affordable housing. On average public housing costs 30% to 50% more per sf than privately built housing, and usually is cheap looking attracting little to no surrounding retail.

      I really can’t object to Seattle asking to spend more of its citizens money to address a problem that is most acute in Seattle for various reasons, even if I feel the housing per dollar spent will be poor and duplicate many other regional programs, and no doubt framed in equity.

      But I do object to an “affordable” housing program that plans to use scarce public dollars to subsidize housing for those who make 80%+ of AMI which as Nathan notes is $105,000/year in Seattle for 100% AMI.

      Someone earning 80% AMI and insisting on living alone would have over $2000/mo to spend on housing using the 30% of gross income definition of affordable housing. Supportive housing is usually required for those earning 0-30% AMI, and affordable housing is usually targeted at those earning 30% to 50% AMI with only one earning in the household. 80% AMI affordable housing is provided in set asides and MFTE (which is just another form of public subsidy) because landlords don’t like to mix market rate tenants and below 80% AMI tenants (and so often pay a fee in lieu of which increases the cost of all the other housing in the development).

      IMO allocating public money to someone earning over $80,000/year who insists on living alone is a betrayal of the true poor, and just another move by Seattle toward a type of socialism in which the upper middle class hogs all the public benefits (Link for example, or RR G).

      What the endlessly whiny writers on The Urbanist really want is rent control so why not have Seattle just go there rather than faux housing levies that apply to those earning $80,000 to $120,000?

      Although lost on so many Seattleites this levy, to the extent funded by property taxes, will raise everyone’s housing costs, along with all the other special levies. Sometimes I think Seattleites — especially renters — think levies are free “other people’s” money when they are paying an equal share through their rent without the ability to deduct the property taxes.

      1. “Sometimes I think Seattleites — especially renters — think levies are free “other people’s” money when they are paying an equal share through their rent without the ability to deduct the property taxes.”

        Am I to understand that you think renters don’t think about the added cost to their rent because of property tax levies? (I actually have had such a conversation with someone who thought only property owners be allowed to vote on any ballot measure that includes property tax increases)

        “….without the ability to deduct the property taxes”
        Now this is amusing. Thanks to those who voted for Trump and his GOP cronies my Income Tax went UP!
        I lost my mortgage deduction.

        So what I can righteously say to those who voted for those politicians that accomplished passing such a tax plan….
        SCREW YOU !

      2. Yes Jim, I think many renters don’t fully understand they will pay an equal share of any property tax. They think “property owners” will pay, and don’t understand the significant portion of their rent that goes to property taxes and levies. Maybe there should be a law that requires a landlord to disclose that in any lease.

        Even though my total income tax went up due to the $10,000 cap on SALT taxes I supported the cap because the old unlimited deduction so clearly benefitted the wealthy. I thought it was incredibly hypocritical for some D’s to insist on raising the cap to $70,000 in the BBB bill, which hurt its passage.

        The rest of the 2017 tax reform had some good provisions for the poor such as dramatically increasing the standard deduction but the main issue like reckless spending under Biden is the huge federal debt from the income tax cuts that now consumes $800 billion/year (which is just bonds) and will increase as lower interest debt is replaced by higher interest debt, which was THE ticking time bomb.

        I don’t know why your income tax went up. Even with the cap on SALT deduction my total income tax went down. Maybe talk to an accountant to make sure you are paying the correct amount.

      3. “I don’t know why your income tax went up. Even with the cap on SALT deduction my total income tax went down. Maybe talk to an accountant to make sure you are paying the correct amount.”

        Gee, working class Union slob that I am, I didn’t change anything in the way I filed. Now I’m supposed to hire an accountant to ‘get back’ money?

        I’m ecstatic you pay less taxes! Just gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

      4. “Yes Jim, I think many renters don’t fully understand they will pay an equal share of any property tax. They think “property owners” will pay, and don’t understand the significant portion of their rent that goes to property taxes and levies. Maybe there should be a law that requires a landlord to disclose that in any lease.”
        That’s a WONDERFUL idea, Daniel.
        If I were a renter, I would love to see an itemized list of what exactly my rent money goes towards.
        How much to taxes?…
        other fees.

      5. Rents are based on supply and demand, not taxes. When the vacancy rate is below 5%, rents go up because more people are competing for the same units and but up the price, When the vacancy rate above 10%, rents go down because landlords have to offer an incentive to get anyone in the unit within a month or two. There’s a theoretical problem with landlords not able to charge enough rent to defray taxes and expenses, but they’ve been making a windfall since 2003 as rents have exceeded inflation almost every year, so there’s plenty of room for a slightly smaller windfall, and we still haven’t solved the problem of rent growth exceeding wage growth, which is unsustainable.

      6. To be fair Jim I didn’t say I endorsed the entire 2017 tax reform. There were some good elements for working class tax payers, some limits on deductions for SALT and mortgage interest that disproportionally benefited the wealthy, and some reduction in the corporate tax made sense. As a whole though it was not affordable without spending cuts.

        Yes, of course I am going to use an accountant to determine my taxes. I use a dentist for my teeth too, and a mechanic for my car. Just not being audited is a huge plus. My taxes are not like Trump’s: pretty run of the mill. I saved a little from the 2017 reform, not a lot. Still I want a professional doing my taxes, and hope the savings cover the cost of the accountant.

      7. Mike, I believe AMI has the greatest effect on rents. Then whether you live alone. Then location. Then supply and demand.

        But with this area’s AMI any increase in market rate supply increases the amount of expensive units because builders make more off expensive units., and there are buyers for those expensive units. Which of course leads to gentrification of a neighborhood because often new construction replaces older more affordable housing.

        On the flip side 2/3 of folks on the Eastside own their housing so increased housing values benefits them, and allows them to use that equity for assisted care, medical costs, tuition and so on.

        The Seattle Times had a recent article on house rich/cash poor which includes a lot of elderly folks, although I suppose that is better than house poor/cash poor.

        Any wealthy city from NY to San Francisco to Seattle will be tough for those who have a limited income, are on a fixed income, or poor. Most cities like those above try rent control. It is probably why there is a large migration from expensive blue cities in the north to the south.

        I know many retirees from this area who have moved south. Warmer weather, lower cost of living, lower inheritance tax. They have no regrets.

      8. Considering the filing threshold for the Washington Estate Tax is over $2 million, it’s difficult for me to get excited about it, considering Washington has no income tax.

    2. I’ve been leaning against the initiative because I don’t like programs created by random groups of activists who may or may not be qualified to write good specs. I’ll see if the video changes my mind.

      1. Ross, I am sorry you disagree with the GMPC. But the reality is this region has already adopted ZONING that will accommodate estimated population growth and housing needs through 2044 even though the future population estimates look high today.

        The reasons housing prices increased are:

        1. AMI increased.

        2. The influx of new high wage earners outpaced existing HOUSING supply even though the zoning was there to accommodate it. Housing always lags population growth. Zoning is not housing.

      2. First of all, you commented on the wrong thread. Second of all, the GMPC is irrelevant. It is like you are going out of your way to obfuscate the argument. By the way, no one at the council is making the claim you appear to be making: that zoning is irrelevant to prices. We have evidence to the contrary. Read the summary of the study again.

        This paper argues that in much of America the price of housing is quite close to the marginal, physical costs of new construction. The price of housing is significantly higher than construction costs only in a limited number of areas. In those areas, we argue that high prices have little to do with conventional models with a free market for land. Instead, our evidence suggests that zoning and other land use controls play the dominant role in making housing expensive.

        That means there are basically two types of areas:

        1) Areas where the cost of housing is quite close to the marginal, physical costs of new construction.
        2) Areas where the cost of housing is significantly higher than construction costs and is instead dictated by zoning and other land use controls.

        Which are we? Clearly the second! It isn’t even close. Prices are much higher than the cost of new construction. It has to be the zoning. There is no other logical explanation.

        Do you seriously think that if they got rid of zoning everywhere in the region that prices would be as high as they are now? Seriously?

      3. Daniel, couple of simple facts since you’re repeating yourself without getting anywhere.

        First, it’s simply not true that the region has already zoned for capacity through 2044. That process is ongoing, and at a very preliminary stage in most cities.

        Second, it’s also not true that population growth was over-estimated through 2035. Exactly the opposite. The region blew through its targets, with many cities having already met or exceeded their goals.

        The setbacks since 2020 don’t really change this picture that the last comprehensive plans were too conservatively pitched. There was more growth before.

        Third, as participants in the 2044 planning processes increasingly understand, it’s not enough to think about aggregate capacity. Cities used to zone for stacks of apartments on highway overpasses and declare that they had planned for growth. No more. There’s an understanding now that planning needs to accommodate a wider range of housing choices.

        Fourth, what’s this insistence on an all-or-nothing choice between profit and zoning as a determinant of what gets built? Duh, nobody builds where they don’t expect a profit. Duh, nobody builds something that is illegal. Duh, making developments that willing customers are prepared to pay for illegal will mean that some developments that would have happened will not happen.

        So, yes, of course, it’s zoning and cost of development. Yeah, we’re a more affluent society than we used to be and we are somewhat land-constrained. So we won’t have a housing market like a cheap town on the prairies. But it doesn’t have to be this expensive absent the bureaucracy getting in the way of home builders building.

        Demand curves slope down. Supply curves slope up. Illegal stuff doesn’t get done. Internalize these simple facts and it’ll cut through a lot of the rhetorical complexity you’re doing here.

    3. One thing I forgot to mention: if new construction alone lowered or stabilized rents or housing prices we wouldn’t need the MFTE, or affordable housing set asides in new multi-family construction.

      I do believe some of the TOD north of 130th along Link might produce some more affordable housing because AMI is lower up there, the location of the TOD along a freeway is not very desirable, and hopefully more of the tenants will share with a roommate to significantly lower their rents.

      In the past it was congregate housing like rooming board houses that provided affordable housing, but now everyone wants an apartment with their own kitchen, bathroom and living area in the hottest parts of the city, and can’t understand why there is nothing affordable for what they want.

      Get a roommate and move from Ballard or Capitol Hill to Southeast Seattle or south King Co. and your rent will drop by more than half.

      1. In the past, there were programs by the Department of Agriculture to build affordable housing. Sure, the vast tracts of 3 bedroom 1 bath ranch houses across the country by the thousands in the post-WWII building boom may have all had the same floor plan but they almost entirely still with us.

      2. if new construction alone lowered or stabilized rents or housing prices we wouldn’t need the MFTE, or affordable housing set asides in new multi-family construction.

        That’s not true. New construction lowers and stabilizes rents. I don’t think anyone disagrees with that. If the zoning were liberalized and other red tape eliminated, prices would reach the level of construction (this is a commonly accepted idea, for which there is plenty of evidence). There are some who disagree with this idea, but they can’t provide a shred of evidence as to why — just vague theories.

        But if the cost of housing matches the cost of construction, it doesn’t mean that everyone can afford it. It is like anything else. If the price of food goes way down, that still doesn’t mean everyone can afford a solid meal every day. Subsidies still make sense.

      3. If the cost of housing matches the cost of construction who is going to build it? People don’t build houses for fun. There has to be a profit. For larger multi-family projects the investors can build anywhere and are seeking the highest return.

        Then there is the cost of the land. There are some areas in the U.S. where the cost of land is cheap but Seattle isn’t one of them.

        The size of the housing will affect price, and quality, appliances. etc and finishes. And the size of the lot. Obviously a studio will cost less than a SFH, although the SFH can house many residents.

        Then you have intangibles. An identical house will cost more in Clyde Hill compared to SE Seattle or Shoreline. Location, schools, public safety, taxes all affect housing values.

        TOD north of 130th along I-5 will have lower prices than most areas of Seattle for the same sf even though new because of the intangibles, and because it won’t bd “choice” housing.

        The zoning already exists, and most of it is multi-family, to accommodate the region’s housing needs through 2044 according to the GMPC. Construction always lags demand, and right now if building housing as an investment the market is not conducive to building because interest rates depress profit, and buyers don’t have as much to spend.

        Our problem is affordable housing, which is really a household with one income in the 30% to 50% AMI range. Someone with 80% AMI even if living alone has plenty of housing options at $2000/mo. If one person with 50% AMI adds a roomate at 50% AMI they would have $2800/mo for a two bedroom unit.

        Builders will add housing in existing zoning — or even new zoning — slowly over the next 22 years. The best tools for affordable housing now are sharing housing and location, and older rather than new housing.

        For those needing supportive housing public subsidies are necessary but very expensive, and cost is greatly reduced with congregate housing which is how they supplied affordable housing in the past.

      4. “If the cost of housing matches the cost of construction who is going to build it? There has to be a profit.”

        Construction includes the usual profit margin. It’s not the builders who are raking in money now, it’s the landowners. They’re getting it by doing nothing: they just happen to own a piece of land that’s rapidly getting more valuable. It’s getting more valuable because of artificial scarcity.

        “For larger multi-family projects the investors can build anywhere and are seeking the highest return.”

        In the 70s, 80s, and 90s there wasn’t this huge investor windfall and people were still building, and buying and selling existing houses.

        If the Wall Street investors demanding huge profits go away, then smaller, more local developers who can get a smaller profit will take their place. They wouldn’t just leave the money on the table.

        A large multi-lot project can be replaced with several smaller projects on individual lots. Right now the smaller developers are being outbid by large developers with deep pockets.

        “the SFH can house many residents.”

        It can but the vast majority don’t. It’s not because willing owners can’t find lodgers; it’s because the owners are unwilling: they want the house for just a couple or a single owner to occupy.

        “The zoning already exists, and most of it is multi-family, to accommodate the region’s housing needs through 2044”

        That zoning only takes into account future growth, not the current market distortion that’s causing prices to ride rapidly. To address that you’d need 150,000 more units.

        “TOD north of 130th along I-5 will have lower prices than most areas of Seattle for the same sf even though new because of the intangibles, and because it won’t bd “choice” housing. ”

        Yes, that’s why I think far north Seattle and Shoreline is a promising area for more walkable growth at more-reasonable prices. It’s not just north of 130th along I-5, but north of Northgate Way between Greenwood and 35th.

        “The best tools for affordable housing now are sharing housing and location, and older rather than new housing.”

        The older buildings are full. Sharing works for some people, but it can’t accommodate tens of thousands more all at once right now.

      5. If the cost of housing matches the cost of construction who is going to build it?

        I think you are confused. Of course there is a profit. That is the cost of construction. It is the same with anything else. Oil, in my example. Once prices fall so low that the oil company can’t make a profit, they stop pumping. But with a cartel it never reaches that baseline. They artificially limit the supply, which pushes up cost.

        The same is true of housing. In most of the country, zoning doesn’t matter. The cost of housing is based on the cost of new construction (including the expected profit). Maybe I’m not explaining this well enough. I’ll quote the Harvard study:

        Does America face an affordable housing crisis and, if so, why? This paper argues that in much of America the price of housing is quite close to the marginal, physical costs of new construction. The price of housing is significantly higher than construction costs only in a limited number of areas. In those areas, we argue that high prices have little to do with conventional models with a free market for land. Instead, our evidence suggests that zoning and other land use controls play the dominant role in making housing expensive.

        We are now “one of those areas”. The study was from a while ago, but there has been no evidence to the contrary. Quite the opposite. There have been numerous other studies, and they all back up the same basic idea. There is some mixed evidence at the neighborhood level, but at a large (city-wide) level it is so accepted that the studies just mention it in passing. For example, here are a couple of the “Key Takeaways” from another report:

        Researchers have long known that building new market-rate housing helps stabilize housing prices at the metro area level, but until recently it hasn’t been possible to empirically determine the impact of market-rate development on buildings in their immediate vicinity. The question of neighborhood-level impacts of market-rate development has been hotly debated but under-studied.

        Taking advantage of improved data sources and methods, researchers in the past two years have released six working papers on the impact of new market-rate development on neighborhood rents. Five find that market-rate housing makes nearby housing more affordable across the income distribution of rental units, and one finds mixed results.

        So even at the neighborhood level the evidence suggests that liberalized zoning reduced prices. But at the metro level it definitely does. You are welcome to believe otherwise, but in doing so you are arguing against all available evidence, as well as just standard reasoning.

      6. “Does America face an affordable housing crisis and, if so, why? This paper argues that in much of America the price of housing is quite close to the marginal, physical costs of new construction.”

        That study is from 2002 and is no longer accurate. Until the mid 2010s artificially-high housing prices in excess of wage growth was limited to the large coastal cities. In the late 2010s it reached the rest of the country. Smaller cities, suburbs, and rural areas are all finding home-price growth rising faster than income growth, and putting more people into housing distress or homelessness. Only a few depressed areas without jobs are exempt, and those are usually the worst in terms of walkability and transit.

        The reason prices are rising in less-desirable metros and smaller towns is the same reason prices are rising here: artificial scarcity. That part of the article is still valid. Seattle historically lost population in the 1960s, then slowly gained it back and only reached its previous peak in the 2000s. Rents and house prices were low throughout the 80s and early 90s. The least-desired 1950s/60s apartments were still $550 in 2010. Then the Amazon boom squeezed the last remaining slack out of the market, and those units jumped to over $1000 without any improvements. That’s what happened in the rest of the country in the late 2010s: the slack was finally used up so prices rose, because single-family zoning is even more pervasive there and wouldn’t allow housing growth to keep up with population growth.

        When people from more expensive coastal areas move to these relative bargains, it displaces locals who would otherwise live in those units, driving housing prices up there and creating distress and homelessness in those towns. Or they skew the market into building winter-vacation or large luxury homes rather than ordinary homes their existing residents would occupy.

      7. That study is from 2002 and is no longer accurate.

        Sorry, but you are wrong. Every single paper has confirmed its key findings. I challenge you to find a study that challenges it.

        The only thing that has changed is that there are more of these “areas”. That is the only thing that has changed. In much of the country, you still see housing costs tied to the cost of construction. Generally speaking, sprawl is still cheap. But what were only a handful of areas (“California and some eastern cities”) has grown. It now definitely includes Seattle, and it is why housing prices have increased so dramatically over such a short period of time.

        The point of the paper is not to determine where exactly those places are — that will always change over time — but to determine if zoning effects the cost of housing. Clearly it does, and there is no evidence to refute those findings (which weren’t exactly surprising in the first place, but merely a confirmation of what most assumed).

      8. “The only thing that has changed is that there are more of these “areas””

        That’s what I said. It used to be limited to a few areas, and now it’s most of the country. There’s repeated articles about people in San Bernardino or Fresno or Spokane or Mt Vernon or Idaho or the Midwest complaining that housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable. Saying it’s just “areas” is misleading. All of Washington state is getting less affordable, not just Seattle or Pugetopolis.

        Some people say to move until you qualify, but what do you do when there’s no place left to go? The US is heading toward that situation. And even if wealthier people move to lower-cost areas, that displaces people in those areas and rises their housing costs.

      9. It used to be limited to a few areas, and now it’s most of the country.

        But that is irrelevant. That does not contradict the findings. At worse you can say that it is out of date in that the problem is bigger now. But that doesn’t mean the conclusions were wrong.

        For example, let’s say that forty years ago some researchers raised alarm about obesity. They concluded that diet was the only factor (it isn’t, it is actually very complicated). But just assume they did, and their conclusions were as valid then as now. Obesity is caused by diet. In the old paper they might mention how many people are hurt by obesity. Now that number has grown considerably. It doesn’t make the old paper any less valid. Quite the contrary. If anything, it just strengthens it.

        Same here. Yes, there are *more* places where zoning is the contributing factor. For there are still plenty of places where it isn’t. Think most of Florida, Texas or vast swaths of the Midwest. I’m not talking about old industrial cities, I’m talking Iowa, Nebraska, southern Illinois, etc. Even many western cities sprawl, with fairly affordable property (Arizona, Idaho, etc.). Mostly it is smaller cities that are affordable (many cities in New Mexico, for example). A lot of America lives in smaller cities and sprawling suburbs, where even new housing is reasonably affordable. Look at the cost of a new house in Florida and compare it to the cost of building it on your own lot and there isn’t much difference. That’s because there a ton of cheap lots in Florida.

        But in any event, that doesn’t matter. That doesn’t contradict the study. As long as there is one place in America where housing is tied to the cost of construction (and there are many) it is still as valid as ever.

        In contrast, there are plenty of studies that simply become out of date. This is common with dietary studies. An initial study says one thing, and then years later they find the opposite. This is not one of those times.

      10. If an area’s zoning does not meet existing and future population and housing needs then yes, that zoning can lead to housing shortages and higher housing costs.

        But that is not situation in this region. Just the opposite.

        The Dept. of Commerce prepares future population estimates out to 30 years. Then the
        GMPC allocates cities and unincorporated areas future housing targets to meet estimated future population growth. They have been doing this for decades.

        The GMPC’s most recent housing allocations in 2022 are based on pre-pandemic population estimates even the DOC now admits are too high. Still every city already has existing zoning in 2022 to meet population growth through 2044. And then some.

        Total zoning capacity based on current zoning from SnoCo to Pierce County could accommodate somewhere around an additional 5 million citizens without an upzone. The area is huge.

        So if you increase the current zoning builders won’t build more housing. They will simply have more choices where to build, and will base that decision on profit, which usually means the final cost of the housing. No builder wants to build affordable housing. Just the opposite.

        Builders never build more housing than is needed, and usually build less. The last 10 years have been a perfect economy for building housing and yet builders built less than needed and much, much less than the zoning would allow.

        One of the goals of zoning is to allocate housing and development where you want it and don’t want it. The GMA was adopted in 1991 to try and prevent sprawl. At the same time the PSRC was formed to advise cities on how to manage growth to prevent sprawl.

        The PSRC recommends TOD near walkable transit and retail to reduce car traffic and dependence and cut carbon emissions. The PSRC recommends multi-family development near existing transit and in town centers because the lots are zoned large enough, zoning can help dictate a mix of unit sizes, and a city can offer height incentives and other regulatory incentives to set aside affordable housing, something not possible in a SFH zone.

        However the GMPC’s goals are somewhat at odds. Instead it allocates housing to all cities although cities can request higher housing targets than legally required which then lowers housing targets for other cities because the GMPC does not want to allocate or zone for more housing than will be needed because that tends to create sprawl.

        However the GMPC takes a regional city/village approach rather than allocating all future housing in urban cities, which probably makes sense with WFH. So essentially the GMPC is spreading population growth throughout this huge region, and hoping transit and TOD will help reduce car usage, never anticipating the pandemic.

        The fundamental flaw in the GMPC’s approach to TOD is that the three county region is too large and undense to serve most of it with transit.

        The “cost” of housing even including profit is not one cost. In this area including permitting costs and impact fees probably the lowest cost for new construction is around $250/sf exclusive of the land. But there is construction at $1000/sf too in high end builds, which builders prefer because they effectively work on a contingency.

        To argue land in a high AMI area will be free and so housing costs will reach constructions costs is not realistic. The land in this area is the main cost. A house on MI that is valued at $4 million probably cost $1 million to build originally. The rest is the value of the land, usually depending on schools, location, and public safety.

        Housing is not zoning. Increasing zoning will not increase housing if the current zoning already exceeds housing needs IN 2044. All it will do is open up more areas for development or redevelopment and take that housing from where it was originally intended, TOD, because it will have a higher profit because the area AMI can afford it.

        The number one rule for ARCH is affordable housing begins with affordable land, but by opening up expensive SFH zones to more development that is where builders will go because the housing will cost more which means they will make more.

        To lower housing costs will require a lower AMI, lower cost land, scale, smaller units. and hopefully more housing (although if new it likely won’t be affordable, and may displace older more affordable housing).

        If builders are not building enough housing when current zoning could easily accommodate a million additional units in the three county region increasing the ZONING won’t create that housing. It will just give builders more options where to build, and then the question is whether that is where you want them to build as opposed to existing zoning that prioritizes TOD near EXISTING transit because transit budgets today can serve only a small portion of the three county area.

        A city can’t increase housing. Markets and builders do that. At best cities can target housing growth, and try to leverage 10% to 20% in affordable units (usually 70-80% AMI).

        Over the next 20 years builders will build a set amount of housing depending on population and market conditions. That amount won’t change based on zoning because there is already more than enough zoning capacity. The only question is where do you want that set amount of new housing?

      11. “So if you increase the current zoning builders won’t build more housing. They will simply have more choices where to build,”

        So if we target upzoning to buffer areas around urban villages and frequent transit stops, there will be more housing there, and the total housing will be more walkable and with more transit access.

      12. Yes Mike, that is the “Vision” of the PSRC: allocate future population growth in TOD in town centers near existing walkable transit and retail, which is what most cities have done with their zoning. A city like MI has no transit except in the town center.

        The 2050 Vision Statement was based on 2018 data. Future population growth estimates look inflated today. WFH has questioned the need for TOD and commuting by transit. Labor participation rates are at historic lows. Downtown Seattle is not attractive to a lot of workers and shoppers. Lower traffic congestion undermines the need for TOD to avoid the cost to build roads to accommodate that congestion. WFH reduces carbon more than commuting by transit. Declining farebox recovery and transit budgets cause doubts about future frequency and coverage for transit.

        2023 should clarify both the new normal and transit and city budget deficits which determines service. Market conditions will mean there will be little commercial or housing development, so I think the PSRC needs to revisit the assumptions in its 2050 Vision Statement by the end of 2023.

        Still if some of the PSRC assumptions have changed I still think allocating future housing growth in TOD in town centers near walkable transit and retail makes more sense to me than dispersing it into SFH zones that have no transit, even if the new housing in each area will not be “affordable” because it is new.

        Transit budgets cannot afford transit to SFH zones, and we need to condense retail and population to the extent necessary to create viable urbanism. A city like Seattle can correct some of the issues it faces, but not if everyone is dispersed throughout the three county area.

      13. If an area’s zoning does not meet existing and future population and housing needs then yes, that zoning can lead to housing shortages and higher housing costs.

        But that is not situation in this region. Just the opposite.

        Absolutely absurd. Demand increased, we couldn’t create enough supply. Supply was limited because of zoning. What, in your imagination, is your explanation for the very high increase in housing costs compared to ten years ago, or why we are so much expensive than other municipalities (like say, Boise or Phoenix, or for that matter Chiba City, Japan)?

      14. “that is the “Vision” of the PSRC: allocate future population growth in TOD in town centers near existing walkable transit and retail,”

        I mean expanding existing villages a half-mile or mile out from the current zoning boundary, especially those that have the best opportunity for good walkability and transit, like Mt Baker, Beacon Hill, Roosevelt, Ballard, Aurora Avenue, and California Avenue. If you want to live within walking distance of Link or a good bus corridor, you have limited options now, especially if you can’t afford the U-District or Capitol Hill. We need to expand opportunities in more villages.

        “WFH has questioned the need for TOD and commuting by transit.”

        TOD is always needed even with work from home. Three-quarters of people’s trips are non-work trips. We need a non-driving alternative for those too.

        “Transit budgets cannot afford transit to SFH zones,”

        It can if they’re adjacent to existing villages that are already targeted for more frequent transit.

        You assume that SF zones means all the growth will go to the most remote locations, like 192nd & 124th SE (the north end of the Soos Creek Trail) or Somerset Hill or Newcastle or the south end of Mercer Island, where it’s a mile or more from frequent transit. That’s not likely. And we can guarantee it by upzoning the highest-priority areas, adjacent to existing villages.

      15. Dan, I was pretty involved in the 2022 housing allocations. Some cities like Shoreline and Lynnwood accepted higher than mandated housing targets through 2044 which lowered everyone else’s housing targets, because the GMPC only allocates housing targets it thinks will be needed.

        The allocations have been made. The only issue now is what percentage must be affordable but that is before the Affordable Housing Committee.

        So what cities (other than Sammamish which is the subject of a current motion to increase its allocation) cannot meet their housing allocations with existing zoning? MI got a NET ZERO housing allocation through 2044. That doesn’t sound like a zoning shortage to me. Clyde Hill got one. Same I think with Beaux Arts.

        You can increase zoning but if current zoning can accommodate hundreds of thousands of new units just in this area more zoning capacity won’t attract more builders to build housing. What makes you think increasing zoning capacity will. You admit profit drives housing construction. All you end up doing is dispersing the housing, if that is what you want to do, which is what led to the GMA.

        Westneat has an article today noting postal address change requests show Seattle — and the Seattle/Bellevue/Tacoma areas — lost population in 2022. Even the DOC admits its recent population estimates through 2050 are high, but still are likely too high after grudging adjustments.

        Only time will tell, but builders don’t build on estimates. That is how they got wiped out in 2008. They begin building when the folks arrive. All cities can do is have zoning that accommodates that housing. According to the GMPC the region does. Otherwise MI would not have received a net zero growth target.

        I understand this topic gets many emotional on this blog. The sudden influx of tech workers earning six figure incomes increased everyone’s rent, and those who own looked like they had hit the lottery. Plus builders built high end housing due to the new AMI. But as Westneat points out, last year at this time Amazon had 10,000 local job openings whereas it laid off 4600 local workers last quarter. So there is hope demand and AMI may cool.

        Tacomee is right. There is a basic cost of construction. I don’t know where Ross gets the idea that liberalizing zoning will make land in this area free and so the cost of housing will match the cost of construction. Do you know of any land in Seattle zoned for development that is free? I don’t. According to Sam developers in Bellevue paid over $100 million for some old hotels in Bellevue just for the land. I can show you some lots on MI that cost $2 million and up.

        Here is the reality: your rent is not going down. Housing prices and rents are stabilizing because of the market but the AMI in this area means you will be competing against folks making a lot of money. If the AMI in Seattle is $105,000 then half of workers earn more than that and even if living alone can afford more than $2800/mo. for rent, more if they share.

        Look at Montreal. Its housing costs recently plummeted because it is an economic basket case. It has nothing to do with zoning or new housing. No one is building in Montreal.

        Over time new housing will be added, depending on population growth, but it will be expensive if new, and likely replace existing housing.

        Tacomee is right again. The solution is to move to a less expensive area of the city, and share housing. If you think upzoning will incentivizing builders to build more net housing than they are building today when unrealized housing zoning capacity is millions in the three county region and that will magically lower your rent you will be disappointed.

        What might help is a softening tech market, stock market declines, and if future population estimates are higher than actual growth although that will mean builders will build less housing. Like the developer in Bellevue Sam discusses.

        Progressives like to think government can snap its fingers and other people do the work without regard to profit. Obviously not, since Seattle’s last major upzoning just five years ago created a lot more zoning capacity but not a lot of new housing.

        Only time will tell. My point is zoning and actual construction are two different things. Builders will build so much housing over the next 25 years irrespective of zoning, and the only question zoning can answer is where that housing is built, understanding it will be built where the profit is highest. It is that simple. So let’s just wait and see how things turn out, and whether anyone’s rent goes down.

        And if you live in Seattle be sure to vote yes on the levy because it will fund endless amounts of affordable housing for folks earning 0-120% AMI that alone will pay off the bonds with $1200/mo rents for white progressives living alone (next door to folks with 0-50% AMI so be sure to take your bike into your apartment so it isn’t stolen). Who needs upzoning when this levy will provide everyone in Seattle their own new unit with their own new kitchen, bathroom and living room in the neighborhood of their choice for $1200/mo, just like it is 1999 and Santa came early and land is free.

      16. “Westneat has an article today noting postal address change requests show Seattle — and the Seattle/Bellevue/Tacoma areas — lost population in 2022.”

        If that’s sustained for a few years we’ll see moderation in rents and house prices, and that would be a good thing. There are two ways to deal with a housing shortage and escalating prices: build more housing to match population growth, or have the population fall to match the amount of available housing.

        Seattle was doing fine in the 80s, 90s, and early 00s. Everybody could find a job, and the cost of housing was less of a burden.

      17. Daniel, it’s not zoning that directly makes housing here so expensive, but the cause is related. What has driven the supercharged boom in prices is that the climate of the Northwest has changed for the better, and Seattle has been “discovered”. And of course, that’s not to mention that it’s the number two tech center in the world.

        You can have all the fantasies of paving up the sides of the Cascades you want raving about how HUGE!!! King County is, but the fact is that Puget Sound does NOT have much more buildable land within reasonable access of the business centers. Everywhere closer already has structures on it, albeit frequently with wastefully large but very nice yards.

        The only “cheap” land is 50 miles from Seattle and Bellevue now.

        Will Ross’s prescription “cure” high housing costs? No, nothing short of a severe recession in tech will, and most people believe THAT cure is worse than the disease. But it might help on the margin, which is more than throwing up one’s hands and genuflecting to “the GMPC” does.

        That said, the topic that triggered the discussion, Initiative-135, is lunacy for all the reasons you and others have stated. If people want to build more subsidized housing, they need to pass a levy earmarked for it.

        And to use the funds wisely, please develop some genuinely non-profit construction companies to build the structures funded by it. Worker collectives are a good place to start.

  3. I’m really excited to see this ballot go ahead. I’m worried because there’s been a lot of unfair coverage in the press and among various internet idiots, especially as it relates to funding. If anyone wants to know, it’s gonna be funded by municipal bonds.

    It’s great because they even got an economist on the campaign who endorses the plan. One step closer to a functional public housing system!!!

    1. Bonds are not a funding mechanism because they are not actually free money and this stupid thing won’t be self-sustaining without a real funding mechanism to back stop the permanent capital and operating subsidies it will need.

    2. Municipal bonds are not a funding source. They are debt. Debt that needs to be paid back some how.


      I find this initiative to be very amateurish. And not helpful.

      1. If I’m not mistaken, the debt is supposed to be paid off using rents collected. I’m guessing the idea is that rent from residents near or above AMI would be close to market-rate, and that the subsidy needed for residents below AMI would be made up for by the fact that the public corporation would not need to make a profit or pay property taxes.

        I doubt that would all balance out, but there’s always the possibility of seeking additional federal/state/local funding not directly included in the is initiative.

      2. > If I’m not mistaken, the debt is supposed to be paid off using rents collected. I’m guessing the idea is that rent from residents near or above AMI would be close to market-rate, and that the subsidy needed for residents below AMI would be made up for by the fact that the public corporation would not need to make a profit or pay property taxes.

        That is the idea — the problem is that the initiative also tacks on high green standards and also using union labor which means the construction costs would be much higher. I doubt they would break even even at market rate.

    3. Wow – they got a whole economist on the campaign! One whole economist! It must be good!

      As for the whole “internet idiots”… not sure why we even go down this road but here it is:

      There are good reasons to vote for this initiate, as well as good reasons to vote against it. Just because people come to a different conclusion than you does not make them an idiot.

      Going a step further, if you really want to advance the social housing cause, you might want to understand both the pros and the cons of the stated solution. No solution is 100% perfect… every option has upsides and downsides. You build a consensus and momentum towards your stated goals by understanding opposing viewpoints, risks, and downsides, and working to create a plan that maximizes the stated results and minimizes the various risks.

      The Times wrote a good article about I-135, including this little tidbit:

      “Starting in 1989, the King County Housing Authority tried something similar, purchasing private-market rental properties. To do that, the authority sold bonds at low interest rates to make the initial acquisitions and improvements.

      King County Housing Authority has acquired about 5,000 units of what it calls “moderate-income housing” this way, according to Watson, adviser to the authority’s executive director. Seattle Housing Authority has done the same thing with about 1,500 units.”

      Since 1989, the KCHA has acquired 5,000 units under a similar scenario. 5,000 units in over 30 years. Uh… okay.

      Sorry, but this plan has way too many unknowns, with the arguments on the “pro” side essentially boiling down to “Vienna did it” and “We have to do something!” The “pro” side should understand that passing this measure is not the magic elixir that many are hoping for.

      As many have pointed out, we already have multiple housing authorities, and now we’re going to throw another one in the mix and we’re supposed to believe that we’ll just sell some bonds and “poof,” problem solved and we’ll have a “functional public housing system?”

      1. And you believe that?

        Let’s suppose one of the endorsers is Sam. If Sam says something outrageous, does that mean the whole initiative is equally outrageous?

  4. Municipal bonds are not free money, and have to be paid back. Seattle could have floated the same municipal bonds 18 months ago at 1/3 the interest rate. Generally municipal bonds indicate a city will not have the future revenue to pay for the project(s) out of future tax revenue, or the project is expected to generate revenue to pay off the bonds (eg tolls on a bridge).

    There are three hidden fiscal dangers for any city that a public corporation could never get away with in its required disclosures for debt.

    The first is simply ignoring known (and there should be no unknown) capital projects. This is Seattle’s major fault. The state audit revealed Seattle has $3.5 billion in bridge repair and replacement the city had essentially concealed. Seattle’s solution: to bond the $7.5 million/year from raising the car tab from $20 to $40/year (which is the limit at which a vote is not required) to raise $70 million over ten years. Maybe the most irresponsible action by any city I have seen, especially a city looking at $250 million/year budget deficits beginning in 2023 and increasing each year thereafter.

    The second is to load up future councils with bonds, often for decades of payments, which is like a credit card. The money from the bonds is often long gone while the debt payments continue for years. I don’t know what Seattle’s bond amount is, but in reality number one above (bridges) is going to become number two (bonds), in (billions, not millions.

    Third, legacy payments to municipal employees — usually police and fire who have short terms to retire with full benefits — for retirement and medical. Seattle is not unique in which the retirement amount can be manipulated by police or fire to boost earnings in the last two years before retirement which determines the pension amount.

    Seattle should save some money because it has lost 300 senior police officers, most of whom took early retirement which is like paying a police officer for doing nothing, and expects to lose another 200, but Harrell wants to hire 500 new officers to hopefully revitalize the tax base in downtown Seattle so now the city is paying for 1000 officers. The lost tax revenue downtown post pandemic dwarfs the amount of this levy.

    Seattle is a youngish city but legacy costs tend to catch up to progressive cities with generous retirement packages unless they continue to grow revenue like 2012 to 2021 (Covid stimulus) but those days look like they are over.

    As I noted above, I don’t live in Seattle, don’t need the assistance of Seattle police, rarely use Seattle bridges like WS, and no longer work in Seattle so if the citizens want to tax themselves for a levy that like Move Seattle will deliver LESS than 50% of the promised projects, but since bonded will be paid for for decades, go for it.

    One overlooked side effect is so many property owners are fleeing Seattle it is driving up regional housing prices.

    All I ask is stop whining about your rent. Of course municipal bonds are paid for through property taxes, and your landlord is going to make sure you pay for his increased property tax. It isn’t as if affordable housing projects create revenue to help pay off the bonds like a tolled bridge, and YOU KNOW, or should by now, the claimed projects the bond money will actually complete is widely and dishonestly inflated.

  5. The video is really long; I’ve gotten through only half of it so far and it’s hard to keep listening for the other half. Could they be more concise?

    I’m torn on the initiative because we do need publicly-owned housing in perpetuity, and there’s a crisis at the middle income level as well as low income. But I’m hesitant that creating a program by initiative is an effective solution. I’d rather the initiative just told the city that voters want this, and let the city design a solution and press the state to make it easier.

    What really needs to happen is the government needs to set a goal that all residents have access to housing at 33% of their income, and define a right to housing if necessary, and then start taking steps to make it happen. A few units here and there won’t cut it: that’s the problem with all the previous attempts, even after the city and county declared a housing emergency years ago. If there’s not money or labor to do it all right now, at least set a goal and steps toward achieving it eventually.

    The crisis in middle-income housing is that people making 40-80% AMI don’t qualify for low-income housing yet find it hard to find a unit at a third of their income. The rising AMI in Seattle is partly because low- and middle-income people are being displaced from the city or don’t look at the city because they know the below-median units are filled with other people who similarly scrambled for housing. Just as construction is bifurcating into large breadboxes vs single-family, Seattle is bifurcating into high income and those with low-income subsidies. That’s not good for people or the city.

    The problem with middle-income people being displaced to the suburbs is that very few areas are more than minimally walkable if even that, and they often have atrocious transit service. The areas that are walkable have prices almost as high as Seattle or even higher, so that’s not an option for them.

    So we need to have widespread public housing for those who can’t afford market rates. We need looser zoning with an emphasis on expanding existing villages out and allowing middle housing in large shoulder areas. And we need to make neighborhood commercial areas more walkable so that more people can walk to their needs, even those who can’t afford to live in the U-District or downtown Bellevue.

    But I’m not sure that this initiative is the right approach, or that we should encourage agency-by-initiative. If it successfully builds/buys a few buildings like it’s planning, that’s still only a drop in the bucket compared to the total need. I understand some units are better than no units, and maybe it will be wildly successful beyond that, and maybe without it the problem will never be solved. But that’s a lot of wishing for a long shot. So I’m torn on it: I want the housing, and to establish the public-housing model for future needs, but I have some concerns about the structure and funding of this particular model, and how it ties the government’s hands too much and doesn’t give it enough flexibility.

    Here’s a joke: What’s worse than leftist councilmembers creating an agency? Leftist activists creating an agency by initiative.

    1. One of the wierdest head-scratcher initiative strategies I’ve seen is when a Massachusetts group put ranked choice voting on the ballot, and then proceeded to get the endorsements of lots of Democratic legislators, who happen to be in control of their legislature. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      I don’t think Seattle Initiative 135 would have gone forward without a sense that the City Council was unwilling to do anywhere close to enough to deal with the housing supply crisis. So far, the council has failed miserably. The argument by one housing builder lobbyist that the job should continue to be left to the market deserves a few facepalms, but I don’t think very many people are listening to him any more or want him lobbying for their interests.

      If the PDA just wastes money on staff time, I still think it is worth voting Yes to tell the council to do more. If the PDA succeeds in building just one urban-scale green development, I don’t think the expense of this election will have been in vain. I see the potential upside (getting a new model for adding quality public housing to the toolbox, and seeing more urban development follow that model), far outweighs the downside (the PDA fails to find funding, and gets derisive laughter). If the vote tends toward No, some on the council will cite it as the will of the voters to stop upzones and other efforts to increase the housing supply.

  6. I don’t see how those two office-heavy projects near East Main station can go ahead as planned. East Main Village, directly across the street to the east from East Main station on the site of the Red Lion and Hilton, is supposed to have 1.9 million square feet of office space, and some retail and housing. BelleVista Place on the site of the Sheraton, which will be kitty-corner from East Main station, is supposed to have 1 million square feet of office space, and some retail. I wonder what they’ll do. They can’t still go ahead and build that much office space there, can they?

    1. Sam, I think this is a good example that profit and not zoning dictates development.

      Redemptions from REIT’s focused on new office construction have a long waiting line for investors trying to get out. Pension funds are leaving investing in office space. Investment from China had dried up. Rising interest rates are increasing the cost of the money needed to build office towers, and interest rates are often dependent on occupancy rates.

      Probably the two main criteria IMO are:

      1. What are the vacancy and occupancy rates in Seattle and Bellevue is existing buildings.

      2. Is this Class A, B or C office space. I would put it at B-: poor retail, location next to 405 (the hotels were considered B- to C), but new. Most think only Class A+ office space will survive or thrive. These buildings will have Class A or B+ lease rates because it is new but won’t be Class A or B+.

      I would certainly postpone any development. Luckily I am not an investor. East Link is 2 years off, at least.

      I think Bellevue got out over its skis with its zoning and planned development, at the expense of Seattle. The tenants Bellevue planned to steal from Seattle are not in Seattle anymore, future population estimates look highly inflated post pandemic, and all major companies these projects hope to attract are cutting back on costs due to steep declines in profitability and share price, and some like Microsoft and leaving millions of sf it leases outside its campus and Google is abandoning its project at 85th

      1. I read the developer bought the Hilton and Red Lion sites for around $122M dollars in 2015/16. They probably can no longer build what they wanted to build. And they aren’t exactly Blackstone. They are a smaller, local developer, so they can’t postpone indefinitely. They are in a tough spot.

    2. Bellevue should have upzoned it twenty-five years ago so it could have caught the 2003 boom or the 2012 boom. Lots next to downtown Bellevue would have been attractive, and anything dense meets the goal of more people able to live/work/hotel within walking distance of frequent transit.

  7. Does anybody here really believe that new housing units could be built in Seattle with rent lower than $2200 a month to cover the construction loan and upkeep? Because there’s no free ride here. Land, materials, labor…. nothing is free. Nobody can build $1200 a month apartments, no matter how bad “young creatives” want them. It’s not 1990 anymore.

    The profit margin on a new apartment building is paper thin folks. All that high rent does is pay off the loan(s) for the most part. The real money is made decades down the road, when the building is older. Residential real estate winners play the long game…. 30 years.

    Instead of believing that I-135 is going to fix Seattle’s housing problems (it can’t) the Urbanist crowd should pack up and move out to someplace cheaper and buy a house. America trusts in God and the 30 home mortgage…. fools believe in crap like rent control or “social housing”.

    1. The argument is that people move for jobs, not for housing. And so, while Amazon and other tech companies were growing in Seattle, enough young professionals were moving that they were crowding everyone else out with high incomes, and not enough housing was built to make up for the influx.

      With tech slowing or even laying people off, the question is, how will this trend continue. Some believe that climate change will only accelerate the trend, regardless of employment opportunities; but then why would they not move elsewhere now, as you pointed out? So I think people always focus too much on one factor but the end result is not that simplistic. We’ll get a different sort of influx; 20-something techies likely want different housing from Arizona climate refugees. The Arizona climate refugees might not end up working for the predominant companies keeping their staff downtown, either; they might be doctors and teachers, not accountants and techies. That distributes the jobs differently, too, not just their housing needs.

      In the meantime, there’s a need for subsidized housing at the 25-80% AMI today, and there’s a need for supportive housing at the 0-25% AMI as well. It’s unclear to me how I-135 will address the latter, but it will probably chip away at the former. Is it worth the investment? That’s what the city will have to decide when it votes on it.

      1. Maybe? There are some tech folks who live in Seattle because they have to for work, but most of those jobs pay well, so it’s a win-win deal.

        Most people live in Seattle not because of work, but because they like it there. There’s a national teacher shortage right now. If I was a young teacher starting out in Seattle, I’d call a few school districts in Midwest and see if they wouldn’t give me a signing bonus big enough for a down payment on a house. Move to Omaha and never look back. Spend 30 years teaching in Nebraska and you’d have a teacher’s pension and the deed to house. Teach 30 years in Seattle? Who the Hell knows what’s going to happen in 30 years, but you will not be anywhere near as stable as the Midwest. Teachers need just do the math here and Seattle just doesn’t add up. Same with Fry cooks and carpenters… just move and find personal stability.

        Seattle owes absolutely nothing to nobody. The City don’t care…. look at all those tents in the parks. Everybody needs to look out for themselves and that means dropping the population on Seattle until the whole housing–wage ratio is back to reality. Rent control or I-135 give this illusion of things that are not possible.

      2. “Move to Omaha and never look back. Spend 30 years teaching in Nebraska and you’d have a teacher’s pension and the deed to house.”

        At what quality of life? How much of the area could you access without a car? Do buses come more than hourly or half-hourly or later than 7pm? Can you shop somewhere other than Walmart, Target, and Best Buy with huge parking lots in front? Can you get to those stores on a bus? Are the streets excessively wide, more than here? I want some happiness in life, not just the deed to an isolated house and the feeling I’ll never escape suburbia.

      3. When Amazon arrived with 50,000 highly compensated young employees who mostly wanted to live in city Seattle was never going to be the same. Same thing happened to Redmond housing costs from Microsoft. Not only that many of these employees had stock options or grants that suddenly increased 10X.

        I agree there was inadequate HOUSING to meet the demand of this new monied class, although there was zoning capacity. Plus most of the new housing that was built. including in the city, was suddenly geared towards this wealthy class because they had the money and the profit is greater on high end housing.

        You saw a change in everything, including high end restaurants. That is the unfortunate plight of suddenly becoming one of the wealthiest cities per capita over night, and I don’t know of any U.S. city this has happened to that has escaped the increase in housing costs, although most try some kind of rent control. Look at Austin TX, Miami, and so on.

        On the other hand you have houses in the Midwest (and small cities in Italy) they can’t give away because all the young kids moved to the coasts (and the south now).

        Tom T has often wished for some way to better allocate our housing and populations throughout the U.S. but so far it isn’t happening. Small town America just isn’t a draw for young Americans.

      4. Mike Orr

        I’m not telling anybody where to live….. I understand the allure of Seattle. It’s really cool city. I will always love it.

        But if you can’t afford to live there, maybe you have to move. I’ve traveled, and liked, much of the USA. There’s opportunity out there, people to meet, things to see. The Left Coast isn’t everything.

        But the folks over at Urbanist and the pro I-135 crowd have this crazy idea the government is somehow going to make affordable housing for them in Seattle, even if they’re earning 100k a year. That’s absolutely not going to happen. I know more than a few young people hanging on in Seattle because of socialist pipe dreams when they need to do what’s personally best for them and move along. Some of them get pissed at me when I tell them that after a few beers, but they’re my friends. And friends don’t let friends work as barmaid for 15 years bitching about paying $2100 a month rent. Cut your losses.

      5. Affordable housing is vital for a functioning economy. Even economies based entirely on wealthy people needs lower income people to do the actual work of making the place function.

        Friday Harbor regularly buys houses from Victoria that are being demolished, ships them over by barge, and creates affordable housing from them. The method has its issues, but they at least recognize they have a bad situation as more young people leave as they can’t afford a place to live.

      6. I agree there was inadequate HOUSING

        Yes, because of the zoning restrictions. Demand went up, the supply couldn’t keep up with it. Why? Because of the zoning. The SCIENCE is clear on this. Read the full study if you want. Challenge the assumptions with another study, or even some logical reason why it doesn’t apply in our case. You can’t. We are one of those places where they simply couldn’t build enough places to live for all of the people who want to live here. The reason is zoning.

        You still haven’t answered my question Daniel. If we got rid of zoning, do you think prices would be the same?

      7. Mike Orr,

        Do you think Seattle actually has a “functioning economy” ? (I don’t)

        I’m pretty sure there’s also no way to “fix” Seattle’s economy with some sort of public bonding scheme for housing, because the Seattle economy is just so freakin’ huge. I often think these pie-in-sky socialist ideas ( I-135 is a perfect example) make young people believe that some sort of change is possible through the ballot box. I honestly believe that local and even State government have a pretty limited impact on economic policy.

        There’s that video about Seattle homeless called “Seattle is dying” that’s been getting people pretty worked up for a few years now. I laugh because both the pro and con sides of that video completely miss the point. If people want to use drugs and live in a tent… you can’t really stop them. If people want to pay two thirds of their income to rent an apartment to live in Seattle… you can’t stop them. If the greater Seattle construction industry wants to focus on only high end projects for mostly out-of-State buyers… your can’t stop them. We don’t have “social housing” in Seattle…. we have “free will” housing.

        And if at some point all the Seattle dishwashers and prep cooks get a better deal in Texas and all those fancy restaurants close up…. I’ll laugh my ass off. It’s Juan’s job to make sure Seattle has a functioning economy… he’s real busy just making cinnamon rolls…. and looking out of #1.

      8. @ Mike Orr: Here’s the site for Omaha’s transit system, which also includes BRT: https://www.ometro.com/

        Omaha also has a population of 437,000, putting it in the top 40 biggest cities in the country, so it’s one of the biggest places in the prairie states. A lot of people I know who have visited it for events and business find it enjoyable with a lot more diversions than they imagined. And owning property in Omaha for the same price as renting a studio in Seattle would sound pretty good to a lot of people, big box stores or not.

      9. Question for everyone. When you look at cities in the U.S. that are more affordable, and look at cities are that are less affordable, and look at the low or high rates of homelessness in various U.S. cities, what, if any, are some basic patterns you notice? Are there any zoning patterns? Do affordable cities tend to be those who have enacted zoning reform? Are there any patterns to which cities have have higher homeless rates, and which have lower rates? Not a trick question. I honestly want to know. And this is an informal question. I’m not looking for links to studies.

      10. “You still haven’t answered my question Daniel. If we got rid of zoning, do you think prices would be the same?”

        Short answer Ross is yes, maybe higher, because zoning capacity is not the issue, although as I note below it is important to understand the distinctions in the proposed bills, what IS zoning let alone getting rid of ALL zoning, minimum construction costs including land, and how prices would change for different bands of AMI.

        1. What Are The Main Forms Of Zoning?

        There are three main forms of zoning:

        A. Use zoning (retail, commercial, multi-family, SFH, industrial).

        B. Regulatory limits for height, lot coverage, impervious surface limits, yard setbacks, parking minimums, and gross floor area to lot area ratio (plus impact fees cities charge for new construction to cover shcools, infrastructure, and so on).

        C. Minimum lot sizes.

        All zoning is “exclusionary” by design. Zoning determines what can’t be built where. None of the bills proposes to get rid of ALL zoning, and most simply allow different uses in the SFH zones without increasing the regulatory limits for multi-family housing.

        2. Current Housing Bills Do Not Abolish All Zoning.

        There are three main housing bills (in addition to the process at the GMPC under last year’s ESB 1220):

        A. HB 1110. This would allow four-plexes on SFH lots, six if two were “affordable”. However 1110 does not change the regulatory limits for the zone so a four-plex will have the same gross floor area to lot area ratio as a SFH, and there is no incentive for a builder to include the two affordable units. My understanding is the provision to reduce parking minimums has been removed because smaller cities complained they have no transit. There is also a push to require at least two of the four four-plexes be “affordable”, which the builders oppose for obvious reasons. Most of these will be “condominiumized” because builders cannot afford to build and rent out these units because it ties up their capital for the next project.

        B. HB 1133. This bill allows up to three dwellings (two DADU’s) on rural lots. The GMHB ruled the GMA prevents DADU’s on rural lots. Enviromental groups like Friends oppose this because it violates the GMA by basically subdividing rural lots contrary to the GMA. For a city like MI that allows a DADU/ADU on any residential lot the increase in the number of dwelling units is not huge, and basically there is no increase in the number of bedrooms which is housing is measured. But the change to rural areas is huge according to Friends.

        C. “Lot-Armageddon. This bill would allow any property owner to subdivide their lot and basically prevent cities from imposing minimum lot sizes. Again the environmental groups oppose this because they see this as upzoning rural areas that the GMA and PSRC have worked to try and preserve from sprawl. The concern is development under this bill would occur first on vacant vegetated land because it would be the cheapest to build and develop because there is no structure on it, and these lots often have higher lot area minimums that would work as multi house subdivisions. There is no mandate any of the new housing be affordable.

        3. Different Bands Of Housing.

        Housing can be broken into AMI bands, because not all “housing” is the same, so zoning can affect different groups differently:

        A. 0-30% AMI. This is supportive housing. Zoning has little to do with this group which needs public housing.

        B. 30% to 50% AMI. This group is difficult to house because market rate tenants don’t want to live with them so developers usually pay a fee in lieu of affordable housing set asides. The biggest problem with this group is living alone on their income. Many still need supportive housing.

        C. 50% to 70%. The main problems for this group are living alone and where they want to live. Two people living together each earning 50% AMI would have $2800/mo. to spend on housing. What hurts this group the most is gentrification: the conversion of older and more affordable multi-family rental housing into new, much less affordable housing.

        D. 80-100% AMI. This group looks like market rate tenants and so can be housed onsite in affordable housing set asides, but even if living alone has between $2500 and $2800/mo. to spend on rent which is plenty in this area.

        E. 100-200% AMI.

        F. 200-300% AMI.

        G. 300%+ AMI.

        4. Zoning Capacity Vs. Housing Construction.

        2014 to 2021 was considered by many to be the best market for housing construction maybe ever, especially in this region due to population growth, AMI growth, stock market increases, low interest rates, and a scarcity of HOUSING.

        As Tacomee notes builders can only build so much housing each year, or want to. Since 2014 they have worked as fast as they can. Today market and labor conditions have changed, so no matter what housing construction over the next several years will be flat. Zoning will have no influence on this. The money is just not there compared to the risk for builders.

        My biggest disagreement with the builders and progressives is the constant drumbeat that there is inadequate housing zoning to accommodate construction, even at 2014-2021 levels. That is just not true. Current zoning capacity if fully realized could accommodate easily another 1 million units in the three-county area, although it would take builders around 50 years to build that, probably closer to 75 or 100 years based on construction starts 2014-2021 (and it turns out those folks are not coming). Seattle just went through an upzoning that greatly expanded the boundaries for UGA’s and allows three legal dwellings on every residential lot. The zoning capacity is there for the next 25–50 years easily, if you want to develop all those zoned areas.

        So the most important thing to understand is zoning is not construction, builders can only build so many units each year or want to, and the construction level will likely never approach 2014-2021 because conditions have changed.

        What these bills do is the only thing zoning can do: determine where the construction occurs, which is driven by profit if builders are given a choice.

        5. How These Bills Differ From The GMA and PSRC.

        The PSRC accepts the Dept. of Commerce’s future population estimates that another 1 million residents will move to this region by 2050 (although I think those estimates are highly inflated). The GMPC has allocated cities housing growth targets to house those 1 million new residents. For most if not all cities their existing zoning meets those housing targets through 2044, although that does not mean builders will build — or can build — those new units.

        The PSRC believes the GMA should allocate future housing in urban areas, and town centers in smaller cities, near existing transit and walkable retail. This allows a tenant to live without a car, allows a city to offer additional regulatory limits for affordable housing set asides, reduces carbon emissions, reduces sprawl and development of more rural areas, and allows work commuting by transit ( pre-WFH).

        But that doesn’t mean builders are building all those units that are zoned for. For example, MI would seem ideal: town center along I-90 and East Link, safe, good schools, pretty good retail like grocery stores, flat and walkable. But we haven’t had a new multi-family or mixed use development in our town center since 2014. I don’t know why but builders don’t want to build those developments here. Seattle’s UGA’s have a very small percentage built to zoning capacity.

        6. So Whose Housing Prices Will Go Down And Whose Will Go Up.

        First we need to understand what determines housing prices: land, construction, profit, utilities, permit and impact fees are the base cost. After that it is the neighborhood, such as schools, public safety, and location. The exact same new house in Seattle will have dramatically different prices depending on the neighborhood.

        As ARCH always argues, if you want affordable housing better start with affordable land, because depending on the neighborhood the land is the biggest cost (and often determines how expensive the build is).

        These bills are all supported by the Master Builders Assoc. and Realtor Groups. These groups hate affordable housing, and hate affordable housing set asides.

        For the 300%+ AMI group these bills will not affect their housing costs because they are interested in very expensive units with high per sf construction costs.

        For the 200–300% AMI group these bills may reduce some housing prices by creating more condominiums in the SFH zones, although building a condominium when it comes to liability and insurance is tricky vs. a SFH. This group however favors SFH and usually has the money for one. Why would someone want to live in a condo in a SFH zone rather than in a vibrant retail area if they have this AMI?

        For the 100-200% AMI groups these bills may increase supply of condominiums in the SFH zones, but they will be new and so per sf much more expensive than existing multi-family housing. Think Issaquah Highlands but with higher costs because the scale is so much less and the regulatory limits capped at a SFH. At the same time that construction will come at the expense of TOD multi-family construction in urban areas and town centers which has affordable housing set asides because builders can build only so much housing each year.

        For the 100% AMI and below group these bills will increase housing costs because given a choice of building TOD with affordable housing set asides or developing in the SFH zones builders will choose the latter, and builders can build only so much housing and will base that choice on profit which is determined by the price of the housing. The issue is most of this new housing will be for sale and not rental so this group will need the down payment to buy. The one benefit may be less gentrification because fewer builders will convert older more affordable multi-family buildings to condos or more expensive newer multi-family units.

        7. Conclusion.

        All zoning can do is determine where housing is built, mostly by excluding from areas you don’t want housing. Profit will determine where builders build if given a choice, if they see a profit based on market conditions. The GMA and PSRC were adopted and formed in 1991 to counter the zoning (lack of zoning) that preceded them, which basically zoned all three counties including 6500 sq miles for some kind of development when the population is quite small for the area.

        These bills double down on that original zoning by dispersing new population and housing into the SFH zones, and that development and housing will come at the expense of the TOD in urban areas the PSRC envisions. Since it will be new construction with restricted gross floor area to lot area ratios unlike multi-family development in town centers, will not have affordable housing set asides, and the cost of the land per sf will be high the final cost of the housing will be very high, and almost exclusively for sale, not rental.

        I don’t think anyone should expect or hope that housing costs in this region will go down, with or without these bills, unless as Tom notes there is a major tech layoff/recession.

      11. “Do you think Seattle actually has a functioning economy ? (I don’t)”

        Of course it does. I’ve lived here since 1972 and seen it go through several up and down phases. The entire time it had a functioning economy. In the 70s my dad worked at an insurance company near Seattle Center, then in the 80s started his own insurance brokerage (sole proprietor), then in the 90s worked for a small insurance company. His business partner owned a missing-middle apartment building off Eastlake, with the office on the ground floor and his apartment in another, and the owner also ran an antique shop in Pike Place Market and had antiques in their penthouse. I attended UW in the late 80s, and then worked in a series of jobs in North Seattle, downtown, Ballard, and Harborview. My #1 goal was not to work in a suburban office park and to live in a walkable, transit-rich area. I was able to find jobs in Seattle when I needed them, and luckily I make enough money that I can live in Capitol Hill or the U-District or Ballard. I shop at Pike Place Market, Pike-Pine, the U-District, Roosevelt, Jackson Street, Rainier, Aurora, Northgate, and other places, and while a few of the businesses disappeared in the pandemic, most of them are still active, and new ones have opened up. So that sounds like a functioning economy to me. It’s not an ideal economy or Seattle’s potential, and Seattle needs to fix some problems. But the economy is basically working for the most part.

        “There’s that video about Seattle homeless called “Seattle is dying”

        Misleading videos abound. I saw that video years ago so I don’t remember what exactly is in it. But “dying” sounds to me like a city becoming a ghost town. That didn’t happen in the 1970s and it’s not happening now. Seattle has fallen maybe 10-20% from its peak in the 2010s. That means it’s still 80-90% intact. It also gained significantly in the past 12 years, so even if it’s losing some, it’s only reversing a few gains at the top.

        Yes, the downtown situation is reminiscent of the 1970s. But even then the city didn’t die, and most people continued living and working, and outside downtown and the redlined area didn’t have the decay. I don’t know what can replicate the retail miracle of the 80s, even if the streets are cleaned up, because people are now shopping more online and not in downtown department stores. But maybe a creative solution will be found.

        It’s too early to just write Seattle off as dying. Things always change. If Seattle becomes less desirable, more like an average American city than a superstar darling, then in some ways it will make things easier, by reducing the pressure on housing costs, and not chasing after silly symbolisms. And those who like Seattle and the Northwest and moderate temperatures will remain.

      12. “You still haven’t answered my question Daniel. If we got rid of zoning, do you think prices would be the same?”

        Short answer Ross is yes, maybe higher, because zoning capacity is not the issue

        Ha, funny. Oh wait, you are serious. I don’t know how to counter that argument. It is so absurd, I don’t know where to begin. OK, wait, I guess I’ll start with my own neighborhood:

        I live in a neighborhood that is zoned single family. Specifically, it is zoned SFH 7200. This means that they allow no new lots over 7200 feet and each lot is allowed only one house. Not too far from my house, the land is zoned for apartments.

        In both cases I’ve seen the old houses torn down and replaced with new construction. In the case of SFH zoned areas, they subdivided, and added as many lots as possible. A 25,000 square foot lot ended up with three houses on three lots. In contrast, when they tore down the house that was zoned for apartments, they put apartments. Imagine that. It would have been perfectly legal to put up houses, but they put up apartments. Oh, and the apartments were the exact size allowed by law, which in my neighborhood is low rise (basically three stories).

        This begs two basic questions:

        1) Do you think the developers would have built exactly the same thing, if it was all zoned for six-story apartments?

        2) If not, do you think housing would cost the same?

        Pretty basic questions. Please try and limit your answers to these questions, as opposed to paragraphs of irrelevant information.

    2. “Does anybody here really believe that new housing units could be built in Seattle with rent lower than $2200 a month to cover the construction loan and upkeep? … Land, materials, labor…. nothing is free. Nobody can build $1200 a month apartments,”

      Most of the cost is land. Rents have almost doubled since 2011. Construction and upkeep didn’t rise that much. Inflation was 2% or less for most of that time.

      1. Ah, 2011 was 12 years ago! Construction costs in Seattle might have come pretty close to doubling over that time. From 2008 they surely did. The problem with Seattle Progressives is they are still living in the past. Seattle @ 2011 is gone. Can’t come back. Same with Seattle 1992. Done.

        I’m going to blame this on the public schools for not teaching “life math.” The most important skill a person can learn. I bought a house (like most economically astute Americans) a little before I turned 30. That $910 mortgage payment was a motherfucker! I hung drywall of extra money every weekend and made soup out of dried beans and whatever veggies I had from the garden. Hard times indeed.

        Over the years things changed for me, (and the Mrs.) mostly for the better. We started making real money! Wanna know what didn’t change? That $910 mortgage payment. We were building…wait for it…. Generational Wealth!! Rent is for suckers. And I don’t say that with any hate or malice, but if you’re renting long term, you’re going to screwed.

        As far a rental property… I’ve worked in it for years and it’s the same basic principle. I used to remodel (down to the studs) apartment buildings on Greater Capital Hill (1995-2004ish). After buying the building and spending huge money on a 1st class remodel, the $1000–$1500 rents barely paid the mortgages…. for the first decade. After that the profit rolled in I’m sure. We’re talking some serous Generational Wealth for the kids of the family I worked for.

        There’s just no way, even with free land, to build apartments in Seattle rent for under $2,000 a month. Too many fees, union scale labor, raw material costs and the interest on borrowing millions of dollars in to even start the project.

      2. tacomee, I’m sorry to inform you, but unless you and “the Mrs” both kick off pretty rapidly after you retire, that “generational wealth” you’ve accumulated in your house will be gobbled up by the “Senior Care Industry”.

        Now you and the Mrs will have a much nicer time during your decline than renters will in theirs. That’s for sure and definitely not “nothing”. But unless you’ve also accumulated a pile of those magic papers known as “securities”, there won’t be anything left for the kids.

        The Senior Care Industry is masterful at relieving you of your last penny before dumping you in with the renters.

      3. Tom, I agree with you the cost of assisted care is exorbitant, but one of the benefits of rising house values in this area is the ability to fund private retirement care from the sale of the house. A sale price of $1 million or so when nothing is owed on the property because the owner paid off the 30 year mortgage over the decades together with Social Security helps pay for lifetime care (depending on age and degree of care, with Alzheimer’s care being the most expensive), which saves the state a lot on Medicaid costs for the care (many don’t understand the largest portion of Medicaid goes to poor elderly folks in assisted care). Medicaid housing is not something to desire during the last and most vulnerable years of your life.

      4. Tom,

        I believe that the post in question is referring to the generational wealth accumulated by the family owning entire apartment buildings: “We’re talking some serous Generational Wealth for the kids of the family I worked for. ”

        I agree with your overall point, though – there is no generational wealth in owning a home, only a better shot of not being a pauper in retirement. This is not how some see it, though – owning a home in the Seattle area seems to be viewed, by some, as akin to being landed gentry.

      5. “I agree with your overall point, though – there is no generational wealth in owning a home, only a better shot of not being a pauper in retirement. This is not how some see it, though – owning a home in the Seattle area seems to be viewed, by some, as akin to being landed gentry.”

        For many Americans, owning their own home, especially a SFH that has a yard and no shared walls, is the American Dream. In reality it is a savings plan, and over a long period of time you should build some equity but probably because you skipped on other things to own and maintain the home. It can be used for tuition for a kid, or retirement, assisted care, and as an inheritance for their kids because it has tax advantages. It is ideal for raising a family (or even a dog).

        This blog is mostly folks who live in a city or urban area in an apartment they rent. Their loyalty to a neighborhood is more transient, and many are transplants to this area. So their views tend to reflect that. Once you get into suburbia, and read blogs like Nextdoor, you understand how viscerally those folks feel about their houses and yards, some they have lived in for decades, and that the zoning is consistent for them and others, and maintains the promise they felt was made when they bought their house. Their loyalty to their neighborhood is very intense, as our city council learned the hard way.

      6. “That $910 mortgage payment. We were building…wait for it…. Generational Wealth!!”

        That’s only possible for people who bought their house before 1995.

        In 1978 the “Superman” movie posited Lex Luther aiming missles at the San Andreas Fault to push the California coast into the sea, thus making his interior land lucrative waterfront property. That was ridiculous of course, but it also seemed outlandish that housing prices in general would rise so rapidly because it had never happened in my lifetime or my parents’. They bought their house in Bellevue in 1972 with a $200-400 mortgage if I remember. They sold it in the early 80s, not knowing real estate would shoot up unprecedentedly in a few years. I thought about buying a duplex on 19th in 1990, $90K for both sides, but that seemed like an impossible cost for somebody just out of college. In 2008 I thought about buying a studio condo for $120K one block from the Broadway Market, but I was starting a relationship with somebody who was away on basic training for a year and thought a studio wouldn’t be large enough. Now with condos going for $300K+ and houses going for $700K+ and me unwilling to take on a large mortage, those options are out. In retrospect the “Superman” idea of real-estate prices shooting up now doesn’t seem farfetched. But that wasn’t clear in the 70s or 80s or early 90s. I also have relatives in Nevada who lost a lot of money buying and selling real estate, so I know it doesn’t always go up and sometimes it goes down.

      7. “This blog is mostly folks who live in a city or urban area in an apartment they rent. Their loyalty to a neighborhood is more transient…”

        Probably true on average, but I suspect many renters would prefer to stay put longer than they are allowed. When I moved to Seattle, I lived in the same apartment in Fremont for 9 years. I had a kindly, absentee landlord who wasn’t paying attention to prevailing rents, so I never got priced out. I did raise my rent myself once, out of guilt, from $700 to $800 (2bed, 1000 sq ft).

        Since then we’ve owned 4 homes. Never stayed in any longer than 4 years.

        I think tacomee is confusing societal problems with individual level problems. Sure, it is generally smarter to own than to rent (though not always, for sure, as all those foreclosure victims in 2008 will attest), but that’s an individual issue.

        What we are mainly talking about here is how we, as a society, can house everyone. We know more than half of people living in Seattle will almost certainly never be able to buy in Seattle. It’s because baristas, teachers, dishwashers, garbage men, etc will never be paid enough to be able to afford it. These are service workers we all desperately need to have a functioning, diverse city. We need to figure out where to house them. In the answer is not to time travel to 1995 and use “life math.” That’s kinda condescending and pretty useless advice.

      8. Mike, my wife and I bought our current house on MI in 2009. It took us three years to sell our old house, at a price that was pretty low compared to what it sold for several years later. We bought it in 1993 but missed out on the real gain when we sold in 2012.

        It took until 2015 for our new house to return to the value we paid for it. Then around 2016 housing prices went on a tear, but are now cooling rapidly because of rising mortgage rates and declining stock market values, especially for tech workers. The smart money is exiting the housing investment game in this area.

        We both worked to buy the first house, and did several remodels. We worked to buy the second house. The point is we love the house, and it was a great house to raise our family. You have to live someplace. I could see selling and travelling when the kids are a little older and out of college but my wife does not share my vision and loves her house. I love the garden. Very therapeutic for me. I don’t think I could go back to shared wall living, which is a big problem for MI housing for those looking to downsize from a SFH: they don’t want shared walls. There was a project to build 48 very high-end brownstones in the town center without shared walls but that fell through.

        Today my property tax bill is about the same as my mortgage after we paid it down when we sold our old house. I just don’t think many understand how sky-high property taxes are forcing seniors out of their homes, and how much it is contributing to rent prices. I think many politicians, especially at the county level, like property taxes and levies because it is hard for renters to understand how much they pay in rent for those property taxes, so the renters always vote yes for “free” money.

        Which is why I think it is time to split east and west King Co., because the cultures are so different, and King Co. under Dow and Balducci represents Seattle, not the eastside, and downtown Seattle no longer generates as much tax revenue to help pay for itself.

        That is why I find I-135 amusing. Absolutely terrible legislation by a bunch of charlatans who won’t deliver 40% of what they promise but who will suddenly have very high government salaries with full benefits with important sounding titles without any qualifications that only Seattle residents will pay for because they actually believe the promises in the initiative. Seattle residents for a smart group of folks believe almost anything you put on a levy.

        I will be interested to see if Inslee’s $4 billion housing levy passes at the state ballot. The irony is if it passes Seattleites will pay the largest percentage of the bill, probably get most of the benefits, and will of course vote yes because “it is free money” if you rent.

        Al makes a good point: if we as a region/county/city and state keep passing these levies for housing, transit, mental health, parks, schools, you name it pretty soon no one with an AMI under 100% will be able to afford rent anywhere.

      9. So here is an honest question:

        “These are service workers we all desperately need to have a functioning, diverse city. We need to figure out where to house them.”

        And there is an implication that service workers (and others) who do most of their work in Seattle should be able to live in Seattle. Okay, fair enough.

        What about service workers in Medina – should they also be able to live in Medina? (or pick your favorite other small, rich town in the area – Woodway, maybe. Or Beaux Arts. Places which got incorporated on their own). If we’re okay to allow the smaller towns to not have this requirement, why are they different from Seattle?

        Now let’s take it a step further. What about service workers in Wallingford – should they also have to be able to find ways to live in Wallingford, not in, say, Olympic Hills?

        Now let’s go a step further yet. Service workers working at UW – should they also be able to find ways to live right on the edge of campus?

        These are honest questions. I assume that the answer from the community will be something along the lines of “15 minute city” – which, fair enough, but let’s not clothe the issue in terms of just transit, then. Alternatively, why not flip it around, and say “all people should be able to find employment within 15 minutes of where they live”, and force employers (if needed) to set up this kind of distributed work sites? After all, we should work to live, not live to work. Let people live where they want, and force society to provide the jobs to allow this.

        It’s maybe a ridiculous suggestion in the way I am phrasing it, I know. But I’m trying to focus on the end goal (make people happy in the way they want) and social engineer towards that, rather than start with a solution (transit) and social engineer around it.

      10. Anonymouse,

        I never made it past Seattle Central Community College…. and yet here I am explaining personal finance on the inter-webs. Isn’t life crazy?

        First…. intergenerational wealth IS homeownership. Renters don’t pass down heaps of cash to their offspring or nephews and nieces. All that cash just goes to feed the rent monster… for decades. And he’s always hungry.

        Second….. Home ownership is hedge a against inflation. Having a mortgage semi-caps your housing costs long term (upkeep and taxes do keep rising however). If you have a home mortgage that costs 30% of your income that isn’t likely to be the case in 10 years. If you start a 401k plan the same year as your mortgage and you contribute 5% of your income to the 401k, for a total of a combined 35% percent of mortgage/401k combined and you keep that magic number at 35% for a decade (or two). What’s the mortgage/401k split then? 25%/10% split? maybe 20%/15% even? Every time you get a bump up in pay…. the numbers look better for you. Renters? that pay bump feeds rent monster. Gone, Baby, Gone.

        Renting is helping somebody else build generational wealth for their family.

        Once again, I got to blame our poor public schools. If I understand this stuff, how hard could it be?

      11. “I suspect many renters would prefer to stay put longer than they are allowed.”

        The late Mark Dublin, a longtime Metro driver and STB commentator, lived in Ballard for a long time and wanted to stay a lot longer, but is landlord suddenly raised his rent significantly and he had to find another place. As a senior citizen the closest place he could find that he could afford was in Olympia. (I don’t understand how he couldn’t find anything in south King County or Pierce County, and maybe he got a special deal in Olympia. But rents did rise in South King County from ca. $800 to $1400 and continuing, and they were rising faster than Seattle as people flocked to there for the lowest rent, so that’s probably part of it.) He did find something near the Capitol so at least a few blocks are walkable, and there’s an express bus from Olympia to Lakewood and from there to Seattle. He didn’t intend to come to Seattle/Eastside much, but that’s where most of his business opportunities ended up being so he commuted several times a month, 2+ hours each way.

        ““This blog is mostly folks who live in a city or urban area in an apartment they rent. Their loyalty to a neighborhood is more transient…”

        That’s the stereotype. It was more true in the past. Some renters are long-term, either in the same building or in the same neighborhood. Some homeowners are short term, or buy a house to flip it. In the past homeowners knew their neighbors and apartment-dwellers didn’t, but now I’m seeing increasingly that homeowners don’t either. Some areas have pockets of homeowners that have known each other for decades, but that’s only in some pockets.

        The stereotype is that renters don’t care about the neighborhood, will leave in a few years, trash their environment, and bring drugs and crime, is just a stereotype. In some cases it’s true; in many cases it’s not. Just like homeowners sometimes remain in their house a long time, sometimes not, sometimes engage with their neighbors and volunteer in the community, sometimes not. Some renters volunteer in their community too.

      12. Real estate is generally a terrible investment. I’ve lived during the boomiest of booming RE times, and when I’m honest with myself, and consider all the costs (new roof, 10K electrical bills, maintenance, transaction costs), I’ve lost money on every house I’ve owned.

        But fortunately I’ve been investing in stocks for 30 years, so I can afford to take a bath in RE. And it’s also a roof over your head, which has it’s advantages.

        If trump had just taken his dad’s money he gave him and invested in the S&P 500, he’d be three times richer than he is now. Without the lawsuits and having to screw all the people who were fools to work with him.

      13. “just don’t think many understand how sky-high property taxes are forcing seniors out of their homes”

        That’s one of the reasons I haven’t bought. The whole point of buying a place to me is to have it paid off someday so my housing costs will go way down and I can work less or do what I want and can use the money for old-age expenses. But then I see condos with taxes and homeowners’ fees costing as much as rent did a few years ago, and it seems I’ll be paying the equivalent of rent even after I’ve paid it off. That dampened my enthusiasm for it.

      14. “just don’t think many understand how sky-high property taxes are forcing seniors out of their homes”

        “That’s one of the reasons I haven’t bought.”

        Mike, that is the whole point I was trying to make: you ARE paying the property taxes in your rent. You just don’t get to deduct them (up to the $10,000 limit for SALT taxes).

        You are correct about HOA fees though. Recently I posted an article about a new development in Sodo that could not sell its affordable housing set asides that were listed at well below market rates. Unfortunately, just the HOA fees were over $1200/mo.

      15. Mike,

        You will indeed pay the equivalent of rent even after the mortgage is paid off. We in fact did the estimate and found that we will likely pay as much in taxes (in today’s dollars) as we are currently paying in mortgage costs right now, by the time our mortgage is paid off. At that point, we will be on fixed income. The hedge is that by that point, rentals will be even higher. Our taxes now are definitely less than our rental costs were, on a place that suits our needs better (bigger, yes, but also with the amenities we enjoy, such as a yard large enough to grow a small vegetable garden).

        Cam: the trick is that you have to be diligent enough to invest; many people do not do so. We are looking at it as a diversified investment, so we don’t prepay our mortgage even though we could, and instead invest in other ways for retirement, like retirement savings accounts. We are fortunate to be able to do that; many people cannot. Once again, my goal is to allow such people to live where they want, regardless of jobs, and find ways to bring the jobs to them, to the extent possible, rather than forcing them to live where the jobs are, and to move once the jobs also move.

        tacomee: As you can see on this blog, there are different perspectives on investments, but “Generational Wealth” does have a specific meaning, and I would not call an investment into one’s own retirement “Generational Wealth”, based on my understanding of the term.

      16. Here are U.S. retirement savings statistics:

        “In 2019, the average retirement account savings for American households was $65,000.

        “The average American under 35 has $13,000 saved for retirement.

        “62% of Americans aged 18 to 29 have some retirement savings, but only 30% percent feel on track for retirement.

        “55% of non-retirees have a 401(k) or 403(b) while 25% have no retirement savings.

        “Americans with a high school degree have an average retirement savings account value of $20,000, while those with a college degree have an average account value of $119,000.

        “The average retirement savings of white Americans was roughly $45,000 more than that of Black and Hispanic Americans.

        “Retirement savings for households in the bottom 25% of net worth grew by $2,710 from 1989 to 2019. Savings for the top 10% of net worth grew by over $600,000 during that same time period.

        “51% of Americans retire at 61 or earlier, and 23% retire between 62 and 64, before Medicare coverage kicks in at 65. White Americans tend to retire later than Black or Hispanic Americans, despite having more savings.”


      17. “Generational Wealth” does have a specific meaning, and I would not call an investment into one’s own retirement “Generational Wealth”

        It depends. If you put money into a 401K or into the bank, it is quite likely you will see generational wealth. You live off the dividends, interest and growth. You might sell some stock, but less than it has grown in value. You might “spend down” your money, but it is common that you don’t. You leave those investments (or most of it) to your heirs.

        Then there is property. This is the most common form of generational wealth, as mentioned. It is why black families have relatively little wealth. (People tend to focus on the gap in income between races, but the gap in wealth is much bigger. It is enormous.) Black families were often denied the opportunity to by their own homes. Many missed out on building generational wealth the way so many white families did. It is why the argument for reparations doesn’t begin and end with slavery. Seattle is full of future generational wealth. Lost of people will leave fully paid off houses worth a million dollars to their kids. Finally, they can pay off their student loans. (Sorry, morbid joke.)

        There are retirement investments that don’t build generational wealth. Pensions, for example. Likewise, people take out reverse mortgages. It is a mix.

      18. “Black families were often denied the opportunity to by their own homes.”


        Additionally, when the did buy, the were often redlined into buying in neighborhoods that didn’t have nearly the housing appreciation that white homeowners enjoyed. And they were sold predatory loans during the housing bubble that caused the impact of the housing crash to fall disproportionally on homeowners of color.

      19. “Now let’s take it a step further. What about service workers in Wallingford – should they also have to be able to find ways to live in Wallingford, not in, say, Olympic Hills?”

        I’m not sure anyone was making that implication. I don’t think this should be some sort of top-down government mandate. Actually quite the opposite.

        I think we should remove the vast majority of the zoning entirely, and let the market sort it out. Much of the reason that nobody beyond the rich can live in the exclusive communities you list, is simply that it is extremely hard to build there because of zoning. Take the government out of the equation, and the market will eventually build enough housing that everyone who wants to live in Exclusive Community X, can live there.

        Some percentage of people who work in that community will choose to, some will stay where they currently are, and some will move away. It’s all good. Just remove the barriers to that first group.

      20. What about service workers in Medina – should they also be able to live in Medina?

        In theory, yes. Or at the very least, a group of people should be able to compete with a single wealthy home owner. Maybe they simply won’t be able to afford to live in that area. Property values are too high — no one is selling anyway. But in theory, given the location, there should be lots of apartments there, and if there are lots of apartments there, middle class people should be able to afford them.

        This is why the state is basically sticking their nose into the density question. Other states have done the same thing. They basically trying to blow up decades worth of zoning regulations, the same way segregation was blown apart with the civil rights laws.

        There are issues though. The problem, as I see it, is that you can create communities that are very difficult to serve with transit, or anything else for that matter (water, sewer, roads, police, fire, etc.). The goal, basically, is to become like Europe.

        If you look at Europe, there are a lot of similarities. They have lots of cars and lots of roads. They have rural areas, urban areas, and areas that look a lot like our suburbs (single family houses on small lots). The difference is how they are arranged. A midsize city (i. e. one with roughly the population of Tacoma) will have a lot less suburban land. You can walk from the rural areas to the urban core. You pass through the “suburbs”, but this consists of a few blocks. Inside that is something which would more or less resemble Capitol Hill and inside that is downtown Tacoma. The “suburban area” is still significant (it is the outer ring, so even though it isn’t that wide, the area is big) but it doesn’t dominate, like most American cities. These types of cities are very easy to serve with transit. Despite automobile infrastructure every bit as sophisticates as ours (if not vastly superior) fewer people drive, simply because fewer need to.

        In contrast, we sprawl. If you throw apartment buildings in the middle of sprawl, it very well could work out worse. An end to zoning could lead to just more subdivisions, with even more houses. Like the Black Diamond development that was pushed through (https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/eastside/city-hall-warfare-over-development-holds-black-diamond-hostage/). This is why I’m not too eager for the state to try and mandate zoning changes in this manner (even though I understand their reasoning). This is basically the Japanese model, and I don’t see it working very well. It might make sense to go with the German model (https://www.sightline.org/2021/05/27/yes-other-countries-do-housing-better-case-2-germany/) and incentivize cities. The tricky part is deciding which cities should have incentives to grow. Maybe base it on the cost of housing (high costs should have high growth) or distance to major employment centers. Medina would check both boxes. Black Diamond would not. Thus you could, in theory, have the type of European style development that is much easier to maintain. Places like Medina grow to resemble Capitol Hill (more or less) whereas Black Diamond remains rural (instead of seeing just enough housing development to clog the roads, but not enough to make good transit feasible).

      21. If you harden the urban growth boundary, which I think legislation last session did by removing a loophole, I wouldn’t worry too much about incentivizing sprawl, though I could be wrong.

        What would be the incentive for developers to build apartments in sprawly places away from services, transit and other amenities? It would decrease the value of the property pretty substantially, I would think. But I’m not a developer.

      22. Like I think transit mode and frequency should follow ridership I think upzoning should follow existing density since that indicates where folks want to live, and in multi-family housing, which is often more urban.

        So, I would eliminate any regulatory restrictions on housing from downtown to Capitol Hill and in Ballard to see how that goes first. Both are served by existing transit and have commercial cores. Both are popular with the “urban crowd”. If building height is unlimited, and setbacks eliminated in these zones, and any parking limits, see if that produces affordable new housing, and the impact it has on the neighborhood. At worst it would be like Belltown.

        I agree a dense or tall project in say Black Diamond is incongruent. But even a tower 70 stories tall would not be out of place in Ballard or Capitol Hill, and the infrastructure is there to accommodate that kind of population density. It makes little sense to build town houses in these two dense neighborhoods if we need more urban density, or two DADU’s per residential lot. Save the townhouses for the suburbs.

        We can also see if this new very large construction, which might not be very affordable, makes surrounding existing housing more affordable, or helps cap rents. I think this makes sense more than trying to recreate the infrastructure and transit Capitol Hill and Ballard have in Medina, would probably result in new construction quicker, would have less objection from existing residents and the city of Seattle, and would be a perfect test model.

        Plus a 70-story building would likely have 10% affordable housing set asides in these two neighborhoods, and with 70 stories the developer would have lots of options on unit size.

      23. “What about service workers in Medina – should they also be able to live in Medina?”

        It doesn’t apply to parasitic residential-only microcities. Medina couldn’t exist without Bellevue and Seattle. The question is really about larger cities like Bellevue or Kirkland or Renton. Cities like that should have a full range of offices and service jobs, and areas where all the workers can live, so that the city is somewhat self-contained. That’s part of the basic definition of a city.

        The issue for microcities is whether they should exist and be able to exclude people and housing types from the larger city they parasite on. It would be better if they were annexed to the larger city, and that city had a plan to accommodate all income levels. That could mean mansions in the microcity area, or maybe part of it, or not. But it’s for the entire community to decide, not a micro-area of exclusionary homeowners so close to downtown.

      24. Thank you, Cam and Ross, for insightful comments as usual.

        Mike, I take it that you are okay with gated communities like Broadmoor, then. Would you be okay with Beaux Arts becoming a gated community of Bellevue? Or Hunts Point doing the same in Kirkland? Or do you want Broadmoor to open up so that the people working as cleaning staff to the residents have a chance to live there as well? What about Woodway, which I mentioned before – should it be annexed to Edmonds, or to Shoreline, and does it matter if residents of Shoreline work in Woodway or do they have to find a way to live within the gated community of Woodway proper?

        You dismissively call such places “parasitic” but Bellevue incorporated in 1953 and Beaux Arts only a year later, in 1954, having been established as its own community all the way back in 1908. Medina was also its own community and incorporated in 1955. For someone who has lived in Bellevue for, as I recall, a fairly long time, I am surprised that you dismiss the distinct history of such communities in a rather cavalier way – I am sure that you know these details, just as I am sure that you know that Medina contracts out with Bellevue for certain services, such as being part of the Bellevue School District. You could certainly advocate that they pay higher rates for the services Bellevue provides for them, but to call them “parasitic” seems perhaps a little unfair.

      25. Anonymous, tacomee certainly referred to the wealth accruing to the apartment owners for whom he works, but he did claim to be gathering some from his home. Reread the third paragraph, please.

        You are 100% right that the magnitude of the wealth is not comparable.

        Daniel, I certainly agree that owning a house free and clear, especially in Central Puget Sound, can fund a few years of pleasant retirement living. But better for the kids (and, really, the retiree) if a major artery in the brain pops or a major artery in the heart clogs. The transition is grim, but at least it’s quick and cheap.

      26. Anonymouse, I knew Beaux Arts and Medina were incorporated a long time ago but I forgot it in recent years because I’ve never interacted with them much and they’re not a major topic in Bellevue. (Other than the cliche, “Medina is where the richest CEOs live.”)

        My concern is not so much with Medina and Beaux Arts in particular but with cities in general. Until the 1960s cities grew by infill and annexation, as New York and Chicago did. Seattle also annexed until the 1950s when the suburban local-control movement replaced it. Cities should still grow primarily by infilling, and a city of over 50,000 should have a lot of walkable neighborhoods that are gradually filling with multifamily housing — again as New York, Chicago, Toronto, and London did. So a city of 200,000 or 750,000 should not have 70-80% of the land single-family: that’s more appropriate for small towns. They especially shouldn’t have single-family areas right next to downtown, like Surrey Downs. Instead density should gradually taper down from downtown highrises to middle housing, and only become like Surrey Downs much further out where it’s not blocking the walkshed or preventing people from living in a larger walkable area adjacent to downtown and frequent transit.

        Beaux Arts is so remote it’s not a big deal. I lived on south Bellevue Way in high school, so most of my trips and people I visited were within a few blocks of Bellevue Way or elsewhere. The buses didn’t stay on Bellevue Way: the 235 went through Beaux Arts and the 226 on 104th (Enatai) so I had to make those detours. But all of what I cared about was on Bellevue Way or 102nd (north of SE 6th Street), while 108th (Enatai) was remote and 104th (Beaux Arts) was even more remote, so they weren’t in my way. If I were to apply the same principle of upzoning to Bellevue as I do to Seattle, the most critical part is within the ring of villages: Bellevue Way, the Spring District, Crossroads, Overlake. And to a lesser extent north Bellevue Way toward Kirkland, and Factoria-Eastgate. NE 8th Street should densify because it’s between downtown Bellevue and Crossroads. Beaux Arts is in the remote periphery, so it doesn’t matter much if it stays the same.

        Medina is a bit far from downtown Bellevue, so bashing it is more psychological than practica.. It’s more important to upzone between 100th and 95th and north Bellevue Way than it is to upzone 92nd, and Medina is even less urgent than that. One counter-factor is it’s right between downtown Bellevue and the U-District, so in that sense it would be a good location for a denser village. But it’s less of a priority than inner Bellevue is.

  8. Ross B.

    Look, it’s impossible to build housing units that rent for under 2 grand a month…. more like $2500. Land, labor, materials. Zoning means absolutely nothing to the Seattle construction industry. Builders can’t build enough units fast enough…. if they wanted to. The money is better if you slow down and only do those high end lux units. The problem with the Urbanist crowd, the arm chair urban planners, is they treat the building industry like little bitches who will do whatever they’re told. That’s not the truth. Right now I’d guess the industry couldn’t build 10,000 units a year in Seattle because of labor shortages…. and who really wants to work that hard anyway?

    I believe zoning will change in Seattle and single houses will be bought, (for a million plus) tore down and 4-6 units will take their place (at well over half a million). Maybe a thousand houses a year….. but likely way less. Plenty of work and profit for the construction industry. Affordable housing? Nope. Last time I checked, no builders work for The Urbanist.

    1. @tacomee: Without upzoning, there would not have been 4-6 houses at less than $1 million, we’d be stuck with only having that one house at >$1 million. That tells me **upzoning worked**, in making more housing units available at less price than what SFH zoning would have provided.

      Now, are you arguing that since these 4-6 houses do not go for $300K or so, since they are not “affordable”, that upzones does not or would not matter? Should city planners not spend any effort on anything that is not guaranteed to create housing at <$500K or rents at <$2K? I think everyone should be glad if housing prices do not keep increasing at the same rapid pace, which upzoning clearly influences, even when those prices are still not considered affordable.

      And wow: "treat the building industry like little bitches" – nobody thinks that, what a strange thing to say. It's a free market, no one has to sell their house to a developer, and developers do not have to build to the full size of an upzone.

      1. I know a few Seattle area contractors who have already taken off for greener pastures in Texas, so yeah it’s free market…. and the limited supply of builders in the USA are free to work on only high dollar projects… or none at all. I can’t express the amount of ill will contractors have towards anybody in city planning, because city planners constantly try to screw over contractors. If the staff of the Urbanist was to have a few beers with a couple of home builders…. the urbanists would go home crying. I’d be “well, buy a chop saw and build it yourself college boy”

        Just the math of buying a home for a million, tearing it down and putting up 4-6 units puts those units at like 700k? What you’re asking is….”please tear down unaffordable housing and build affordable housing” It’s just not possible. Unless people stop moving to Seattle….. and then a whole lot of people move away from Seattle….. the housing market can’t change… it’s a free market.

      2. I agree that it’s difficult to build an affordable home in the Seattle area – you and others have made that point.
        What I don’t understand, are you suggesting urban planners or anyone else do nothing, for that reason? Not to bother with upzones, even if leads to townhomes that cost 3/4 of a SFH?

        It sounds like you are demanding ONLY a perfect “plan” to be proposed, EVER, that any proposals should cause construction workers and builders to NOT move elsewhere, AND to GUARANTEE that house prices go down in absolute terms as a result. Whereas, others in this blog are already happy if housing prices don’t continue to rise as fast as before, even if they do not go down in absolute terms.

  9. I think my biggest problem with another affordable housing initiative is that it’s another affordable housing initiative. How many have we passed in the past 10 years? How many changes to codes and how many strategies have we tried?

    I’m particularly bothered when the proposal increases property taxes (and pass through rent increases) to make it cheaper for people who can take advantage of the new pot of money. It feels like funding another bureaucracy that still results in a zero-sum game.

    I kind of wish some economist would evaluate all the changes we made since 2000 and all of the additional funding we have mobilized since 2000, and report the assessed how well each effort works . “If we just try to fund this too” is not enough to convince me. Saying other cities do it does not convince me either.

    There comes a time in every city policy to assess things. I think affordable housing strategies is one. I think removing median turn lanes in favor of not just bike lanes but protected bike lanes is another. I think vertical conveyances decisions (redundancy needs) at Link stations is another.

    Seattle seems to particularly love to push the “idea of the year” and put it on the ballot. It’s often a knee jerk reaction to a complex problem and not a carefully analyzed solution. It feels like mere populism with a PC twist as opposed to rational evaluation.

    One more issue that I have is that the housing market is regional and not local. In the next 10 years, Link will grow from running in 3 cities to 12 in the next 3 years, with Seattle getting just 2 (Judkins Park and maybe 130th St N) of the 19 stations opening by 2026. Stride and RapidRide will add several new projects outside of Seattle. Programs for affordable housing in my mind are better implemented at the King County level at the very least because this is the market reality.

    1. Yes, I’ve talked about this on another thread. Has a lot of the same problems as the CCC here. Costs a huge amount of money, but when it’s also done, mobility is only marginally better than what you get from existing bus routes, which the streetcar would duplicate.

      Of course, nobody thinks of it this way. The Times reporter acted as if Omaha buses may as well not exist, and the only two alternatives are to either build the streetcar or rely exclusively on cars and taxis. Zero mention of the frequent bus two blocks from the proposed streetcar line. Everyone interviewed supported or opposed the line based on general support or opposition to transit. Warren Buffett opposed it, for instance, because he opposes all transit. Not one person chimed in and said that they are for transit, but the streetcar wouldn’t do anything that existing bus routes don’t already do, and you could get car more mobility for the money by simply running bus routes more often.

      And, then of course, the B.S. about the mere presence of the streetcar spurring development, even if nobody rides it.

      The degree of transit ignorance among the population who is not on this blog is just astounding.

  10. “Confirmed: Seattle City Council president will not seek re-election”.

    Today’s Seattle Times. I believe that makes 8 of 9 Seattle councilmembers not seeking reelection.

    1. Try actually reading the article, maybe? The last couple paragraphs sum it up, if an article shorter than your own typical comment is too long for even you to read.

      “Only” 7 seats (the district reps) are up for re-election this year. 4 have announced they will not be running for re-election. 2 have confirmed they will run again. 1 has not confirmed either way, but is likely running again.

      One at-large council member is running for an open King County Council, but if they lose, they’ll keep their seat in the Council.

      I leave it as an exercise for the reader to match names.

    2. Dan, seven of nine are up this year; two (Lewis, Morales) are going to run for reelection; one (Strauss) has not said; four (Pedersen, Sawant, Herbold, Juarez) said they will not run. One (Mosqueda) of the two holding citywide positions will run for a county council seat.

      1. Thanks Eddie, I don’t live or work in Seattle anymore so don’t pay as close attention, and as I noted I thought 8 not 7 of 9 were up for election. I appreciate your polite correction. Still pretty major turnover, and we’ll deserved for such an abysmal job.

        I hope the right candidates run but to be honest I think it is too late even if they win, because progressives are stuck on free money (except rent which baffles them).

        Long term I think it is too late no matter who is elected because the loss of the work commuter will devastate Seattle’s budgets.

        That is why I think it is critical for the Eastside to demand King Co. be split east/west.

        I don’t mind watching a ship sink, but don’t want to be on it.

      2. Take the money and run, eh Counselor? How does the Bar Association treat your peers who do that?

        Especially ones who are constantly mumbling about “Equity”?

  11. Sam: “Question for everyone. When you look at cities in the U.S. that are more affordable, and look at cities are that are less affordable, and look at the low or high rates of homelessness in various U.S. cities, what, if any, are some basic patterns you notice? Are there any zoning patterns? Do affordable cities tend to be those who have enacted zoning reform? Are there any patterns to which cities have have higher homeless rates, and which have lower rates? Not a trick question. I honestly want to know. And this is an informal question. I’m not looking for links to studies.”

    The large coastal cities in the 2000s and 2010s had the most high-paying job creation and the most people moving in, and housing did not keep up. Restrictive zoning prevented housing construction close to both the high-paying jobs and the low-paying ancillary services. The influx of high-paid people increased inequality, so those at the top got the housing musical chairs and those at the bottom became homeless. Pugetopolis had moderate housing growth so that was able to absorb some of the influx, but California nimbyism dug down and led to even higher prices and more homelessness. California also has a certain kind of environmentalism (centered in Marin County) that sees cities as bad and farms as ideal. So they made an unholy alliance with the nimbys to block infill construction in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and ultimately Southern California and the Central Valley.

    Northeastern cities have less homeless because, as d.p. said, their state constitutions have a right to shelter, so they build enough housing to absorb the homeless. Salt Lake City I read also has built enough housing to keep up with homelessness. Those areas have such harsh winters that staying outside means you’ll probably die, so housing is seen as more essential there. The West Coast has milder winters so it’s easier to live outside and not die, and that in turn makes people less willing to spend money to shelter everyone or see it as essential. Since 2020 domestic migration and homeless conditions have been in flux, so it’s hard to say whether long-term trends are definitively emerging.

    Dallas, Houston, and Chicago have looser zoning and allow housing supply to keep up with population growth, so they haven’t had a spike in housing prices like the West Coast has. (People say Chicago is losing population, but that’s on the south side, while the north side has been gaining population and building infill development.) My friend from Dallas also has the attitude, “We run the visibly homeless out of town.” So there’s a different attitude there. But if all cities run them out of town, where do they go?

    1. Thanks for that. Before I wrote my question, I had been looking at various lists and maps of the most affordable states and cities, and the least affordable, and where the homeless rate was high and low. And, besides some obvious causes, like the arrival of big tech, I was trying to think of reasons that can explain some regional differences in the issues I mentioned. Your answer helped!

      1. One interesting thing I learned was the higher the poverty level, the lower the % homeless.

      2. And then you have a town like Eugene, OR, which tops some lists of U.S. towns with the highest rate of homelessness per capita. It’s a very liberal/progressive city. Its citizens are heavily into activism. It has no big tech. Single family zoning is banned. So, on paper, at least, you wouldn’t be on the extreme end of homelessness.

      3. It’s vacancy rate is 2-3%, and it’s population has gone up by about 50% in 2 years. Recipe for disaster.

        I don’t know about their zoning policy, but obviously it needs to loosen.

      4. Eugene proves zoning reform isn’t a panacea that will make housing affordable and solve homelessness. So let’s all stop lying to ourselves saying that’s all we have to do in the Seattle area to make meaningful change. Cam just said, a thousand other issues can pop up, like low vacancy rates and population increase, to completely negate the benefits of banning single family zoning.

      5. Just because a population is liberal doesn’t mean the city government is actually doing anything effective about homelessness.

        My understanding is Shoreline did the liberal thing and actually bough a hotel to house the homeless, rather than the tangle of non-profit religious groups and others that seem to generate a lot of expenses without helping that many people.

      6. “Eugene proves zoning reform isn’t a panacea that will make housing affordable and solve homelessness.”
        I don’t think anyone there is saying so, but it’s an important first step to addressing the problem. And it takes some time for said actions to have long-term effects and changes.

      7. “that’s all we have to do …” Is anyone really claiming that a silver bullet exists to solve homelessness?

        What I hear instead in council or board meetings is this: upzoning is just one tool among many, to help with housing affordability and homelessness. It’s crazy to argue that if one tool by itself does not work, to not bother using that tool, or to disregard using any tool. Am I understanding the argument correctly, that small improvements or partial solutions are not allowed, or that if positive outcomes are not apparent within a few short years, or if new confounding factors comes up, that it’s not worth the effort to try anything?

        Or, maybe the argument is with the use of the term “affordability” in initiatives/proposals, that since in absolute terms housing prices do not decrease, the effort is mislabeled? Even though upzoning would have likely helped with slowing down the increase in housing prices?

      8. Sam, Oregon abolished SFH zoning. The eastern part of the state asked to join Idaho but Portland objected. Westneat’s article on Sunday — from a true progressive — stated progressive Portland is beyond repair, and is a cautionary tale for the new Seattle Council, although I think it is too late. I can’t wait until the Seattle’s council begins to debate around $300 million in general fund budget cuts later this spring.

        Mike talks about “parasitic” cities like Medina despite the fact the greatest private charity benefactor Bill Gates lives there. How much has Mike donated to charity? Zero. The parasite, not the host, sucks the blood.

        All east King Co. wants is a divorce from west King Co. We don’t want what is happening in Seattle to migrate east, and we are tired of funding that progressive low work s$&t show. You can’t be a parasite if all you are asking for is a straight up divorce. West King Co. pays for its costs with its tax revenue, and east King Co. does the same. What is wrong with that if we are parasites.

        Just split the county and let us out. You can keep Balducci and Dow. Bellevue doesn’t think of its surrounding cities as parasitic. Where do you think its sales tax revenue comes from. The demise of downtown Seattle proves it was the parasite feeding on the Eastside transit slave work commuter. Was there any thing more humorous than downtown Seattle considering a congestion tax when no one is going there?

        Let us out of the tragedy west of the lake. Is that too much to ask for a parasite? WFH made it possible for us to leave and we are never going back. Just let us go if you think we are parasites. You fund your transit and we will fund ours, and you do your zoning and we will do ours.

        Why won’t you let us split the county or go to pure subarea equity on EVERYTHING? Especially is we are parasites?

      9. Zach, I do agree when you say … “And it takes some time for said actions to have long-term effects and changes.” However, I do believe some of stated benefits of zoning reform are greatly exaggerated. The best argument I can think for it on a local basis is unlocking the potential for TOD.

      10. “Eugene proves zoning reform isn’t a panacea that will make housing affordable and solve homelessness. So let’s all stop lying to ourselves saying that’s all we have to do in the Seattle area to make meaningful change.”

        Nothing is a panacea. To solve a problem like homelessness or housing-cost duress, you actually have to solve it. That means acquiring enough temporary and entry-level permanent housing to house all the homeless. if you only build a quarter of it, that’s not solving it, it’s just making a dent. If the number of homeless rises faster than the number of subsidized housing units, then you’re not even making a dent but falling behind. That doesn’t mean subsidized housing is wrong or useless, it just means you didn’t do enough of it.

        “Cam just said, a thousand other issues can pop up, like low vacancy rates and population increase, to completely negate the benefits of banning single family zoning.”

        LOW VACANCY RATES IS THE PROBLEM! When vacancy rates were 5-10% in the 80s I could look at an apartment, wait a few days or a week to decide, and then it was probably still available. When vacancy rates were 1-3% in the 2010s, people were snapping up apartments within an hour, renting it site unseen, and bidding up the price to get it. That can’t happen with higher vacancy rates because tenants will just choose another place a few blocks away at a lower price. But when the vacancy rate is low, there is no comparable apartment so it’s either that one or nothing.

        The same thing happens with owned homes; it’s called time-on-market (the length of time it takes for an average house to sell). Before 2008 it was six months, and there was a robust number of houses to choose from and people were more willing to sell. Then the time tightened to a week or a few weeks, and bidding wars shot up. It has loosened a bit but is still tighter than it was before 2008.

        It’s also not a single market, but multiple simultaneous ones. People who can’t afford higher-end units or the higher average don’t bother looking at them. People who can afford them may choose the higher-end units for luxury and views, or they may choose lower-end units to save money. So the low and middle end are tight even if the very top end can’t find a buyer/renter.

        You need larger villages, and missing-middle housing near the villages, to blunt the scarcity problem that causes prices to shoot upward so rapidly. That makes more areas convenient to live in, so people looking for a village unit or a missing-middle unit have more choices, and a larger percentage of the total housing is near frequent transit. That’s the same thing as saying that a larger percentage of the population is near frequent transit.

      11. Wasn’t Eugene recently voted the worst city on the west coast to live in?

        Eugene has the captive student and that is it. My nephew went to law school in Eugene and it really is dystopian, especially for a college town. Worse than even downtown Seattle in its nadir. .

        Good news is he graduated and joined the Marines.

      12. much is about the cost of dirt. rents and homelessness are positively correlated with the price of dirt. rents are lower in the rust belt. of course, economic opportunity is less there as well. homeownership can lead to generational wealth if the price of dirt goes up; less so in the rust belt.

      13. Eddie, Ross’s 2002 study says land is free in Seattle, and upzoning will make the cost of new housing the same as the construction cost whether it be Laurelhurst or RV.

      14. “Westneat’s article on Sunday — from a true progressive”

        Westneat is a suburbanist, like you and the Times editorial board.

        “Mike talks about “parasitic” cities like Medina despite the fact the greatest private charity benefactor Bill Gates lives there. How much has Mike donated to charity? Zero. The parasite, not the host, sucks the blood.”

        That sounds like something Sam would write. Private philanthropists don’t give enough to solve social problems or reach everybody in that situation. When they pick and choose recipients, some people get left out or can’t get through the application process, We need solutions that reach everybody and will solve the problem perpetually in the future, not something based on a philanthropist’s whim that’s here today, gone tomorrow. Philanthropists can do a lot of good, but we shouldn’t look at them as the only way to address housing or healthcare.

        “All east King Co. wants is a divorce from west King Co.”

        What an exaggeration.

        “We don’t want what is happening in Seattle to migrate east”

        How would it migrate east? If Eastside voters vote for progressive politicians like Seattle, they’ll get progressive politicians. If they don’t, they won’t. That’s how Bellevue went from being Republican in the 1980s to Democratic now.

        “Was there any thing more humorous than downtown Seattle considering a congestion tax when no one is going there?”

        It never seriously considered a congestion tax. Even I had doubts about it, because downtown Seattle is not as large as Manhattan or London, and it’s in the middle of a physically-constrained location. London gives you an entire city with tons of housing/job/errand/recreation options inside the perimeter, and excellent transit from outside to inside. A perimeter around downtown Seattle would be like a patch in a small area. And it’s physically constrained so there are few north-south roads, and people have to go through downtown whether they want to or not.

        As for no one going there, that was years after a congestion charge was discussed. And it’s not true either, because a lot of people are going there.

        “Let us out of the tragedy west of the lake.”

        Sam and I were discussing microcities like Medina and Beaux Arts, and you start going on about Seattle and the entire Eastside.

      15. Here’s an well-written LA Times article on Portland’s homelessness problem that I think some of you might like. The title is … “Portland not safe anymore”: Portland confronts the limits of its support for homeless services.

        Don’t let the title fool you. It’s not an anti-homeless article. But, it does bring up so many issues that’s causing homelessness that it makes one wonder how can Portland even begin to make a dent in the problem?


      16. What makes Medina and Beaux Arts parasitic is they have only houses, so they have to depend on larger cities for workplaces and shopping. Their maids can’t live there, so they have to live in other cities. Medina and Beaux Arts take no part in housing the Eastside’s low-income people or providing services; they force other cities to take the entire burden. Those are what make it parasitic.

        Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, and Renton are not parasitic because they have a large number of jobs, a full range of retail, and they have some support for the low-income population.

        I’d still say the suburbs depend on Seattle and the Eastside can’t replace it, even though Daniel thinks we can throw away the old city like a cast-off earlier-generation Walmart. That’s why South King County and Northshore and Issaquah should pay for all their ST Express service, even if in Bellevue/Redmond it’s more evenly two-way and a significant number of Seattlites work on the Eastside or go there for its attractions.

      17. Simply put, homelessness is a housing problem. Of course there are outliers, but the science is clear: There is a very strong, direct relationship between high housing costs and homelessness.

        The reasons for high housing costs are more complicated. Inertia has a lot to do with it. You can build your way out of the problem, but it may take a while. The places in the world with low housing prices and high demand (Germany and Japan, for example) have been building homes for years. Build, build, build. The number of homes goes up with the population, unlike in many U. S. cities where the population goes up faster than the number of places to live. In other words, they allow supply to go up with demand, while we don’t.

        A few American cities do things differently, but most have just started. The term “missing middle” housing comes from the fact that they were banned in places in most U. S. cities. That was the case in Eugene. The reforms you mentioned were passed last year. Last Year! The idea that it will suddenly turn around housing prices is silly — give it time. It also doesn’t go as far as some people want. The devil is in the details, as they say. Still, I would bet that prices in Eugene are cheaper in 20 years than they are now — they will certainly be cheaper than they would be without this legislation. But they won’t be like Japan or Germany.

        It’s like transit. You start looking at transit systems around the U. S. and start thinking they are all crap. That’s not entirely true. There are some good ones. But compared to the rest of the world, they are pretty crappy. A few good examples, but mostly crap. In contrast, Europe has mostly very good transit, and the occasional turd. So if you are trying to find great examples from the U. S. (for housing development or great transit) it is very challenging. Better to look around the world. Of course that usually leads to American exceptionalism (“that doesn’t count because that isn’t America” type thinking). I would say that cities in the U. S. are definitely trending in the right direction, it will just take them a while. I’m less optimistic about transit in this country (even Canada is doing a better job of catching up to the rest of the world).

        Alan Durning has written some very good articles looking at housing in the U. S. and around the world. Here are a handful of ones that largely address your original inquiry:


      18. I agree with Tacomee that builders can and are willing to build only so much new housing each year. That is like the diameter of a hose that restricts how much water (zoning capacity) in the reservoir can make it to development. It is nearly impossible to increase the diameter of the hose no matter how much you increase the resevoir.

        Current market conditions have depressed housing starts, and in the past large commercial and public projects have consumed much of the labor pool and materials (especially concrete). Things ebb and flow, although it is highly unlikely we will return to the perfect conditions from 2014 to 2021 for building housing in this area. If another one million residents do move to this area by 2050, even though we have the zoning capacity today, the reality is builders will never be able to build a fraction of the housing needed and so costs will only get higher. It isn’t a zoning issue. It is a housing issue. The area builders can only build so much housing each year.

        Housing costs are part cost of land, basic cost of construction (something Tacomee and Berine used to raise) depending on how high end the builder or property owner wants to go (which is a huge gap in $$$ per sf), part supply, part neighborhood, but mostly AMI. The same house will cost more in western WA than eastern WA.

        Inslee’s proposal to raise $4 billion for housing is not very much as Tacomee points out, and probably has less than 50/50 chance of passing in a statewide ballot.

        But if it does pass the place to use that money is in rural WA, not urban western WA.

        First, even if the land is free or already owned in parts of eastern WA the AMI does not cover the basic cost of construction without some kind of subsidy. So even free land results in no housing.

        Second, land prices are much lower so total housing prices are much lower.

        Third, labor and materials are lower, and there is not as much competition for builders from commercial and public projects, and high-end construction in western WA which of course builders prefer over any kind of “affordable housing” because the profit is higher. Whether 135 or Inslee’s measure, public housing construction in western WA has to compete with wealthy citizens wanting to build very expensive houses in very expensive neighborhoods, and commercial development.

        Fourth, permitting and building regulations are lower in eastern WA. Public housing is usually the lowest and most basic construction, but still is usually around 30% higher per sf than private construction.

        Fifth, if the $4 billion is targeted to eastern WA the measure probably has a better chance of passing.

        Sixth, my guess is builders are less busy and hungrier in eastern WA than western WA.

        It is true that western WA probably has more “unhoused” than eastern WA but $4 billion won’t go far anyway, and IMO would create more affordable housing in eastern WA compared to western WA.

      19. There are ideas to lower the cost of land. One is to tax land rather than real estate (land+buildings). Another is to tax parcels that are built much lower than their zoning capacity (this is to target old surface parking lots and one-story fast-food joints that sit for decades waiting for housing prices to rise to some high level). Another is land trusts, where an entity owns the land in perpetuity and the homeowner buys the house or right to build at a low price, and may only sell it at a similarly low price.

      20. I agree with Tacomee that builders can and are willing to build only so much new housing each year. That is like the diameter of a hose that restricts how much water (zoning capacity) in the reservoir can make it to development. It is nearly impossible to increase the diameter of the hose no matter how much you increase the reservoir.

        Yeah, maybe, but that just means they build more small apartments instead of big houses. Even now they build them that way. A lot of the new cookie-cutter McMansions have ADUs and DADUs. They are just building to the limits of the law. The law allows three units (one big, one small attached and one small unattached) instead of what they used to allow (one house). If the law allowed row houses they would those. Wait a second — that is exactly what build. Row houses block away from McMansions. All because of the zoning. We have zoning-based development all over the city. It is hard to find exceptions. Everyone builds to the limit of the law. That is the problem — the law is too limiting.

      21. “Yeah, maybe, but that just means they build more small apartments instead of big houses. Even now they build them that way. A lot of the new cookie-cutter McMansions have ADUs and DADUs. They are just building to the limits of the law. The law allows three units (one big, one small attached and one small unattached) instead of what they used to allow (one house). If the law allowed row houses they would those. Wait a second — that is exactly what build. Row houses block away from McMansions. All because of the zoning. We have zoning-based development all over the city. It is hard to find exceptions. Everyone builds to the limit of the law. That is the problem — the law is too limiting.”

        Eliminating “McMansions”, which are houses out of scale with lot area, simply requires changes to the regulatory zoning limits, namely yard setbacks, impervious surface limits, and gross floor area to lot area ratio (GFAR). We did it on MI in 2017, and now we have the smallest house to lot area ratios in the region and no more McMansions (because Ross is correct builders usually build to the limit). Seattle has some of the highest GFAR limits, in part because Seattle has a lot of small SFH lots but still wants a SFH to have a certain number of bedrooms (4), so the house can look out of scale.

        At the same time total GFA limits for a SFH lot usually count ADU’s and DADU’s in addition to the main house, otherwise you end up with the same issue of McMansions but with several dwelling units. Any residential lot in Seattle can have three separate dwelling units, and on MI two, a main house and DADU. But total GFA for all buildings must be the same as total GFA limits for a SFH only. That is the same in any of the current upzoning bills: the regulatory limits stay the same, including GFAR, as for a SFH. So you never get more total GFA allowed for a SFH lot by building more dwellings, often less because each must have its own kitchen etc.

        You can create more small units than a SFH for the same total GFA to lot area ratio but not more bedrooms, usually less, because each small unit must have its own kitchen etc.

        There are lots of different development in the region, based on zoning. SFH, row houses, duplexes, four plexes, seven over one, large multi-family, in areas like downtown Bellevue massive multi-family. One is not necessarily better than the other, and zoning excludes some of these uses in some areas because the residents think some are out of scale for the area.

        Builders choose among the many different forms based on profit, and what they are qualified to build. Areas like Capitol Hill have zoning limits on height and so does the CID, to prevent them from being commercialized and to prevent massive towers like in downtown Bellevue which the residents feel will destroy the “fabric” of the community. I don’t live there so don’t know if that is true, although I am sure there are developers who would be willing to build 66 story towers on Broadway, which would certainly increase the total amount of housing, even if it is not affordable.

        Some might want more small dwelling units. Urbanists who tend to live alone seem to like very small units, which are less expensive than a large unit or SFH but per sf expensive because each unit needs its own kitchen, bathroom and living area. Depending on how many live in a SFH it may be the most efficient use of GFA. For example, I raised a family of four in a 2800 sf SFH, which is 700 sf per person including mandatory garage.

        Any row house or smaller unit is going to be very expensive in a SFH zone because the regulatory limits based on lot area are the same as a SFH, so don’t expect any affordable new construction in these SFH zones. As I linked to in another post the lowest cost housing is a shared room in a SFH.

        Since the passage of the GMA in 1991 and formation of the PSRC regional planners have recommended building small and multi-family units in town centers and UGA’s near walkable transit and retail. The thinking is the lots are larger so scale better for developers, cities can provide affordable housing incentives with greater height and other regulatory limits not allowed in the SFH zones, this condenses retail and creates walkable retail density, it is easier to combine different sized units (not everyone lives alone), and tenants can more easily live without a car so parking minimums are usually lower. The current zoning bills allow cities to mandate parking minimums for four plexes and six plexes in the SFH zone, at least one covered parking stall per unit, so requiring four or six covered parking stalls on a SFH lot that are above ground because it is too expensive to bury them basically uses up the entire first floor.

        Upzoning the SFH zones to allow more units per lot but not more total GFA lot area ratio is a different approach, and one the PSRC specifically disfavored because it creates sprawl and more car use. Different approaches, I guess. Maybe if the available multi-family zoning was used up, but it isn’t even close.

        In the end builders are going to be able to build only so much total GFA for housing each year, whether we are talking micro units, studios, one-bedroom apartments, two, three, row houses, DADU’s, penthouses, or SFH. The only consideration is which is the most profitable for them considering there is tons of zoned capacity for all of these different housing sizes still unrealized. Choose the housing you prefer and build it, and if you are a planning agency like the PSRC make sure you understand the goals of the zoning. Right how the PSRC’s approach and bills to upzone the SFH zones seem opposite goals to me, but then the current bills to upzone the SFH zones have nothing to do with carbon, or affordable housing, and are progressive lawmakers paying back builders and realtors for campaign donations.

      22. “zoning excludes some of these uses in some areas because the residents think some are out of scale for the area”

        That’s part of the problem: it shouldn’t be the existing residents in one neighborhood that decide this, but everyone in the city or county.

        McMansions in general should be restricted to a few peripheral areas. Not southwest Kirkland for instance, which is between downtown Kirkland and downtown Bellevue and should have higher density.

      23. “zoning excludes some of these uses in some areas because the residents think some are out of scale for the area”

        “That’s part of the problem: it shouldn’t be the existing residents in one neighborhood that decide this, but everyone in the city or county.

        “McMansions in general should be restricted to a few peripheral areas. Not southwest Kirkland for instance, which is between downtown Kirkland and downtown Bellevue and should have higher density.”

        Mike, McMansions should be restricted in the SFH zone no matter what. They are contrary to the goals of a SFH zone, and easy to prevent as we did on MI. I guess I should ask you what do you consider a McMansion, which is determined by gross floor area to lot area ratios. Most multi-family developments have no yard setbacks, much greater height, no pervious surfaces, much greater GFAR, and much less vegetation. Talk about a McMansion.

        At the same time a four plex on a SFH lot should have the same regulatory limits as a SFH and prevent being a McMansion when all units are combined. Since each unit must have its own kitchen, bathroom and living area, and total lot GFA to lot area ratio is the same as a SFH, you end up with less actual housing (bedrooms) than in a SFH, just more dwellings. I am not sure many understand that in the current housing bills.

        What you are arguing for is allowing more dwellings per SFH lot, but not more total GFA to lot area ratio. If you or the local residents tend to live alone maybe that makes sense. Sometimes I wonder if everyone on this blog lives alone. I am 63 and have never lived alone, in my life. If you look at downtown Kirkland, which is the poster child for PSRC style planning, there isn’t a shortage of multi-family housing.

        Local residents are always going to have a say in their zoning. I don’t know why Capitol Hill doesn’t want downtown Bellevue style towers but they don’t. Should I be able to override that? Should I be able to tell Ballard they get surface Link so live with it? Or Bellevue style towers? Should I be able to tell the CID to accept higher than 14 stories although they believe that will turn the CID into downtown Bellevue? I don’t think so.

        Progressives have to stop telling everyone else what to do, which of course means what they want them to do, which naturally benefits the progressives telling us what to do. Find a place you like to live in a unit or house you like and can afford and let others do the same. That is my motto.

      24. McMansions in general should be restricted to a few peripheral areas.

        Maybe we stop telling other people what kinds of homes they should live in? We shouldn’t require large homes, or large yards. But if somebody is willing to buy and somebody is willing to build it for them, let them do so.

        Complaining that some other person has a house too large is the same interfering instinct as the neighbors who whine about apartments being too tall, or the duplex down the street. We should all care less about other peoples housing choices on their own property.

      25. I think height limits are reasonable. Density limits aren’t. Setbacks, parking requirements, huge minimum lot sizes, and a host of other requirements just don’t make sense for a city. Big lot sizes in the countryside? Sure. But in the city? Ridiculous. Skinny houses on small lots are a great way to build a middle class in a city like Seattle (along with three-story condos and apartments everywhere).

    2. I’d say another thing is governance. Portland and Twin Cities both have multi country government orgs that handle long-term planning in their metros. Probably the closest thing to how Europe does regionwide governance. This includes housing, park, bicycle, etc policies. It’s why both have been able to build density in their regions and combat affordability. Along with build somewhat affordable and desirable metros to live. Though both metros aren’t without controversy for the powers they have within said governance. Twin Cities Met Council has had repeated efforts to strip and dilute their powers because of discontent amongst suburban areas in the metro for their housing policy being much more progressive than some would like or wanting more autonomy given to cities and towns. There’s both pros and cons to such a model, but it’s also proven to be successful in some regard.

  12. “Here’s an well-written LA Times article on Portland’s homelessness..The title is … “Portland not safe anymore”…
    But, it does bring up so many issues that’s causing homelessness that it makes one wonder how can Portland even begin to make a dent in the problem?

    Sam, please, top-level threads for large new topics. Portland is a large enough topic to need its own thread since it might get several replies.

    I’ve long felt Portland’s homelessness, drug problems, and antifa-white power battles are more acute than Seattle’s. The most devastating homeless-and-drug sob story I heard was in Portland on West Burnside; it distressed me so much to decline to give them money that I called my friend I was staying with to cope with it, and she said, “I should have told you that area is like that.” In my days in the skinhead/ska/oi scene I heard and saw a lot of antifa-WP battles and demonstrations in Portland that didn’t happen nearly as much in Seattle. Portland was long more liberal, and is closer to Eugene and its anarchist colony and the Bay Area. That has positive effects like more bicycle lanes, several MAX lines, leveraging the small walkable downtown blocks, the popularity of Powell’s bookstore, etc, but it also means Portland can get more extreme in progressive excess, like San Francisco (although still not nearly as much).

    I haven’t been in Portland in the past five years, so I don’t know what this miles-long homeless strip really means or whether it’s really comparable to extending 3rd & Pine’s woes to Fremont.

    The general solution, as always, is housing for everyone, and services and jobs and education and mental-health support. How much homeless shelters and entry-level housing does Portland have? Why are so many people living on the street?

    Fentalyl and heroin is its own problem. People get addicted and want nothing but another hit. But the lack of housing and services makes people stressed and frustrated, and that weakens them and makes them more vulnerable to drugs.

    They may have “services” in the sense that neighbors leave food and staples out for them, but that doesn’t solve the problem of not having housing or stability, which would give them a baseline they can start from to meet their own needs and hold down a job. And if the neighbors have bought into the narrative that it’s better to give the homeless small coping mechanisms than housing, then that’s a problem in itself.

    1. Portland is currently dropping population, and if that can continue, it would be positive for the City. It was a complete mess last time I was there. Losing some people would be a good thing for housing market. No growth is the first step towards stability for the PNW.

      Portland, like much of the Nation, suffers from political ideology triumphing over fiscal reality. I think Left Coast Liberals look at high housing prices and overheated economies, ( often caused by Big Tech) and think…. More government is the solution! Enter I-135. I understand why some Seattle Liberals want the government to try to sort out the housing mess, but the shear size of the problem vs. total tax revenue mean it’s just not possible. As soon as Seattle’s population drops… housing will sort itself out. I-135 feels like a few teenagers trying to stop a rising tide with buckets.

      It’s the same with legalization/tolerance of drugs. In theory going soft on drugs is a kinder, gentler way of dealing with addiction. In reality it just doesn’t work that way. At some point Washington State and Oregon will re-criminalize dope and build a huge mental hospital– prison system for the thousands of drug users living on the streets. Just do the math…. Seattle could lock up homeless addicts way cheaper than providing them housing, “wrap-around” services and the endless merry-go-round of expensive drug treatment after replace and another round a treatment. Federal prison is just more cost effective.

      Not that I’m some Rightwing Liberal hater. The jackasses in Eastern Oregon who want join “greater Idaho” are even dumber about math. Tax money from the I-5 corridor pours into Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon…. and yet those clowns think they’re better off with cheapskate Idaho running the show?

      There are often no political solutions to economic problems.

      1. @tacomee,

        “Those clowns” in eastern Oregon will get nowhere with their Greater Idaho movement. Once it dawns on “those clowns” that by joining Idaho they will be giving up legal access to pot, the movement will die.

        And the problem with the “liberal” economies of the big cities is that they have been too successful. But I don’t think the solution to some of these problems that success has created is to adopt the policies of the less successful, more conservative cities and rural areas.

        And solving some of these problems might in fact take more government involvement. Because, as they say, “Government isn’t the problem, government is the solution.”

    2. “Portland is currently dropping population”

      Is it? Significant enough that residents can see it? Some people said Seattle lost population to the Eastside in the past two years, but it was never enough for people to see fewer people around.

      “I think Left Coast Liberals look at high housing prices and overheated economies, ( often caused by Big Tech) and think…. More government is the solution!”

      So what is the solution? I believe everybody should have access to housing regardless of their assets or ability to earn an $80K salary. And if we refuse to help them, the impacts harm everybody. And homelessness and cost-burdening is gradually moving up into the middle class as housing prices rise, and it’s not sustainable. And any of us could find ourselves in that situation in ten or twenty years if we lose a job and can’t find another or have a large medical expense or unusual situation or our landlord doubles the rent when all the surrounding units are high. Do you disagree with that? Or what other solution do you have?

      1. The actual news from actual news sources is that Multnomah County dropped in population by something like 2,500 people. This includes Portland, Gresham, Troutdale, rural areas all the way to Sandy, and farming areas like Sauvie’s Island.

        6 wealthy Republicans have left loudly. Basically, saying how miserable they were here after using their money to shovel city money into projects that benefited them with little outcome.

        One of the loudmouths has moved to Clackamas County. Their place got broken into and they said the police didn’t do much. I’m not sure what they expect the police in Clackamas County to do. My mother’s place there got broken into and it was much the same. The police can’t really do much with breakins.

      2. According to Danny Westneat in his Sunday column, “Why Portland Is Seattle’s Cautionary Tale”, a cover story in the “famed alternative paper” the Willamette Week titled, “They Left: Portland is losing Some of its Biggest Fans” noted Portland has lost 1% of its population since 2020, and 17,000 more people left the state of OR than moved in in 2022, costing Multnomah County around $400 million in lost taxable income since 2020.

        King Co. and Seattle have recently lost population. The key however is if that is a trend, because our regional planning, and factors like farebox recovery, are based on very large population growth, 1 million new residents by 2050 according to the Dept. of Commerce. That is almost 50,000 new residents a year just for this region since growth basically stopped since the estimates were originally issued at the end of 2018.

        If this region has a single year in which population growth is flat, or even declines, that means the next year would need to see 100,000 new residents move into the area to keep pace with the estimates, when 50,000/year seemed pretty optimistic when first estimated pre-pandemic.

        There are some good things from lower population growth, especially if a city or region has experienced very rapid growth in the recent past. For example, less pressure on housing supplies although the uncertainty tends to result in fewer housing starts. The downside however is the lost tax revenue from future population growth that is baked into the planning assumptions, and past spending decisions (and the projects — like Link and spine that maybe make sense if another 1 million residents do move into the area by 2050 — but are not financially viable if they don’t and total tax revenue continues to decline.

        2022 was the year the “new normal” was supposed to occur when it comes to population shifts and growth and commuting patterns (which affects tax allocation). 2023 is the year many expect future budgets for agencies and cities (and counties) and any budget deficits to become better understood going forward because we will have population growth data for 2022 (and part of 2023), will better understand total tax revenue without Covid stimulus, and will better understood how tax revenue has been reallocated in the region (e.g. from downtown Seattle to the east).

        With the decline of commercial development, and REET taxes, cities like Seattle AND Bellevue which have made assumptions on massive amounts of new development and growth (in some cases at the expensive of Seattle) are going to have painful budget deficits to balance in 2023. The last several years have been a gusher of money for these two urban areas but that looks like it has paused, and likely will be much less long term although budgets must balance.

        It isn’t really balancing 2023’s budget although that will be a wakeup call and is why I think so many Seattle Council Members are bailing. It is balancing budgets in 2024, 2025, and 2026, etc. when currently budget deficits are expected to increase each year because tax revenue will much less than originally baked into the spending policies that will continue to grow in cost, and population gains much lower than expected.

        We really won’t know the real “new normal” until around 2024 because the cities will have a much better understanding of future budget cuts, tax increases, where the tax revenue has been reallocated, and whether much lower population growth than estimated is long term.

    3. “More government is the solution! ”
      I mean, to address homeless and poverty problem would require some level of more government. Universal healthcare, better housing assistance programs, tax reforms, etc. It’s all needed. You can’t really fix the problem without stable safety nets in place to catch people and prevent then from falling through the cracks.

      1. @Zach,

        I would actually be more in favor of this initiative if it included a reorganization of the current homeless response that brought more of that effort back under the government itself. Because sometimes the government actually is more effective than the private sector.

        Because the current system has become nothing more than a homeless industrial complex that is highly ineffective, except at paying salaries at the 50+++ non-profits that, you know, don’t actually make a “profit”.

        And couldn’t we try this model just once before committing to it whole hog? Just give it a try and see if it works? And then decide if it is the path forward?

      2. I’m actually a pretty Liberal guy and I do think government can play a roll in many quality of life issues. But I’m also aware of the limitations.

        So Governor Inslee is ready to use 4 billion in State debt to finance housing all over the State. This money is sorely needed and I’m glad he’s making the commitment. But just using the raw Zillow numbers, 4 billion worth of residential real estate will be bought and sold in King Country in just a couple of months this Summer. I don’t think most I-135 supporters realize just how big the real estate market is and how nobody, not even the Federal Government, is really in control of it . Public housing is sort of like trying to turn the Titanic with a canoe paddle.

        That 4 billion the Gov is bonding won’t cook down to 2,500 new units in Seattle. According to the KCRHA (King County Regional Homeless Authority) there are something 50,000 people on the verge of homelessness in the County and the bare minimum budget they need to combat this (building zero housing…. just emergency shelters and services…. something like 11 billion over 5 years.

        The gap between the problem and money on hand is hard to get a handle on.

    4. Portland has a lot going for it. I feel like there is less wealth stratification than Seattle (it doesn’t have the big booms and busts like we have) but there is more political stratification. Racism was always a bigger problem. The radicals (left and right) were always more radical — more prone to violence. That might not be fair — I can’t back that up with a lot of evidence (even finding a few examples will take a while) but that has always been my impression. But again, Portland has a lot going for it. The vast majority of the city doesn’t live in that world. It is just that it gets victimized by the extremes — or hurt by its racial history — more than Seattle.

      I would like to here from Portland folks if they think I am way off. The guy I knew who used to live there passed away.

      As far as Portland shrinking, I see little evidence for that. It has grown quite a bit the last couple decades. The only downturn seems tied to the pandemic. Those numbers are meaningless. Wait five years.

      1. Portland is currently losing residents…. not in droves, not enough to worry about, but the insane growth of the last 20 years has stopped. It’s a good time for the City to catch its breath.

        I suspect both Seattle and Portland will grow at much, much slower rate in the next decade. Tech isn’t the job engine it once was and tech jobs are spreading out to other locations. There’s still a big pool of folks in Cali who would like to move North, so I don’t see a big drop in housing prices. Some of the construction industry is currently moving on to greener pastures, so the number of units to be built will fall off in the PNW.

        I think Seattle is changing from a supercharged tech hub to more of a city for folks who have money…. with no children. Zoning changes happen only when “the money” demands it. I certainly see houses getting tore down and that “missing middle”, those four plex buildings urban planners are all hot for now, being built… but only as infill for rich people who can afford a lux condo in a very cool city. Maybe a few thousand units a year at the most? The absolute crazy growth of the last 20 years can’t happen because the housing costs vs. income ratio is so whacked out.

  13. By the way, Glenn, what really happened in Portland in 2020 after the George Floyd murder? It sounded from the media like there was a huge demonstration for months, larger and longer than in Seattle, and several antifa-WP skirmishes the Proud Boys were involved in. But I know that media reports about Seattle were often exaggerated and misleading (the “Dying in Seattle” movie was part of that if I remember), so I don’t know how accurate a picture I got of Portland.

    1. I was a long time math tutor in Tacoma public schools (Go Abes!!!) and I spread my “you gotta buy a house” gospel to any student or teacher who’d listen. One thing I found is that many kids who grew up in Public Housing understood right away why home ownership so important. Non-White kids in general took a more keen interest in home ownership. I’d just look them right in the eye and say… “Don’t let Whitey control where you live”. Nobody living in Salishan project seems all that keen to live there. In my perfect world every family there would somehow find a way to buy their own home. I have nothing but love for my Lincoln District Homies!

      Letting college graduates making a 100k a year qualify for public housing (social housing is such a bullshit sales pitch) just smells like pure uncut White Privilege to me. With that sort of cash and education, I’d expect people to find their own way in this world and leave the public housing resources for the poor folks who actually need them.

  14. About vacancy rates: How much does the vacation home rental market (Airbnb, Vrbo) play into this? And is there any truth to the internet rumor that investment companies are buying up units and letting them sit vacant to drive up housing prices?

    1. About vacancy rates: How much does the vacation home rental market (Airbnb, Vrbo) play into this? And is there any truth to the internet rumor that investment companies are buying up units and letting them sit vacant to drive up housing prices?

      Airbnb definitely takes some of the rental stock and slides essentially into the hotel/motel market. Of course, we are seeing some the motel market sliding into the apartment stock, as they are used as temporary housing.

      I’m not sure about investment companies, but some of the bigger rental companies are using the same algorithmic software to determine how much they should charge for rent to maximize their profit margins. That software has been recommending that they leave a higher percentage of units vacant than had been the rule of thumb prior to the broad use of that software. It’s the subject of a lawsuit alleging monopolistic practices (price fixing) because they are looking at what other landlords are charging in determining the recommended rents in their algorithm.

      1. Seattle passed legislation limiting the number of Airbnb units an individual or LLC can own to two, although it exempted one large Airbnb operator to avoid litigation. At the same time Airbnb units create a lot of tax revenue, and often provide visitors with more affordable places to visit. Some places like MI simply prohibit any rental less than 30 days, although Islanders still operate Airbnb units.

        I have heard many large Seattle landlords have units sitting empty. Some of that was because they were trashed during the pandemic by tenants who paid no rent but could not be evicted and the cost and time to fix them up is taking longer than expected. Landlords also learned not leasing a unit is sometimes much better than leasing to the wrong tenant, especially during endless eviction moratoria, and Seattle’s regulations make it very difficult to perform a background check for prospective tenants, and it is very, very hard to evict a bad tenant. The reality is new tenants are going to end up paying for the damage by previous tenants through increased rents.

        I previously posted about a lawsuit by the state AG. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2022/10/company-that-makes-rent-setting-software-for-landlords-sued-for-collusion/ The software does not advise landlords to keep units open as far as I know but does collect data from many landlords to determine the best and highest rent a landlord can ask.

    2. Airbnb certainly plays a role by taking units off the market. Empty units is harder tell because you can’t tell they’re empty unless it’s obvious through the window. World cities like Vancouver, New York, and London have foreign tycoons buying properties to park their money in a country with rule of law, with no intention of living in it. It’s unclear whether this is happening in Seattle much. I haven’t heard of US real-estate investors purposely buying units to keep them empty to raise the price on their other units. Owners sometimes leave individual units empty to wait for somebody paying a high price; this has been a problem with storefronts on the Ave. In the 2008 recession companies like Berkeshire Hathaway bought up single-family houses and turned them into high-priced rentals. That squeezes people who want to buy a house, so they remain in a rental, displacing another renter and driving rents up.

      Cities have taken action by limiting the number of airbnb’s one person can own. Canada and Vancouver have taken action against foreign deadbeats by taxing empty units or restricting non-residents from buying property. Apparently those are unconstitutional in Washington and the US due to taxing property unequally. So we may have shot ourselves in the foot with provisions written in the 1800s for a rural society that never imagined housing prices as high we have now.

      1. That is a real problem I have raised on this blog before Glenn. Congress when controlled by the Democrats said it would look into this, especially giving these large investment firms tax advantages normally allowed to individual home purchasers (most of these are SFH). Biden wants to increase the new tax on corporations buying back their own stock. Why not look at taxes that limit the number of homes any one company can own, and lower any tax advantages if they own more than a certain amount of homes.

        Some hoped a downturn in the market would lead these firms to begin selling their housing inventory, but I don’t know if that has happened. The market is still very hot for SFH depending on mortgage rates. A SFH is still the American Dream in most of America.

      2. It was a downturn when they started buying them to get a bargain, so I don’t know how much of a loss it would take to get them to sell them.

      3. “Washington state invests $13 billion of state pension funds into BlackRock, according to the Consumers’ Research notice, followed by Florida with $10 billion.” The article says our state leads the nation in most pension dollars invested in BlackRock. Oops. Looks like we are complicit in pricing Americans out of the market. Google the quote if you want the source.

    3. Investment companies buying up units is pretty much a myth. There is some private equity activity, mostly in the build-to-rent space. The single family home part of that has generated media stories, but it’s single-digit billions of dollars in a more than $40 trillion housing sector. Not even close to a rounding error.

      Nobody is letting units sit vacant to drive up housing prices. Housing markets are far too competitive for that to ever make sense. Leaving apartments vacant is a sure-fire way to lose money.

      AirBNB probably has some short term effect. If we were smarter about building, it would just represent more demand and we would build more and the price would reset to cost. Because we’re not smarter about building, they do take some units off the market, but it’s not many except in some very specific places (think near the beach).

      The apartment owners colluding via price-fixing software is probably BS too. There is a software program that some owners use to figure prices. It seems to be better at optimizing prices than individual managers making it up as they go along. In particular, it’s less risk-averse about waiting for another prospective tenant to come along. The software does know what some neighbors prices are, but that’s weak sauce evidence of collusion. All sorts of businesses pay attention to their competitor prices all the time. There is a lawsuit, but they’re rather transparently trolling for an out-of-court settlement where they won’t have to argue the facts which are unlikely to support them.

      AirBNB, like hedge funds buying houses, like vacant apartments, like the mythical Chinese investors of a few years ago, are all somewhere between false and a nothingburger. NIMBYs love all these stories. They feed a narrative that we don’t need to build more. We just need to redistribute the existing stock from the “wrong” people to the “right” people.

      1. The evidence for collusion is compelling, but I’ll let others decide for themselves.


        “In one neighborhood in Seattle, ProPublica found, 70% of apartments were overseen by just 10 property managers, every single one of which used pricing software sold by RealPage.

        To arrive at a recommended rent, the software deploys an algorithm — a set of mathematical rules — to analyze a trove of data RealPage gathers from clients, including private information on what nearby competitors charge.

        For tenants, the system upends the practice of negotiating with apartment building staff. RealPage discourages bargaining with renters and has even recommended that landlords in some cases accept a lower occupancy rate in order to raise rents and make more money.”

      2. None of that is evidence of collusion. It shows only that managers pay attention to what competitors are charging (actually, a subset). All sorts of businesses do that all the time.

        To show collusion, you further need to show the software is configured to come up with a coordinated cartel price. And you’d really need to explain why nobody cheats on the cartel – cartels are rare in the real world because cheating on a cartel is more profitable. Propublica had none of that, just a bunch of insinuations.

      3. “…you further need to show the software is configured to come up with a coordinated cartel price.”

        That sounds like exactly what it is doing. But you would have to dig into the algorithm to know for sure. We shall see.

        I was actually working for an insurance data clearing house company and doing exactly this. “Recommended” pricing to all the commercial insurers in the country. I was writing the programs, so I can guarantee you it was collusion. They are still doing it, btw.

      4. What’s really going on, beyond the software sales guy fluffery, is that apartment managers suck at haggling.

        They’d rather give a discount to a pushy customer than price consistently for everybody and risk a customer walking away. The software circumvents that.

      5. The difference is that the insurance companies bought legislators back in 1945 (McCarren Furguson Act) and passed a law the basically legalized collusion. So no lawsuits.

        I don’t think the property managers have such protections.

      6. Of course the best way to break up a cartel is …. competition. The only reason the cartel even exists is because of zoning. There is some evidence that larger buildings have higher prices and leave more units vacant. Not a huge number, but more than a small building. That’s because a large building can afford to have one out of a hundred units sit vacant if they can charge more for the other units. In contrast, you can’t do that if you are managing a small apartment building (say, eight units). This is why missing middle apartments are so important, and banning them was a big part of the housing crisis. It is not only that they are often the cheapest to build, but they are cheapest to rent, too.

        But I agree with your overall point, Dan. The effects of collusion or similar acts has a very minor influence on rent, and feeds into the whole “greedy landlord” idea. Again, the best way to deal with a greedy landlord is with competition.

      7. The whole point of a cartel is to limit or eliminate competition. If even the little guys see no choice but to join the cartel to survive, that’s what they will do. What’s really needed is muscular regulatory enforcement.

    4. How much does the vacation home rental market (Airbnb, Vrbo) play into this?

      A very small percentage of homes in this city are currently used as short-term rentals. A site called “Inside Airbnb” counts 5,225 “entire home” Airbnb listings in Seattle. That represents about 1.5% of the homes in the city. Removing those homes from the long-term rental market certainly has an effect on the supply/demand price curve, but because the number is such a small fraction the effect on prices is also likely small. For reference, there has been an average of 6,884 homes built per year in this city since 2006, so all the Airbnbs in the city don’t even represent a typical year’s worth of new construction.

      And is there any truth to the internet rumor that investment companies are buying up units and letting them sit vacant to drive up housing prices?

      Honestly this rumor doesn’t make any sense to me. The logic goes like:
      1) Buy an asset with high up-front costs and high annual holding costs (property taxes, maintenance, insurance, etc.).
      2) Decide not to collect any revenue from that asset.
      3) ???
      4) Profit.

      What’s step 3?

      Suppose you manage a 100-unit apartment complex. If you decide to purposely keep 10 of those apartments empty that’s going to have a negligible effect on the price of rent at a city level or even a neighborhood level. What it will do is cut your building revenue by 10%. Who wants to do that?

      Now what if it’s not just one building? What if everyone colluded to keep 10% of their units empty? Sure, that would have an effect on the price of rent. Why would any landlord participate in this cartel though? You can charge just as much for an apartment whether you participate or not, and again you make more money trying to rent all of your apartments than if you try to rent just 90% of them.

  15. Community Transit’s final draft of their restructure is out for comment:


    No surprise that all commuter routes will terminate at Lynnwood Station. Other noteworthy mentions:

    Lynnwood HS will FINALLY get bus service
    Mill Creek riders gain more access to SR527 and UW-Bothell
    Hwy 2 corridor goes from 60 min to 30 min frequency

    Otherwise CT didn’t think too much outside the box, which resulted in some lackluster changes.

    1. Thanks. The routes look good to me, although I’ve never lived in Snohomish so I have a limited understanding of people’s trips. I’m glad some streets have several routes, like 164th, UW Bothell, etc. That could potentially increase the frequency, if they’re timed evenly. Some streets seem arbitrary; e.g., the 103 on 35th/36th, the 130 on 100th, the 114 on 84th. Do these streets have more travel demand than surrounding streets, or more multifamily buildings? Or did CT simply choose a street because it had to put a route somewhere?

      The biggest thing I wish CT had was more service hours for 15-minute weekday frequency and 30-minute weekend frequency.

      1. I mostly followed the individual route descriptions and maps in the bottom section. I’m glad they have that like Metro did this round. It may not be much different from the previous proposal: I imagine the needs and stakeholders are mostly known. CT currently does a good job of anchoring routes at transit centers on both ends and the buses are pretty fast, so it didn’t have to do much in that regard. The main problem is frequency. I always expected the peak expresses would be truncated at Lynnwood rather than deleted, so I don’t think it’s politically feasible to pull hours from there.

        One interesting route is the 908, a peak express from Snohomish and Monroe to 405 and Bellevue. That at least gets more service into Monroe and begins to address Monroe-Bothell service. It overlaps with Stride 2 so that might help with peak capacity. (Or conversely, it might be seen as a waste of hours south of Bothell.) It may address Woodinville-Bellevue, although since that’s not CT’s concern it may not stop in Woodinville. ST was going to have a Woodinville-Bellevue peak express to mitigate not extending Stride 3 to Woodinville; I assume that’s still on. If it stops at 85th that would help Snohomish-Google commuters.

  16. Let’s take a deep dive here and brainstorm some actual solutions that might work for more affordable housing instead of more of the same.

    What if Jay Inslee came up with a plan to build 25,000 units in trailer parks for low income seniors, spread out in the poorest areas of the State? That might cost under 200k a unit… out the door? Using State land, maybe even way less.

    Any senior who would buy a mobile home with cash could live in a park rent free… as long as the trailer stayed after their death (to be refurbished for another low income senior moving in).

    There could be a local/State partnership to build and beef up small town libraries and senior centers….with free shuttle bus service.

    1. Seniors like to be near the best medical care and hospitals. That is not in rural areas. They also place personal safety very high, and probably would not feel safe in a remote area with only other seniors. Plus seniors like to be near their children and grandchildren if they have them, and their kids usually have jobs and don’t live in rural areas. Population density in “rural” areas is low for a reason. Not much to do.

      Like all housing, building new construction for affordable housing is the most expensive per sf., especially if the tenant plans to live alone with their own kitchen, bathroom and living area. With low-income seniors the issue is there is little to no hope of them reestablishing some kind of earning capacity to help pay rent, so they will need the subsidized unit until they die, and will never move onto subsidized private housing with them paying partial rent or non-subsidized housing. Very expensive.

      I always liked using housing vouchers to leverage existing private rental housing, but landlords are suspicious of tenants with vouchers, in part because Seattle makes it so hard to vet a tenant, and a tenant with a voucher raises suspicions. Maybe if the city or housing agency did the background check and provided it private vouchers would have more acceptance.

      The most affordable housing are rooms for rent in a SFH house. https://www.roomies.com/rooms/seattle-wa The problem is you don’t know who your roommates are, except you know they have to live with strangers in a house too. Congregate housing is how society provided affordable housing in the past because many of the most expensive amenities like a kitchen are shared. I think if the affordable housing groups could create a meet and greet and allow folks to meet one another and choose their roommates and then rent the rooms together this kind of affordable housing would be more popular.

      1. Well, once upon a time Seattle was surrounded by low rent trailer parks… when they all got redeveloped…. that’s when the homeless started really getting bad…..

        Rural healthcare is actually pretty good. It’s already full of seniors adding more isn’t that big of a problem. Harborview is the worst healthcare in Washington State.

        Mobile homes are the cheapest housing out there. Look at the poorest States and you find lots and lots of mobiles. Slam these babies out behind some small town and be done with it. These are pretty damn nice. https://www.claytonhomes.com/studio/manufactured-homes-under-100K/

      2. Poor people used to live in SRO hotels on 1st and 2nd Avenues and in the Summit area. They were closed in the 1970s for fire reasons and there was no replacement, and zoning was tightened to prohibit new ones. That’s when that’s when homeless started appearing on Seattle streets, although they didn’t get numerous until the mid 80s. When I was in school I thought of homelessness as a “New York City problem” because that’s where it mostly was. But then it increased there.

        There were and are some suburban trailer parks, but not a lot of them. In the 60s and 70s Seattle had 90% of the county’s population, and Snohomish and Pierce Counties’ population were negligible and separate job markets, except for Boeing workers who drove to all the plants and were transferred willy-nilly regardless of where they lived.

        In the 2000s apodments became an updated version of SROs. They used a loophole in the zoning that treated them as single-family houses if they had up to 8 units.
        They typically have a shared kitchen and bathrooms, with a small fridge and microwave in the room, from what I read. Then the city updated the zoning to close the loophole, and allowed them to some extent in multifamily areas, but then it limited the minimum studio size to outlaw microstudios and apodments, and I think that’s where it’s at now.I still see recent apodments in multifamily areas, so maybe they’re allowed to some extent.

    2. There are also tiny houses that can be put on any vacant space. Local manufacturers have prefabbed designs ready to go. The difference from a mobile home I’m thinking is it’s made of wood rather than metal. Seattle started on tiny homeless houses, then stalled in the permitting, so unused houses stacked up and got sold to Tukwila and Spanaway. In Seattle there’s the issue of one-story buildings taking a lot of land to house a few people. In smaller cities with more underused land that’s less of an issue.

      The poorest areas of the state are in rural counties with only small towns. The highest-population ones are Lewis (Centralia), Yakima, and Whitman (Pullman/WSU). My friend in north Lynnwood’s sister lives in Longview (Cowlitz County), in an area with no transit and she doesn’t drive. She works from home I think (in a low-paying job) but it severely limits the errands she can do. She said it has a lot of drug addicts and social problems; I don’t remember if she mentioned tents. She said Mt Vernon also had a lot of drug addicts and social problems when the lived there earlier.

      I have imagined offering groups of homeless that refuse services a rural piece of land to form a hippie commune and govern themselves.

      1. Today’s mobile homes are basic ramblers built in a factory… better spec’s than homes built in the 1960’s. A truck just drops them on the foundation and “bam” there’s your house.

        There’s a big push in Oregon for “timber frame” housing or something like that… but my buddy who builds it says it’s mobile homes built with more CNC robots. It is the future, like it or not

      2. Longview has transit it shares with Kelso. There’s even service to Castle Rock, and a non-profit offers four van round-trips a day to 99th Street TC in Vancouver for $2 per ride. Cowlitz County has its problems, but it’s not a hell-hole.

    3. “Population density in rural areas is low for a reason. Not much to do.”

      And not many jobs, especially those that pay above minimum wage. Also, many rural areas don’t have enough water to sustain a large population; that’s true of the deserts in Eastern Washington and the western Midwest/Rockies. And large areas are zoned rural because we need food, carbon-sucking trees, and a complete ecosystem for humanity to thrive.

      1. Eastern Washington has irrigation projects that use huge amounts of water. Cutting back a little with more Waterwise irrigation leaves plenty of water for growth, as long as there’s no #@%^$# lawns involved. With good landscaping, a trailer park might be even better for the environment than what’s there now.

        Eastern Washington is full of immigrants who gladly will take care of old people… they already pick all the apples and other crops. Toss in a few more mobiles for the workforce! Rural clinics and hospitals would love more seniors (and their Medicare).

        Poor towns actually need the social security money projects like this could bring in. If I’m spending State money for housing, I want the biggest bang for my buck.

    4. tacomee, I don’t think this is the place to come for original, fresh, outside-of-the-box ideas. And, if you offer any yourself, they’ll be quickly shot down.

      1. My above comment was a bit unfair. I made a blanket statement, but there are often exceptions, of course.

    5. Perhaps a good solution to provide affordable housing outside of Seattle metro, but doesn’t scale for large cities. But for anything from a Port Angeles to a Yakima, it’s a solid idea and is how the market provided naturally affordable housing in the 20th Century.

      Need not be trailers per se. Manufactured homes are of much better quality these days and can scale well, in a footprint comparable to a mobile home park.

      1. Yeah, I use the trailer term a bit loosely…. these would be 900 sq ft 2 bedroom ramblers… manufactured elsewhere and dropped on a foundation on site. Top end housing for low income folks, stuff you wouldn’t mind living in if you had to.

        An old friend who was a social worker in Tacoma for decades used to have a list of bottom end apartments in Aberdeen and Yakima. Because the waiting list for low income housing was over 10 years, (at that time.. I’m sure it’s longer now) he did his best to find someplace for people to live. Lots of seniors just moved out of Tacoma with a little help…

        I’m not about to force anybody to live someplace, but I’d guess if nice affordable senior housing was available anywhere in the State…. people would move to fill it. Seattle would might have addition though subtraction with a deal like this.

      2. People moving out of an expensive metro to a more affordable city/town is the primary reason Las Vegas, Phoenix, and most of Florida have been developed. Particularly when someone is permanently out of the labor force, there is no need to be connected to an employment center, they just need access to a community & services. Literally tens of millions of high and medium wealth households make this choice. Helping low income folks make this move with dignity makes good sense.

      3. I’m confused as to the problem you are trying to solve here. You are trying to entice lower-income retirees to leave Seattle? By building stuff on cheap land in the middle of nowhere?

        As long as you understand that this has nothing to do with people experiencing homeless, the vast majority of which are younger than retirement age, around half are currently working, and many of the other half likely would like to work, if they were able to get a roof over their heads and perhaps some help with their mental and behavioral health issues.

      4. You are correct, Cam, reducing demand for housing in Seattle by enticing those who could live elsewhere to do so surely will do nothing to reduce homelessness. The only thing that could possibly do so is changing zoning so that eventually, years from now, housing supply might increase.

        Am I understanding your point correctly? If not, can you please clarify?

      5. “You are correct, Cam, reducing demand for housing in Seattle by enticing those who could live elsewhere to do so surely will do nothing to reduce homelessness. The only thing that could possibly do so is changing zoning so that eventually, years from now, housing supply might increase. Am I understanding your point correctly? If not, can you please clarify?”

        You have to separate affordable and supportive housing. The homeless mostly need supportive housing. They have no residual wage-earning capacity unless rehabilitated. They often have PTSD and anti-social issues just from living on the street. People leaving and selling expensive housing in this region will not help the homeless.

        Increasing HOUSING supply should or could decrease or stabilize rent prices, although most own in the region, depending on actual future population growth. But as Annonymouse notes, builders can and will build only so much, depending on market conditions, and new construction is the most expensive per sf, and more often than not replaces older less expensive housing (although the number of units might increase).

        The reality is the zoning capacity already exists. Seattle recently went through a massive zoning increase. So has Bellevue and Tacoma.
        Increasing zoning capacity won’t increase the amount of actual HOUSING builders will and can build, and of course profit is a major driving force on the kind of housing builders will build when they can build only so much. It will only give builders more areas to build housing, so the question becomes whether focusing new housing through zoning (because in its essence zoning determines where housing is built by determining where it can’t be built or increased) is good regional policy, or whether any zoning is good regional policy.

        The one issue I wish more would focus on, rather than crazy claims by builders and realtors that we will need another one million homes by 2050, or the DOC’s inflated population estimates, is how divergent the PSRC’s TOD approach to future housing and zoning is from current bills to upzone the SFH zones. I wonder why PSRC members have been so quiet having spent several years drafting the 2050 Vision Statement.

        If a builder can build two or four or six houses on a large undeveloped lot in SE King Co. instead of one that is where the construction will go because the builder does not have to pay for a house it has to demolish, land prices are cheaper, and the lots larger because prior zoning policy wanted larger lots in these areas. Really, HB1110 and the bill to allow any property owner to subdivide their property and eliminate minimum lot sizes should be titled the great SFH subdivision plan, which is why environmentalists like Futurewise are opposed.

        Then when you see the recent amendments to HB 1110 that eliminate ANY requirement that the housing under the bills be affordable (which is spooking progressive legislators) you really have to wonder what is the real goal of the two major sponsors, the Master Builders Assoc. and the realtor groups, which anyone should already know.

    6. Land is more expensive near where transit, amenities and services are.

      Those struggling to stay housed need to be where transit, amenities and services are. Owning a car is sometimes more expensive than rent. We can’t drop folks struggling to make rent where they need a car. That’s absurd.

      If we take Inslee’s 4 billion and spend it on SRO housing on up to larger apartments for struggling families, that would be close to solving the scale of the problem. 200 to 400 sq ft SROs in 3-6 story, densely built areas both in Seattle and in transit rich cities and suburbs around King, SnoCo and Pierce for individuals, with shared bath and kitchen could likely be built more cheaply than dropping 40 thousand trailers on farmland in, say, Prosser, and having to create transit, amenities and services from scratch.

      No you can just shove our problem off on Eastern Washington. Most of those struggling with housing are from here. You can’t just make them leave their city, friends and family and support structure just because you think it’s easier to push them over the mountains, out of sight and out of mind.

      They are our neighbors. We need to find a place for them to live. Here.

      1. Woah… 40 thousand trailers in Prosser? That’s a lot. How about 2 thousand to start and we’ll see how it goes. ;) First off, I love Prosser… and Sunnyside and Zillah… and I absolutely wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to those towns. Adding senior housing might turn out to be a big bonus.

        I’m not sure what a manufactured 900 sq ft home would cost to set up… 200K? maybe even less on State land… or a State land swap of some kind? Low income housing currently costs 400K +++ in Seattle. So we could get twice as many units (at least) for the same cost. Prosser also needs low income housing, so this could serve the whole State and just not greater Seattle.

        Also there’s not much “structure” for low income people in Seattle currently. Healthcare is a completely overwhelmed mess, the food banks are crowded, and street crime is off the hook. If I’m 75, I’d take my chances in some slow po’dunk town over the “big city” any day. Small town healthcare is often surprisingly good and senior housing? That’s Medicare money baby!

        Transit? having a bus drive around Prosser/Sunnyside is way cheaper…. by millions… than anything Sound Transit has.

        The kicker is there’s immigrant workers who’d like to take care of seniors. Seattle is pretty high end and techie…. not many caregivers there anymore.

      2. Sorry. I thought we were trying to solve the homeless problem, not waste 4 billion of tax payer money trying and failing to complete with private long term care facilities.

  17. https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/cid-further-studies-memo.pdf

    Page 18.
    “Use existing Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel:
    • Not consistent with ST3 plan, which proposed a second tunnel to accommodate future service levels and system expansions across the region
    • Existing DSTT is unable to accommodate future service levels and would require additional tunnel ventilation and platform capacity to meet fire, life, and safety requirements”

    The 2nd tunnel is to accommodate future service levels, AKA the demand will exceed what a single tunnel will provide.

    Interestingly, “Judkins Park to First Hill” was not rejected on the same grounds, but as simply out of scope.

    1. “Not consistent with ST3 plan, which proposed a second tunnel to accommodate future service levels and system expansions across the region”.

      Consistency or otherwise with the ST3 plan has been so selectively applied that it really doesn’t mean anything more than “we don’t want to do it”. A few blocks deviation to skip First Hill was inconsistent with the plan. Throwing away all the Southwest Everett/Paine Fields stations to proceed directly to Everett Station wasn’t inconsistent.

      1. Agree completely. You can’t say “that is not consistent with the plan” and then go ahead and study something that is more inconsistent, like removing stations. That is, well, inconsistent.

        Seriously though, imagine the dust settles and the Ballard Station is at 14th (deep underground, with no entrances on the west side of 15th), the Interbay Station has been shifted a mile south of Dravus, there is no Avalon Station or Smith Cove Station, and the main line (coming from Rainier Valley) now skips CID. This all quite possible. All of these options are being considered.

        Yet somehow interlining — which would likely result in the best possible transit experience for a majority of riders (if not all of them) — can’t possibly be studied, because it is “inconsistent with the ST3 plan”? Sorry but that is complete bullsh**.

      2. The above report was prepared by HNTB. This is what happens if you rely on contractors, of course they focus on keeping their project budget intact.
        I heard that current fire-safety certification does not allow for much shorter headways than 3 minutes for ventilation reasons. I suppose additional ventilation and signaling updates would still be much cheaper and less disruptive than a 2nd tunnel.

      3. It’s exceptionally difficult to see how it would be more expensive, even if it involved adding ventilation shafts. It should be a whole lot cheaper than adding those same shafts with elevators, escalators, platforms, etc.

    2. Yes. Note that Sound Move, 1996, was not implemented; it faced severe fiscal issues. The ST board by two-thirds votes made significant changes; Link stations at NE 45th Street, First Hill, South Graham Street, and BAR were not implemented (NE 45th Street was funded by ST2; South Graham Street and BAR may be funded by ST3). A two-way all-day busway was not implemented on the I-90 bridge; a center access project was not implemented at NE 85th Street on I-405. (ST3 may fund the NE 85th Street project; ST2 has funded East Link). North Sounder was not two-way; it only provides four one-way peak-only trips. Today, ST3 may face similar fiscal and practical issues. Some projects have been delayed. To date, ST is not willing to drop the second tunnel, even if they cannot afford it and it may make many trips worse. The CID rebels. Delay seems pretty certain.

  18. We really need a realistic assessment of WHEN the single tunnel won’t be enough. Even in ST3, it wasn’t urgent. With a realistic 2023 perspective on ridership, it’s much less urgent.

    Maybe it’s still close enough, and cost-saving enough to do as part of the initial WSBLE line development. But we’ll never know unless somebody is running the numbers and “not consistent with ST3 plan” is just their way of telling everybody they don’t care to run the numbers.

    1. Ok, ST says DSTT2 is necessary and required by ST 3. So build it.

      It will take additional funding from N. King Co., (and someone is going to have to cover the contribution from SnoCo, S. King and Pierce that don’t have their contribution), so that is when N. King Co. residents can say yes or no, which will involve tradeoffs with underground stations and lines in Ballard and West Seattle.

      No matter how “optimistic” the DEIS is it can’t afford WSBLE, and ST admits that. So wait for the draft DEIS, see how realistic the third-party funding needed is, and how ST proposes to get that funding. If ST and N. King had the money to complete DSTT2 and WSBLE as desired by Ballard and West Seattle, and the stakeholders in between, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, or crazy ideas like one station between Sodo and Westlake.

      My guess is still ST does the WS stub for Dow, and leaves DSTT2 up to the next Board, because that is about how much revenue N. King has right now: a stub from WS. But I am not going to get excited because ST is telling me ST 3 forces it to build DSTT 2. Ok, build it then. (Luckily I don’t live in the N. King Co. subarea).

      The emperor has no clothes anymore. Who cares what ST says about DSTT 2 if it doesn’t have the money. As they say in Montana, big hat no cattle.

      1. Daniel. They say they have the money on the timeline described in the realigned plan. You confidently asserts that’s wrong, but you need to show your homework. (A non-attributable rumor isn’t showing your homework).

      2. “It will take additional funding from N. King Co., (and someone is going to have to cover the contribution from SnoCo, S. King and Pierce that don’t have their contribution)”

        Then it won’t be built. :) The formula is based on each subarea’s share of trains in both tunnels. It’s not fair to North King to shoulder the cost of a downtown tunnel to get trains to other subareas, or on ST’s arbitrary decision of which lines it assigns to which tunnel.

      3. “(A non-attributable rumor isn’t showing your homework).”

        I’m not sure if only one person saying something counts as a rumor. :) “Rumor” implies they’ve heard multiple other people saying it. Of course, making something up and saying it is one way to start a rumor, or to make people believe a rumor exists even if it doesn’t.

      4. “Daniel. They say they have the money on the timeline described in the realigned plan. You confidently asserts that’s wrong, but you need to show your homework. (A non-attributable rumor isn’t showing your homework).”

        That’s great Dan. Then build DSTT2. Why complain if ST has the money?

        Long ago I posted on this blog DSTT2 would not cost $2.2 billion, but closer to $4.2 billion, which actually was first raised by ETA. Some on this blog questioned me, although I think it is pretty much accepted now the $4.2 billion figure is correct, along with the standard 30% contingency, especially for an agency with such a poor history of estimated project costs in order to pass levies.

        Then I linked to the 2021 subarea report. From my reading I don’t think SnoCo, and maybe S. King and Pierce, have the subarea loans and revenue to complete their projects, let alone contribute to DSTT2 which would be $275 million each if the price is $2.2 billion and that is the limit of the contribution, or $550 million each if the actual cost is $4.2 billion and their contribution is 1/2 no matter what the cost of DSTT2, which is beyond the funding assumptions in ST 2 and 3 for these subareas. Plus who knows the additional cost for the suspension bridge as part of Federal Way Link.

        N. King subarea brings in around $600 million/year in ST tax revenue, less the costs for Graham and 130th stations, for a project I think should be estimated at $20 billion including the 30% cost contingency. I certainly think it would be irresponsible for ST to begin digging DSTT2 without the actual cash in hand plus 30% cost contingency for something like a very deep tunnel under 5th Ave.

        Then the DEIS came out, shortly after Rogoff announced a $6 billion dollar funding shortfall. The Board claimed that by extending ST taxes five years at the tail end, but also extending project completion five years, it would save $6 billion in a high inflationary market that was the cause of the funding shortfall to begin with, which I still don’t understand. If taxes were extended five years but not projects maybe I could understand that.

        The DEIS itself now admits WSBLE will cost $14 billion — without cost contingency — when the original cost estimate was around $6 billion, and third-party funding will be required depending on the design. ST continues to float strange and non-ST 3 proposals like a DSTT2 with one station from Sodo to Westlake.

        All I do know is based on its history you cannot trust anything ST says, especially when it comes to project cost estimates. Without hiring my own experts and maybe taking a few depositions I can’t conclusively prove ST is wrong when it says it has the money (although the DEIS itself calls for third party funding), but I don’t know how $600 million/year subarea revenue less Graham and 130th builds a $20 billion WSBLE. ETA still says the cost estimates for WSBLE and DSTT2 are false, and they were right in 2016 and some of those guys built tunnels for WSDOT although I know some on this blog don’t like ETA because they are skeptical about claims by transit agencies.

        Luckily, I live in the east King Co. subarea so I will get a big bowl of popcorn and watch this play play out. I am still betting on some kind of N. King Co. levy based on the preferred design, and will be very interested to see how much Seattle residents are willing to pay — extra — for WS and Ballard. If ST does have the money then I will be wrong, which won’t be the first time.

      5. Mike, ST 3 obligates N. King to pay 1/2 of DSTT2 and the four other subareas 1/2 (or 12% each). This was based on a cost estimate in 2016 of $2.2 billion ($275 million each).

        What I don’t know is if ST 3 obligates the four other subareas to pay 1/2 of $2.2 billion, or 1/2 of whatever it costs, although as I have noted before my reading of the 2021 subarea report indicates three subareas may not have their 1/2 of $2.2 billion. The tax revenue in ST 3 assumed DSTT2 would cost $2.2 billion, so where those three other subareas would come up with the revenue for more than $2.2 billion, I don’t know.

        I understand N. King and ST claim DSTT2 is a “shared regional facility” which is why four subareas will pay 1/2, but that was based on false ridership estimates by ST (especially on East Link) to claim capacity required DSTT2. That is just false. WSBLE required DSTT2, and WSBLE does not benefit the four other subareas. East Link trains increasing frequency by double benefits the other subareas, but not WSBLE or DSTT2. They don’t need DSTT2, and never will. I have to imagine Pierce Co., now with additional costs for a suspension bridge, will balk at paying for DSTT2 based on current ridership, especially if they will have to use it.

        There won’t be a ST 4 so ST better be honest with itself and N. King before starting to dig DSTT2 under 5th Ave. that looks to me like a disaster waiting to happen.

      6. The DEIS itself now admits WSBLE will cost $14 billion — without cost contingency

        It has been pointed out to you several times that the cost estimates include various forms of contingency.

        Per the WSBLE DEIS (Section “Capital costs are one-time costs and include construction costs, anticipated/estimated mitigation, right-of-way/property acquisition costs, engineering costs, equipment costs and contingency, but not the cost of additional light rail vehicles needed to operate the WSBLE.” (emphasis mine)

        Per Triunity’s assessment of ST’s cost estimation procedures, contingency is estimated based on the following (Task 2 Report, Figure 4.1):

        “> DESIGN ALLOWANCE = 30% x each Construction Line Item
        > ALLOCATED CONTINGENCY = 15% x Direct/DA Construction
        > UNALLOCATED CONTINGENCY = 10% x Construction* Total

        Plus who knows the additional cost for the suspension bridge as part of Federal Way Link. […] I have to imagine Pierce Co., now with additional costs for a suspension bridge…

        Federal Way is in King County (specifically, the South King Subarea).

        Your comments typically rely on numerous uncited claims, and while I don’t think anyone expects a full reference list at the end of every comment, it’s these basic detail errors that make your long arguments difficult to trust. PLEASE do better.

      7. “Per Triunity’s assessment of ST’s cost estimation procedures, contingency is estimated based on the following (Task 2 Report, Figure 4.1):

        “> DESIGN ALLOWANCE = 30% x each Construction Line Item
        > ALLOCATED CONTINGENCY = 15% x Direct/DA Construction
        > UNALLOCATED CONTINGENCY = 10% x Construction* Total”

        Nathan, I think Al has pointed out a number of times a 10% contingency on a large public project for construction — let alone a tunnel under water and another tunnel under 5th Ave. — is inadequate and contrary to industry standards. The only reason there is a Triunity report is because ST’s project cost estimates were so “optimistic” in the past. No doubt you believe extending both ST taxes and project completion five years in a high inflationary environment saves $6 billion too.

        Cost overruns on the original link were 84%. Look at the cost overruns on 130th station. Or East Link or Federal Way Link. Or Everett Link. Let’s not forget the current cost estimate for WSBLE was $6 billion and is now — according to ST — $14 billion, up from $12 billion just a year or so ago. I will bet you $1000 WSBLE does not cost $14 billion, unless as Tom T notes Ballard, downtown and WS drink the bitter ale of surface rail. It isn’t just the cost contingency for very complex construction projects: it is the cost estimate before contingency.

        Look, you and Dan think ST has the money for WSBLE with tunnels and underground stations from WS to Ballard, so go for it if you believe the project cost estimates, contingency percentages, and subarea funding. It is your subarea. I am hoping my subarea’s contribution to DSTT2 is capped at $275 million based on the original cost estimate in 2016 of $2.2 billion, which no doubt you still believe although I don’t, and that contribution is my subarea’s one exposure to WSBLE.

        I can understand you wanting to believe WSBLE can be completed to where you live in Ballard, and I think it is pretty to think so, but I think history and just the numbers I see says it can’t without third party funding, and that funding if honestly admitted by ST is so huge Harrell would never place it on a Seattle only ballot, there won’t be a ST 4, and Seattleites would not vote yes because it would exhaust property tax capacity for decades for a line that has very little benefit to the rest of Seattle (or the region).

        I know it makes you angry when I raise these questions, but I think they need to be raised before ST begins digging a tunnel under 5th Ave. If I could offer one piece of advice, it is don’t believe everything ST tells you. They told me East Link would open in 2021, and to be honest I have real suspicions about East Link running full capacity over the bridge, in 2025 or ever.

      8. No doubt you believe extending both ST taxes and project completion five years in a high inflationary environment saves $6 billion too.

        I’ll explain this, not because I think you care to understand, because someone else who’s unfamiliar might agree with you if you’re unchallenged. This is all from Sound Transit docs easily found online.

        In late 2020, ST’s 2021 Financial Plan estimated revenues to be $95.8B from 2017 to 2041, but estimated expenses were $98.5B, for an “affordability gap” of ~$2.7B over 25 years. In December 2020, the Board put a 5-year delay on all projects not yet under construction to help sort out the long-term financial plan.

        In January 2021, with cost estimates for ST3 projects soaring due to changes in basic plan components (total grade separation, mainly) and projected tax revenues tanking due to a global pandemic, the funding gap grew to $12.1B. In April 2021, revised revenue estimates brought the funding gap to $7.9B.

        In August 2021, the Board completed the “Realignment”, which extended the full-capacity revenue schedule to 2046 (an extra 5 years). At that time, revenue and expenditure was estimated at $131.5B from 2017 to 2046.

        Basically, to cover an $7.9B gap, ST would raise an additional $33B (spending an additional $25.1B to do so) and finish ST3 in the late 2040’s.

        None of the rest of your post is worth rebuttal.

      9. Nathan, since you have been reading the Triunity report, and apparently believe its numbers and the DEIS, I was hoping you could answer two questions for me:

        1. ST 3 in 2016 estimated the total cost with contingency for DSTT2 to be $2.2 billion. N. King Co. is to pay half ($1.1 billion) and the four other subareas half (12.5% each, or $275 million). ST 3’s tax rates were based on these assumptions. Although the estimated cost for WSBLE has now increased to $14 billion (but as far as I can tell ST has not formally adjusted the estimated cost for DSTT2) will my subarea — East King Co. — be on the hook for $275 million based on the $2.2 billion cost estimate, or 12.5% of whatever DSTT2 costs which some think could be $4.4 billion today without contingency? No one seems to have the answer to this question.
        Although I don’t think three subareas have the money for their contribution, even at $275 million, the only way WSBLE impacts my subarea is its contribution to DSTT2. If East King Co. is obligated to pay only $275 million no matter what DSTT2 costs than WSBLE is irrelevant to me no matter how poor the design or cost per rider mile. We have that money.

        2. When you quote ST’s total gross cost and revenue projections for all five subareas, and assume those are accurate, has it occurred to you that one of the subareas, East King Co., that today has about $600 million/year in ST tax revenue, the same as N. King Co., might have a huge revenue surplus that is skewing the total numbers for all five subareas? For example, N. King that has the same annual ST tax revenue as East (that may decline with WFH) is looking at least $14 billion for WSBLE, plus Graham St. and 130th St. stations, while East King Co. is nearing completion of East Link and Redmond Link with only $600 million in subarea debt, with I guess only Issaquah to S. Kirkland Link left to go which is estimated to cost $4.5 billion. So breaking down the total cost and revenue projections per subarea per the 2021 subarea report do you still feel comfortable all five subareas have the funding for their projects, and contribution to DSTT2, or will East King Co. have to “share” some of its money, because then that does affect me?

      10. 1. Only the Sound Transit Board knows the answer to the question of how DSTT2 costs will be shared among the subareas. Maybe you can have a paralegal stalk LinkedIn to find a financial planner that’s recently quit ST who’d be willing to explain how the long term financial plan accounts for this. The must have internal spreadsheets that account for the split, but they’re certainly not public. Until they give an answer (which likely won’t be until they “baseline” BLE), any arguments based on speculation regarding the potential cost split are fundamentally specious. By all available accounts, ST thinks they’ll have the money across the subareas to complete at least the “representative alignment” of DSTT2.

        2. I quote ST’s numbers because those are the numbers that drive ST’s decision making. I don’t really care if they’re fundamentally accurate or not, because in my professional experience, the fast majority of long-term finance has a surprising ability to pivot on a quarterly basis. The fact that ST has to even publish a 30-year financial plan is bonkers to me. WSDOT doesn’t have to publish a decadal financial plan – they just get money allocated every two years from the State. The County-level transit agencies don’t have to publish a 30-year financial plan – they have to project forward a bit, but they can raise and lower tax allocation as much or as little as they want.

        Fundamentally, this a bad faith question that doesn’t deserve an answer. I, personally, don’t care if the Board decides to use East King subarea dollars to pay debt service on bonds sold to support N. King projects or other subareas. The fact that ST has to exist as a unique tri-county agency instead of a subset of WSDOT is why we have all these systemic budgeting issues in the first place. The “fun” part about Subarea Equity is that if they need to extend taxes to finish a project in one subarea, the taxes are extended in all subareas, and they’ll figure out how to spend your precious dollars. In the meantime, if you don’t like paying taxes to ST because you’re scared of public transit, my advice to you is to either: a) get good at forging registration stickers and get all your purchases shipped from Oregon; or b) to move to Bainbridge Island. Winslow Way is about as white, rich, and exclusive as your “urbanist” paradise of San Luis Obispo, and Bainbridge has about the same population as SLO if you don’t count Cal Poly.

      11. “will my subarea — East King Co. — be on the hook for $275 million based on the $2.2 billion cost estimate, or 12.5% of whatever DSTT2 costs which some think could be $4.4 billion today without contingency? No one seems to have the answer to this question.”

        Oh, this one is easy. The costs are allocated on ridership shares. If the costs change, (and it’s in the nature of a plan prepared many years in advance of actual expenditures that they will change), then each subarea’s “spend” changes as a constant percentage.

        There has never been any sort of agreement that East King would have a fixed dollar commitment to the costs of the shared facility. Just not how it works.

        The “nice” thing about East King’s low transit ridership is their contribution to any shared facility is a rounding error anyway.

      12. I trust that the ST Board will figure out how to pay for whatever they think they can get away with paying for. I don’t think 30-year financial plans are reliable whatsoever, but they’re what the Board bases their long-term project planning on. As you’ve noted with the massive swings in the supposed affordability gap in 2021 – the financial plans appear pretty arbitrary.

        I think this region has a stronger economic future than you think it does. That’s maybe our fundamental disagreement.

        Maybe another fundamental disagreement is in an armchair-expert’s ability to sincerely question the results of hundreds to thousands of employee-hours spent composing financial plans and design estimates.

        Regardless, in 2016, the ST service area voted to give ST taxing power that currently generates a few billion dollars a year. The ST Board will continue to spend that money as long as folks still generally believe that regional mass transit is a worthwhile project. There’s not much you or anyone else can do about it, especially since all the ST2 projects open in the next couple years, and by the time the general public starts questioning the value of their tax dollar again in ~2027-2028, the early ST3 projects will be under construction or opening up just in time to remind folks what they’re paying for. I think the Board is betting on the general sentiment towards Sound Transit capital projects to be generally positive – as soon as they can fix the damn escalators.

      13. Thanks Dan, but that is not how I understood subarea contribution to DSTT2. Ridership (or boardings) is one criteria when lines run across subarea boundaries, but not my understanding of subarea contribution to DSTT2, and this is the first time someone on this blog — which is pretty knowledgeable about transit — has suggested subarea contributions to DSTT2 would be based on ridership or boardings.

        If the eastside subarea was required to contribute to DSTT2 based on ridership in DSTT2 our contribution will be virtually nil because East Link trains will access DSTT1 to double frequency, unless there is some travel to SLU but that transfer would occur in Seattle so not count against the East KC subarea.

        AJ has previously posted the subarea contribution is based on the fact DSTT2 is a “shared regional facility”, and ST based the need for DSTT2 in ST 3 on capacity issues, which I don’t think were valid, and are not post pandemic. The use or ridership of DSTT2 by the four other subareas will be so low there would be very little contribution to the cost of DSTT2 and N. King would pick up the whole tab (which it should).

        I hope you are correct and will look closer, but am pretty sure from some meetings at the ETA East King Co. is supposed to pay 12.5% of the cost to build DSTT2, although I don’t know if that cost is set at the original estimate of $2.2 billion or actual cost closer to $4.4 billion.

        Here is your very good article from March 1, 2021 on some of these issues..


      14. The use or ridership of DSTT2 by the four other subareas will be so low there would be very little contribution to the cost of DSTT2 and N. King would pick up the whole tab

        After all these months, Daniel, you still seem to think that the “West Seattle-Ballard Link Extension” means that trains will run from the Alaska Junction to Market Street.

        They won’t.

        In the plan as currently stated, West Seattle trains will run to Everett in the original tunnel, while Ballard trains will run via the new tunnel and the Rainier Valley to Tacoma. East Link trains will run from Redmond to Lynnwood via the original tunnel.

        In any case, “total ridership” means “total ridership through both tunnels” as Mike stated.

        From a “destination matching” point of view, it makes by far the most sense for East Link to go to SLU and LQA while Tacoma Link goes to the U District. Most of the east side has a much better service across the SR 520 bridge, direct to UW. Unfortunately, it’s just not possible for East Link to get down from the elevated section crossing I-5 to anywhere except the existing platforms at IDS.

      15. Tom, the question was how the contribution to DSTT2 will be determined for the four other subareas. I don’t think ridership has anything to do with the capital side of that. I wish it did, but it doesn’t. You won’t find any eastside riders in either tunnel.

        Al is dead on: folks from the RV and south will get DSTT2 because it is the shittier tunnel. Eastsiders will get DSTT1 because — drum roll — our trains double frequency in whichever tunnel we use, or routed through. The trains follow us. SLU means nothing to the eastside post pandemic. Amazon doesn’t even make you go into the office anymore, and told eastsiders they could choose which office to use (which of course means Bellevue Way).

        Ask yourself who has the juice in Seattle and that is who will get double frequency from East Link trains. The irony is eastsiders won’t even be on them, but I can guarantee you they will be in the tunnel that serves Capitol Hill, the UW, Northgate and areas north. You don’t see East Link turning south in DSTT1.

        Nobody in Seattle gives a damn about eastsiders, we know that, but they love our subarea revenue, and our trains we don’t plan to use. Where those trains go has little to do with eastsiders because we won’t be on them. That fight is for Seattleites, and Al knows darn well the poor and Black riders from the south will get the worse tunnel, and Dow will want to mix with the eastsiders in a tunnel with four-minute frequencies although he will have to come to the eastside to party with eastsiders.

        Our trains follow us through Seattle, so where that is is up to the power brokers in Seattle. It isn’t hard to see tunnels and underground stations north of Sodo and surface non-segregated lines south and know how that story will turn out.

        Of course there won’t be a DSTT2 because four of the subareas including N. King Co. don’t have the money so it really is a moot point.

      16. I’ll add that the 2016 ST3 pitch included a strategy to “speed up” the opening of WSBLE by doing the DEIS with a limited set of alternatives. Not only were the construction costs off by what appears to be approaching double but the schedule is slipping by several years — a revised schedule that is what ST should have presented to the voters in the first place.

        Consider where we are on WSBLE. The ST3 vote is 6.5 years ago. There remains a funding gap and an alternative to build, and a financial strategy and project benefit left to establish that is also worthy of an FTA FFGA (a program that is not expected to benefit a quickly shrinking number of urban areas so it reduces its popularity). There remains hundreds of properties to acquire that could easily displace over 1,000 residents. There remains a clear understanding of needed property takes in Downtown and SLU for 400 foot or 2 block long stations with very deep (deeper than UW Station) access. Keep in mind the Central Subway in SF just opened and that shorter downtown tunnel with fewer stations took 14+ years from alignment selection, 12+ years from original groundbreaking and 10+ years from actual major construction commencement. Even if just WS is build as phase 1, the challenge to even build this means that it won’t open until the mid to late 2030’s, with DSTT2 probably coming in about 2040 at the earliest.

        Then there are the multiple schedule delays adding years to the opening dates of ST2 projects that only come to light in the past year — and yet are adding up two two years until the opening dates. Keep in mind the delay was kept secret for a few years to protect ST’s image — and I have yet to see evidence that ST operates differently today when it comes to schedule projections.

        I just don’t believe ST who keeps saying that WS by 2032 and DSTT2 by 2037 is possible. I think it’s as much of a lie as the 2016 budget and schedule were — and it’s a huge elephant in the room that senior staff and elected officials continue to ignore to protect their image.

    2. We really need a realistic assessment of WHEN the single tunnel won’t be enough. Even in ST3, it wasn’t urgent. With a realistic 2023 perspective on ridership, it’s much less urgent.

      Maybe it’s still close enough, and cost-saving enough to do as part of the initial WSBLE line development. But we’ll never know unless somebody is running the numbers and “not consistent with ST3 plan” is just their way of telling everybody they don’t care to run the numbers.


      1. I’m a big believer in the “we are going to need a 2nd tunnel at some point” argument (plus the ‘2nd tunnel is more resilient’ argument), but even I’m baffled that no one in North King is pushing for investments in the D (flyover stop at Dravus, etc.) that would pay dividend over a 10~25 year period while ST slowly works through the WSBLE construction process. I get why there isn’t traction on improving the C because Dow is convinced the WS Stub is a good idea, but for Ballard/Interbay it seems like there is great value to be created at the $50~100 million level. Spending $100M now to they allow for billions of WSBLE to be pushed out a few years may be all North King needs to do to ensure WSBLE remains affordable.

      2. There’s not much left to do with the C-line now that the Columbia busway is done. I’m a bit biased as a WS resident but I think the WS spur will most useful for improving non-downtown connections. Link is certainly going to be a better option than route 50 for transferring to the 1-Line and the bus restructure should make for much improved intra-West Seattle bus routes, although the potential loss of the Avalon Station might mute that a little bit since I was hoping to have a bus connection from Avalon to Admiral/Alki that doesn’t run through the Junction. The C-line is the shining beacon of West Seattle transit so I’m fine if they build the WS spur and leave the C-line alone while they spend another decade or two deciding what to do with DSTT2. The WS spur with a decent SODO connection will be fantastic for off-peak transit frequency and reliability. I can’t wait. Is it the best decision for the region to build WS first (or at all)? Probably not. But once we’re connected to the 1-Line and 2-Line we’ll benefit from everything that gets built in the future and that’s the most important thing.

      3. I fully expect ST to declare (in about 2030) that the 1 Line from Tacoma Dome to Lynnwood is too far for a driver to operate, and will stub the 1 Line at SODO and put the WS stub into the DSTT on TDLE opening day. This surprise switcharoo seems unavoidable to me and I think they won’t announce it sooner because of the obvious uproar that will occur.

        Regardless, the transfer at SODO must be enhanced to be better than what ST now proposes. Cross platform same direction transfers at SODO are needed — and maybe even timed cross platform same direction transfers!

      4. I’m pretty sure that’s already the plan. Shunting the plebes from South King, Tacoma and Rainier Valley out to dead-end Ballard. Eastside line gets North-end and UW.

      5. Can, yes that is the plan once DSTT2 opens — if that ever happens.

        I’m predicting that it will happen much earlier, and the “stub” will be the line to Tacoma Dome rather than to West Seattle.

      6. Al, I asked at the Open House tonight about cross platform transfers and they explained that they considered this but it wouldn’t allow the crossovers they need to have between the two tunnel tracks in case one tunnel is out of service.
        Of course this wouldn’t be necessary if they would stick with a single DSTT. Then they could even build a center platform to allow cross platform transfers in both directions. (like WS to Seatac)

      7. Wow Martin. They told me that it was too much of a problem to tie it back into the tracks coming from Beacon Hill. When I explained that there is an existing switch from the OMF tracks that they could use and that they were already planning an additional OMF access so they could close the track temporarily, they seemed stumped.

        I can’t imagine how putting the northbound trains on the east and southbound trains on the west make switching worse. That makes no sense. The way it is planned, trains would need to move two tracks over and what I’m suggesting is one. Their explanation sounds hollow to me but maybe it’s lost in translation.

        Of course a single platform would work. Or a three track platform with a center track and two center platforms that could work as the “stub”.

        Anyway, I think they just don’t want to enable any rethinking of their drawings. They want to do only what they want to do — like a stubborn child. Who cares if we make riders use multiple stairs if they don’t have to — for 100 years?

      8. Al, now that I think about it, it should actually simplify the crossover if both Northbound and both Southbound are next to each other, but they would not only reconfigure the Beacon Hill merge, but also do another flyover or under before the tunnel. They said that the flyover and crossover wouldn’t fit between the SODO station and the new tunnel entrance.

      9. I just don’t get how this is any more difficult. The tracks have to cross somewhere and the current plans are to do it in a double track tunnel starting near Holgate. With this configuration they would already have one track crossed over south of SODO if the station went either west or east of IDC existing platforms. It appears to me to require either the same or less room.

        So it’s better to build three different sets of platforms and escalators and stairs at SODO? What a wasteful and overbuilt design!

      10. There’s not much left to do with the C-line now that the Columbia busway is done. I’m a bit biased as a WS resident but I think the WS spur will most useful for improving non-downtown connections.

        Will it though? It will be worse for getting to First Hill or the Central Area. Instead of a two seat ride, it will be bus, train, bus. Likewise, instead of a one-seat ride to South Lake Union, you’ll take a bus, then the train, then maybe another train (involving a bad train-to-train transfer) or the same sort of bus-train-bus trip you would take to get to most of the city. It is good for Link locations, but let’s face it, that will always be a minority of the city. Overall, I actually see more losers than winners.

        Link is certainly going to be a better option than route 50 for transferring to the 1-Line

        If that is really important, wouldn’t the answer be to send the C (and other West Seattle buses) on the SoDo busway? Build new Alaska Way Viaduct to SoDo bus ramps; expand the viaduct so that the buses can avoid the weave (and avoid all the traffic); fix whatever issues exist for getting from the SoDo busway to the Third Avenue transit mall (if there are any). Next thing you know, the bus makes all the various connections downtown without involving an extra transfer. If you are headed to a Link location up north (e. g. the UW) you transfer at SoDo. If you are headed to the East Side, you transfer at the CID. First Hill, you just stay on the bus until it is next to Madison, and ride the G Line up the hill. It not only involves fewer transfers, but it is faster. You would be downtown before you could board the train at the Junction or Delridge. Unless you are right next to a station in West Seattle, you are better off with bus improvements, if not just the current setup.

        the bus restructure should make for much improved intra-West Seattle bus routes

        Maybe. I think it is easy to assume that any savings from truncations will go into that particular area. That used to be the case, but it isn’t any more. The greater Northgate area didn’t get extra service even though truncating the 40 saved a boatload of money. It spread throughout the rest of the system.

        The main thing that will help service in West Seattle is just more money. We could fund a huge amount of great service for the money we are going to spend building rail. The only people that come out ahead with rail are the handful of people that happen to live close to the three (or is it two?) stations.

      11. Primary improvement proposed in KCM’s LRP is having the C take over the 50 and serve Admiral and Alki after passing through the Junction., which improves transit for travel within WS. Anything else is really just re-deploying bus hours, which as Ross points out is no different than just spending more money.

        I think the 21 & 125 are to just terminate at Link, but their tails could also be re-routed to improve intra-West Seattle transit.

      12. Sound Transit promised Metro will keep all downtown buses (C, H, 21) until WS stub connects downtown. Joe, you may be one of the few people who live close to the three or two Link stations which may use the stub.
        It also means that Metro will not be able to reallocate any of the service hours until 15 years from now.
        So why would we build the stub now?

      13. Metro’s 2025 vision (after the West Seattle-SODO stub) had the C, 21, 120, and 125 all continuing downtown. I didn’t look at the 55 and 56.

        Metro’s 2040 vision (after DSTT2/Ballard) kept only the 120 (RapidRide H) to downtown. The 21 and 125 would be truncated at Link. The C would be turned into a north-south route from Alki to Admiral, WSJ, Morgan Junction (but not Fauntleroy), Westwood Village, and Burien. An Express route would connect Fauntleroy, WSJ, the 99 tunnel, and South Lake Union (but not downtown).

      14. “So why would we build the stub now?”

        Politics. Dow and other politicians live in West Seattle. West Seattle considers itself privileged. The stub suitably acknowledges Wet Seattle’s privilege. It also shows a finished North King ST3 line even if DSTT2 takes longer than expected.

    3. Why do “WSLE” at all? “BLE” may be worthwhile since it passes through South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne, but a multi-billion dollar exercise in very high bridges and viaducts for three stations is a fool’s errand. It makes no sense unless the Junction has a hankering to become the “Buckhead” (to reference the bottom of this comments section) of Seattle.

      I doubt it does.

      1. Tom T: I do not know. Opening WSLE as a spur makes even less sense.

        Joe Z: lines C and H can use the south end pathway; SDOT controls the quality of transit flow west of SR-99. Route 50 seems indirect. WS could use a better grid. In mid-2020 SDOT opened the South Lander Street overcrossing. Several West Seattle routes could be revised to connect with Link at the SODO station with reliability. I would guess that ST could provide a turnback variant of the 1 Line from/to the South Forest Street base with SODO station, short headway service could be provided.

      2. WSBLE only exists for EIS purposes. Once the EIS is complete, it will become WSL and BL, and those projects will proceed independently.

      3. AJ, do you think I’m so stupid as not to understand that? I broke the “project” into exactly the same segments as you do. I guess adding the “E” to each acronym was an unforgivable faux pas? I wouldn’t have been chastised had I not?

        Lo siento, jefe!

  19. I’m in Atlanta to try to avoid getting infected with Covid19 at a maskless superspreader event for my employer.

    Some observations:

    • They’ve replaced the streetcar with minibuses.

    • For whatever reason, the streetcar isn’t included in the regional day ticket.

    • MARTA’s train system remind me somewhat of Link: long distance between monumental stations.

    • But they accelerate and brake much faster than Link.

    • Gentrification is definitely happening. There’s a low income neighborhood west of downtown where the local school has a collapsed roof and the houses aren’t in great shape, but a new condominium complex is in the center advertising “from the $600k s”

    There are a lot of places where skyscrapers transition immediately to single family homes. To compensate for that, huge buildings exist in places like Buckhead, that have sprung up around MARTA stations.

    1. The hotel my employer paid for us in Buckhead. This had a reputation of being somewhat of an arts district something like Fremont I would guess. Today, at least walking distance from the station, it’s almost entirely huge buildings, many of which are hotels. The place is relatively walkable, thanks to msssive parking garages. I’ve not seen a single surface lot here, except once you get 10 or so blocks from the station. Unfortunately anything that I would have associated with arts community type areas seems to have been priced out of the market. I’ve seen a couple of older 7 floor or so apartment/condo type buildings but mostly they are surrounded by 20+ floor hotel and office buildings and it’s hard to even notice them.

      But a few blocks away? It looks like north Aurora, only without the new condo buildings of Shoreline.

      It makes me wonder:

      • What transforms a place like Buckhead, while leaving intermediate locations untouched?

      • Short of forming a historic district, is there much to be done to maintain some of the original character of a place that made people want to go there? Eg, Belltown has several older single floor buildings that remain. I’ve not seen anything in core Buckhead shorter than 5 floors (and that’s an anomaly) and everything is in “Mussolini Modern” style.

    2. You might want to compare Midtown. I had a conference there in the 2000s. It’s described as Atlanta’s most walkable, artsy neighborhood. What I remember is the MARTA station was integrated into a building, and my hotel was just a block away. It was highrise buildings there but a mixture a couple blocks away.

      The first time I went to Atlanta, I was assigned to a hotel east of Lindberg Center station. That seems to be one station south of you in northern Atlanta. I was unimpressed with the strip-mall density there. There was a pancake house that was all right.

      For dinner one day I took MARTA to a random outer station, and the first thing I saw was an Italian restaurant, which was nice. I don’t remember the name or where it was, but my impression is “south”.

    3. All I remember from Buckhead of 30 years ago, was a nice restaurant, and ungodly amounts of traffic. Hopefully at least the traffic has gotten better.

      1. https://www.foxnews.com/us/buckhead-secession-leader-ritzy-atlanta-suburb-says-residents-not-getting-what-they-need-deserve

        Buckhead has been at the forefront of neighborhoods wanting to secede from large urban cities. The legislature did not grant approval in 2022 but Buckhead plans to seek approval in 2023.

        Buckhead’s complaints are it pays a disproportionate amount of taxes and receives a disproportionate number of services back. Crime and urban decay are the main issue and Buckhead wants to form its own police dept. Buckhead also wants more tax money back for roads, and better control over its zoning. Opponents note Buckhead is mostly white and much wealthier (and safer which is why conferences are often in Buckhead) than the rest of Atlanta, and if Buckhead secedes Atlanta will suffer a large loss of revenue it uses for poor parts of Atlanta. Buckhead also claims the city of Atlanta wastes a great deal of tax money and is badly managed.

        If the eastside had not incorporated as its own cities and instead been incorporated as part of Seattle I think we would be having this discussion here, at least today after the current Seattle council and a string of historically bad mayors. King Co. under Ron Sims was tragic when many areas on the eastside were still unincorporated King Co., which is why every unincorporated area either was annexed or incorporated as its own city. Unincorporated areas adjacent to Seattle were horribly managed under Sims too and begged Seattle to annex them, which Seattle did based on how poor the areas were. This has left King Co. with little property tax revenue.

        Today this tension is at the county level. Eastsiders feel Constantine and the King Co. Board are too Seattle focused, and too much tax revenue is going from east to west and never coming back, and the eastside based on its current economic might and population is underrepresented, We would like — Mon Dieu — for a county executive who lives on the eastside. I think this feeling was exacerbated by the pandemic and WFH and end of work commuting to downtown Seattle, and downtown Seattle no longer being attractive to eastsiders to shop or dine. When Seattle was the rising superstar city and eastsiders commuted to it, and shopped and dined there because it was vibrant, this feeling wasn’t so strong. Bellevue especially no longer feels subordinate to Seattle.

        It won’t happen, but I think it is time for King Co. to split east/west. At 2200 sq. miles King Co. made sense when it much of it was rural and had only Seattle as a city of consequence (like Everett and SnoCo and Pierce and Tacoma) but that has changed dramatically today.

        East and west have different philosophies and desires, and the decline of Portland and Seattle worry eastsiders that will happen to them. Issues like crime, wise stewardship of tax revenue, zoning, fair distribution of tax dollars, the approach to homelessness, having Seattle voters pass every county levy ever offered without any critical thought, like Buckhead are issues that divide east and west King Co.

        For example, district 3 is so large it takes two pages of maps. https://your.kingcounty.gov/elections/gis/maps/cc/kcc3pg1.pdf Times have changed. And district 9. https://your.kingcounty.gov/elections/gis/maps/cc/kcc9pg1.pdf With the current population, and divisions, I think dividing King Co. east and west would be better for both sides of the lake.

      2. “Buckhead’s complaints are it pays a disproportionate amount of taxes and receives a disproportionate number of services back.”

        If Buckhead beyond the large buildings is strip-mall, cul-de-sac low density, then it’s probably getting disproportionately more services and paying disproportionately less tax, while claiming the opposite.

        ” King Co. under Ron Sims was tragic when many areas on the eastside were still unincorporated King Co., which is why every unincorporated area either was annexed or incorporated as its own city.”

        King County pressured them to get annexed or incorporate. The county only intended to provide rural services, but it backed into providing urban services as unincorporated areas grew into quasi cities. The county told the areas that if they didn’t get annexed or join cities their services would be drastically reduced; e.g., in some cases their parks would be closed.

      3. “Unincorporated areas adjacent to Seattle were horribly managed under Sims too and begged Seattle to annex them, which Seattle did based on how poor the areas were.”

        What? Sims was county executive in the 80s and 90s. Shoreline incorporated in 1995. Renton and Tukwila added areas, and may abut Seattle somewhere now. Southern North Highline went to Burien.

        Northern North Highline (White Center) and Skyway are still unincorporated. Seattle has been exploring annexing White Center. White Center has been debating whether to join Seattle or Burien. Burien looked into annexing White Center but was unenthusiastic because Burien is a relatively poor city and wouldn’t be able to provide much resources to White Center. It’s still unresolved. I haven’t heard much about Skyway but as far as I know it’s still unincorporated. So what other area could Seattle have annexed in the early 90s?

      4. “the approach to homelessness”

        You mean Seattle trying to find them shelter and providing them services, while the Eastside resists opening shelters and practically forces homeless to go to Seattle due to lack of services in the Eastside and the difficulty of getting around without a car? There’s like one shelter in Bellevue and it took years to get it open due to nimby opposition, and it’s in an out-of-the-way location and serves a limited range of people.

        What did Sims do that was so bad?

      5. Anonymouse, I was going by that article, but I looked at the first King County dates and didn’t notice the distinction between councilmember and executive. The reaason I looked it up was because Seattle’s last major annexation was in the 1950s and I thought Sims was later than that, during my lifetime, so I looked up the years to confirm. But I didn’t look further to see his executive period was considerably later than his councilmember period.

      6. https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/king-county-needs-to-shed-its-urban-service-role/

        That isn’t quite true Mike. King Co. was pressured to request areas incorporate because Sim’s terrible mismanagement had left the county in a fiscal hole. The unincorporated areas themselves wanted to incorporate (if the developers did not), although surrounding cities were hesitant to annex these areas because King Co.’s awful land use policies and building oversight left the developed unincorporated areas with huge infrastructure costs and no impact fees for the cities.

        I knew many people who lived in Rose Hill and Klahanie, and incorporation raised their property taxes, but their property values nearly doubled with annexation, although their new land use regulations — which most were glad for — were much more restrictive than King Co. under Sims.

        The irony today is King Co. has little focus on providing services to unincorporated rural areas as claimed in the link, and those areas will tell you the services are terrible, except local cities don’t want to annex the poorer areas, including Seattle.

        Annexation and incorporation of most unincorporated areas occurred, and was much better for those areas, except King Co. lost its property tax base (which was significant once the costs of incorporation and King Co.’s lax building and land use policies were corrected). King Co. still skims off too much property and sales taxes IMO that should be left for the cities (as does the state), and has resorted to levies because voters in Seattle will vote yes for any levy, especially a county level levy thinking it is other people’s money (property taxes) or it will be a windfall for Seattle.

        Even if the total tax amount stayed the same I think more should originate at the city level (property and sales taxes) and be allocated by the cities rather than the county or state because overall they are more efficient and more attuned to their needs, and one size does not fit all.

      7. “Sim’s terrible mismanagement had left the county in a fiscal hole.”

        How did Sims mismanage the county?

        “The irony today is King Co. has little focus on providing services to unincorporated rural areas as claimed in the link”

        The article seems to prove my point. A task force recommended getting out of providing services to unincorporated urban areas, the opinion article agreed, the county adopted it, and the annexations happened.

      8. “the approach to homelessness”

        “You mean Seattle trying to find them shelter and providing them services, while the Eastside resists opening shelters and practically forces homeless to go to Seattle due to lack of services in the Eastside and the difficulty of getting around without a car? There’s like one shelter in Bellevue and it took years to get it open due to nimby opposition, and it’s in an out-of-the-way location and serves a limited range of people.”

        “What did Sims do that was so bad?”

        I have covered what Sims did that was so bad. Basically his bad fiscal management gutted King Co. and any property tax revenue due to incorporation and annexation, and his lax zoning and building code regulations allowed the type of development you so complain of in remote areas that current zoning bills want to double down on.

        Your analysis of treating the homeless — at least the different approaches by Seattle and east King Co. — is naive and simplistic, which is not uncommon in Seattle because the issue is more about self-virtue.

        Seattle (because it is desperate to remove tents from its streets and parks, and is opening a $2 billion convention center) has gone to a housing before treatment approach, and low barrier hotels, and of course wants to use the county to buy distressed hotels and move those homeless to the eastside or S. King Co. where they never receive treatment.

        The problem for cities like Renton is the lack of oversight and treatment creates a huge problem for the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses (but is good for Seattle and fulfilling Harrell’s campaign promises of removing tents from residential parks and downtown streets). The problem for King Co. is the cost per hotel room is $65,000/year, forever.

        The eastside believes in the original migration paradigm: congregate shelter mat or cot because the initial cost is low so can serve many and gets them off the street. Then an enhanced shelter room (around $17,000/year) if there is progress on sobriety and treatment. Then migration to subsidized housing and work, which is why ARCH focuses so heavily on this. And then ideally onto non-subsidized housing so the space and money is freed up for those on the street.

        East King Co. believes this traditional migration approach to homelessness is fiscally sustainable and identifies those who want help and can be helped, and is able to treat and house many more people. The problem is what to do with those who refuse treatment or can’t be treated or rehabilitated. Do you give a drug addict a free hotel room forever so they can do drugs, and tax the working poor through property taxes to fund it?

        The eastside also believes Seattle’s policies toward crime and drugs are a big reason for its recalcitrant homeless population.

        The problem with Seattle’s housing first policy is it is financially unsustainable, which is why we see endless levies for more supportive and affordable housing which will never be enough if folks don’t migrate to where they can help with their rent. King Co. was never serious about real treatment goals after housing the homeless (in low barrier shelters which for some can be like living in an insane asylum with high incidences of sexual assault), and the sudden concentration of homeless in an entire hotel in usually a lower income city or neighborhood results in crime and loss of businesses. But it makes Seattleites feel good because now they don’t see the homeless.

        The different housing agencies have spent billions on buying and managing housing, which I think now numbers around 5000 units and several hotels, and yet the money is never enough because not enough homeless migrate to non-homelessness and some kind of wage-earning capacity to put towards rent. So I would argue the eastside’s traditional migration approach does more to actually rehabilitate the homeless in order to serve more homeless than Seattle’s out of sight out of mind approach with low barrier hotels and shelters.

      9. “You are failing’: Seattle parents question homelessness authority’s action on encampments”


        “The RHA’s 133-page draft plan asks for $8.4 billion in one-time capital costs over five years and up to $3.4 billion in annual operating costs. Split over five years, the annual cost of the plan would be approximately $2.36 billion, roughly 10 times more than the RHA’s 2023 budget of $253 million.”

        “The proposal estimates the KCRHA would serve 23,000 more people annually for the next five years to end what the agency describes as unsheltered homelessness.”

        Here is the plan itself.


        Does $11 billion to house 23,000 people over five years seem like a lot to you? Seattle’s entire operating budget is around $5.8 billion/year and the capital budget $1.52 billion/year.

      10. “Sim’s terrible mismanagement had left the county in a fiscal hole.”

        This comment section is amazing. Like, I had no idea Ron Sims caused the 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession.

      11. I was surprised that on a thread with posts from Iceland to Medina no one commented on King Co. Regional Housing Authority’s request to raise its annual budget by 10X:

        “The RHA’s 133-page draft plan asks for $8.4 billion in one-time capital costs over five years and up to $3.4 billion in annual operating costs. Split over five years, the annual cost of the plan would be approximately $2.36 billion, roughly 10 times more than the RHA’s 2023 budget of $253 million.”

        “The proposal estimates the KCRHA would serve 23,000 more people annually for the next five years to end what the agency describes as unsheltered homelessness.”

        Meanwhile many local school districts are closing or consolidating schools due to the loss of students:

        “Bellevue School District: More than one consolidation plan may be presented Thursday


        “The Bellevue School District (BSD) will present its proposed plan to consolidate three elementary schools during a school board meeting on Thursday.

        “The BSD said more than one consolidation scenario could be presented at the meeting, involving different schools.

        “The community will then have another month to give feedback and attend open houses. After that, a school board vote on a proposed plan will be scheduled.

        “The seven BSD elementary schools under consideration for the plan include Ardmore, Eastgate, Enatai, Phantom Lake, Sherwood Forest, Woodridge, and Wilburton.

        “According to the district, enrollment has been dropping since the 2019-2020 school year and they expect numbers to continue to drop for the next 10 years.

        “Over the last three years, Eastgate Elementary School has seen the largest enrollment drop at 35%. Out of the schools up for consideration, Enatai Elementary has the lowest enrollment decrease of 21%.”

        Washington State spends $18,175 per student per year. https://www.chronline.com/stories/state-budget-washington-spends-18175-per-student,286307

        Where I live this IS the issue, although I understand most on this blog don’t have kids, or kids in K-12 schools. Transit and housing are not big issues where I live. If we as a region continue to focus resources on those who may or may not be rehabilitatable — for the rest of their lives — ofen due to poor life choices but take resources from the students who will have to fix our mistakes and take care of us when we get old and run the world that is a recipe for a doomed society.

        Granted, the loss of school revenue is due to the loss of students which takes away that student’s state funding, and local school districts after McCleary cannot pass local levies for general education, but that means there is a real problem in our education system. Seattle is second in the nation in sending 22% of its K-12 schools to private school, which is a big funding problem for Seattle public schools and most think Seattle will soon have to start closing and consolidating public schools due to declining student enrollment. I don’t think it is coincidence that the school with the largest enrollment drop, Eastgate, is near a very large homeless shelter that will soon open.

        I would much rather gut our transit system to fund the KCRHA’s massive funding increase than K-12 education.

    4. I can’t find the reference right now, but I am pretty sure that Atlanta started planning high density station areas well before MARTA construction started as far back as the 1950’s. That led to the development of the symphony hall, the art museum and Colony Square, as well as many high rise apartment towers.

      The tallest building in Atlanta (B of A at 1023 feet) is in an area that looked much like Capitol Hill in the 1970’s. I remember going to a training conference there in 1984 just a block away. Even then, they were building 10-20 story new apartment towers as MARTA was already running.

      It’s not discussed much, but Midtown’s success is partly driven by mid 20th century racism and countering white flight. Atlanta incentivized densifying in the direction of where wealthy white people lived in part to reduce the need to go all the way south into mixed race Downtown. Of course, the politics and attitudes have radically changed since then. Even Cobb County, once the land of Lester Maddox, Newt Gingrich and segregation voted 14 points in favor of Biden in 2020.

      A notable exception is the Buckhead secessionist movement — which Atlanta voters would never approve in total but the state legislature still has enough white racists from exurbs to push it. Of course, allowing wealthier areas to secede from any government at will without a jurisdiction-wide vote is pure chaos. Imagine if we allowed Medina to unilaterally secede from ST District or King County, for example.

      1. What you’re describing is exactly what Daniel is promoting: Let “The Eastside” go to concentrate its abundant tax dollars educating its already egregiously advantaged children.

      2. Imagine what would happen if we let wealthy neighborhoods secede from the City of Mercer Island unilaterally!

      3. Or like the original American colonies seceded from the British Empire, for example. They had the royalty approval and everything for it, right…

      4. I have always thought unilaterally turning Mercer Island into a penitentiary would be highest and best use for the region.

        I just haven’t managed to get Dow’s ear.

      5. Medina did. It didn’t technically secede, but when Bellevue wanted to annex it, most Medina residents weren’t in favor of it, so they vote to incorporate. I believe the main issue for residents not wanting to become part of Bellevue had to do with lot size. Medina liked their large lots. Bellevue allowed much smaller lots. This was right around the time the massive lower income single family home neighborhoods of Lake Hill and Eastgate were being developed. Maybe they feared if they were annexed by Bellevue, they’d turn into a Lake Hills.

      6. “Of course, allowing wealthier areas to secede from any government at will without a jurisdiction-wide vote is pure chaos. Imagine if we allowed Medina to unilaterally secede from ST District or King County, for example.”

        People on this blog hate Medina, even though I doubt many have actually visited Medina. Why force areas or cities you hate to remain part of your group if they want to leave?

        Unless it is the money.

        Tom’s characterization of the eastside (which is pretty huge if you look at the King Co. district maps I posted) is typical of this blog, mostly rich and selfish (although less white than Seattle, which is awkward for progressive Seattleites). Not every eastside area is Medina. And there is a pretty typical stereotype about Seattleites on the eastside too: Lazy, drug addicts, freeloaders, bums, creeps, hypocrites, whiny, leaches, the usual stuff on eastside blogs. Mostly lazy. Don’t want to work hard. Or at all.

        Let me ask you this: if Medina was poorer than Seattle would you still want it to be part of King Co.? Of course not, which is why Seattle still refuses to annex parts of poor unincorporated King Co. Progressives on this blog are so transparent. They just want the money, but don’t want to admit it, so use terms like equity and racism (although virtually everyone on this blog is white and VERY few live in S. Seattle), unless of course bus service gets reallocated from North Seattle to S. Seattle or even worse S. King Co. Now that is an outrage, although on the eastside we don’t get any neighborhood bus service.

        Medina would still have to pay its fair share for county services it actually uses like sewage (it gets its water from Bellevue) and 911. It already has its own police force, and like most cities pays its own bills. I doubt Medina gets any services directly from King Co., (most come from Bellevue, and MI when it comes to the Marine Patrol it pays for) and like MI the King Co. sheriff never visits.

        If anyone from Medina bought something in Seattle Seattle would still get the sales tax. If it left King Co. the only thing folks might notice on this blog is less tax revenue.

        Same with splitting east and west King Co. What benefits do Seattleites and folks on this blog get from east King Co., except tax revenue? I would expect Seattlites to show some pride, and say hell yes we want to split King Co., and keep your damn money and good riddance. But they never do. Money before pride.

        Buckhead knows resistance to it seceding is only about the money, and so does east King Co. For eastsiders seceding isn’t about racism (since we are less white than Seattle), it is we don’t want to become like Seattle or Portland. That more than anything terrifies us. Is that so hard to understand? We would gladly give you the money if you just left us alone.
        Thank God for the lake, and incorporation.

      7. « Or like the original American colonies seceded from the British Empire, for example. They had the royalty approval and everything for it, right…”

        This is not comparable. The American colonies were not participating in the British government for many decades. The Tea tax was not approved by the colonies either.

      8. I don’t know how Medina voted in the original ST measure (or even in ST3 for that matter). Assuming that they had voted No, would you be willing to let them pull out of the district now, and remove the Yarrow Point station?

      9. “« Or like the original American colonies seceded from the British Empire, for example. They had the royalty approval and everything for it, right…”

        This is not comparable. The American colonies were not participating in the British government for many decades. The Tea tax was not approved by the colonies either.”

        How do you explain unincorporated areas of King Co. incorporating, or being annexed? Different boundary lines are drawn all the time. Look at ST.
        As Sam notes, the cities from Hunts Point to Yarrow Point to Clyde Hill to Medina to Beaux Arts all incorporated, and demanded zoning and local control in order for the Bellevue Council to speak for them. You don’t need a war to readjust boundary lines when things change.

        I am not suggesting a city withdraw from King Co. I am suggesting changes in population, direction, policy, and the huge size of King Co. make it better for both east and west to split King Co. I don’t see how that disadvantages Seattle or west King Co. East King Co. would still get a large portion of fairly poor areas in SE King Co. and even in NE King Co., depending on which King Co. areas on the line wanted to join.

        When Al asks what about Medina withdrawing from ST, that is the whole point: subarea equity. Medina is only part of a one of five subareas that is similar to Medina.

        Maybe we should divide King Co. three ways based on ST subareas: North, East, and South King Co., although S. King Co. might object.

      10. “I don’t know how Medina voted in the original ST measure (or even in ST3 for that matter). Assuming that they had voted No, would you be willing to let them pull out of the district now, and remove the Yarrow Point station?”

        Are you talking about the bus stop on 520 in Yarrow Point? I doubt losing that would frighten Medina. My guess is Medina got zero ST mitigation dollars for East Link. In fact, based on the non-transit demographic I doubt Medina got anything for its ST taxes, unless you count the senior Microsoft executives who live there who believed pre WFH lots of non-Medina riders would take East Link to the campus.

        The point of ST subareas is it created five subareas out of three counties, with three of those subareas in one county, King, which to me suggests King Co. is too large today and should be split at least in half.

      11. “Or like the original American colonies seceded from the British Empire, for example. They had the royalty approval and everything for it, right…”

        It’s an established fact that the American colonies were not represented in British parliament, and that colonialists complained loudly for many years about this before the Revolutionary War began.

        In contrast, Buckhead has been represented on the Atlanta City council for many decades.

        There is no comparison here.

      12. I think Medina isn’t as reactionary as Buckhead is. For starters, 2020 election data shows Medina as a whole is definitely bluer. Medina voted for Biden by nearly 2:1, compared to Buckhead which was split roughly 50/50 between Biden and Trump, even while the rest of Fulton County went to Biden by a huge margin.

        Transit issues is a little different, but I think the fact that Evergreen Point Freeway Station even got built at all given Medina’s wealth shows that Medina is more progressive than many people assume. I’m sure Medina absolutely could have lobbied/sued/whatever it took to prevent the station from seeing the light of day, yet they didn’t. Buckhead, I’m sure, would have.

        In any case, the vast majority of Evergreen Point station users don’t even live in Medina, but are simply transferring between an Eastside/U-district bus and an eastside/downtown bus. Even in some alternate universe where Medina did secede, the station would almost certainly remain open.

      13. Buckhead seems exceptionally well maintained and I can’t imagine what services they claim to be lacking. Considering the obvious neglect in other areas, it would probably benefit Atlanta if Buckhead left.

      14. Daniel:
        That’s about 9 layers of strawman arguments you’ve built against claims nobody here is making, other than you.

  20. Interesting thing about Iceland in Wikipedia:

    “Iceland has a market economy with relatively low taxes, compared to other OECD countries, as well as the highest trade union membership in the world. It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. Iceland ranks high in democracy and equality indexes, ranking third in the world by median wealth per adult. In 2021, it was ranked as the third-most developed country in the world by the United Nations’ Human Development Index, and it ranks first on the Global Peace Index. Iceland runs almost completely on renewable energy.”

    So welfare and unions are not incompatible with low taxes.

    1. Yeah, they got together and created a cooperative around their fishery, making them all relatively wealthy. The dabbled in international banking as well, for ill.

    2. Mike, Iceland works because everyone is related to everyone else, so they don’t get that envious heartburn that Americans do when “that guy over there” gets some help from the government. Plus, since they’re all cousins they don’t try to cheat each other as is so depressingly common here.

      There are real advantages to being a polity with 1000 miles of very cold water between you and everybody else.

      1. Iceland also has fewer than 400,000 people, about the same population as Wyoming. Any social infrastructure comparisons between it and US metropolitan areas are apples and oranges.

    3. That’s the point though: what’s holding the US back is social attitudes and an unnecessary polarization, not that it’s economically impossible to have the best of both worlds. New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries and to a lesser extent Canada have a real democracy where the government works for the benefit of all people rather than the top 1% gaming it to extract wealth or one faction using it to hurt another faction. It all goes back to slavery, in particular a form of chattel slavery that came from Barbados. That stirred up polarization and kicking people who are different or are struggling financially. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

      1. I agree on the disease and its origins, but don’t agree that it can be cured until the last person born in the Jim Crow South is in their grave.

      2. That’s part of it, yes, but there is genuine difficulty in having the sort of equity we all generally strive for in a very complex, mixed-culture society like the US, even when you take out the chattel slavery parts of it (which are significant). Canada did not have that to nearly as big an extent but Canada has plenty of discrimination, too; some of it is related to the way the native groups were treated; some of it is that immigrants have a hard time integrating economically; some of it is the British “caste system”. With more immigrants from other cultures entering Europe, we see plenty of reports of discrimination there, too, in the way those of more similar cultures are received compared to those from less similar cultures (e.g. Ukraine vs. Syria). So let’s not kid ourselves that if only we fixed this one thing (zoning, or transit, or whatever pet cause we each have) everything would turn out ideal.

        It won’t. It’s human nature for this to be hard. That’s not an excuse, it’s reality, and we need to work with the reality we have, not the one we wish to have. That means, in general, accepting that the improvements will be slow, small, and prone to being reversed; and build broad coalitions across people with genuine interest in improving things even though their methods may be different. It is, IMHO, the only way to build long-term success. Hence why I think that having people like Daniel, Ross, Cam, Mike, Sam, etc. – all of whom genuinely appear to believe in wanting to see improvements for the worse-off, contribute to this blog, is great – it helps us all understand how others think, and how to work together.

  21. I just returned from the ST WSBLE open house at Union Station. If you didn’t go, you didn’t miss anything.

    1. The boards generally don’t show vertical details and the few that do just put them in a corner of the display boards. There was almost nothing disclosed that hasn’t already been published.

    2. The staff have only a few blank easels and never wrote any comment on them.

    3. Every staff member I talked to prefaced their discussion with “this isn’t an area that I know anything about.” In other words, they were mostly to all paid schmoozers only.

    4. The boards were poorly done. For example, they had a board on Westlake station and were new entrances to the mezzanine would go — but left off the diagram where the existing mezzanine is! Plus there were no vertical diagrams of Westlake provided.

    These events are completely useless — as usual.

    1. All of the open house materials are published online, so makes sense there is nothing new ‘disclosed’ …. the events are outreach for low-ish information neighbors, not for folks who already read through all the material online.

    1. The New York Pest? The cesspool in which most of the vermin plaguing New York City breed?

      Can we have a “block” button, Frank? I know many will use it against me, but it’s worth it to eliminate the anti-transit gangsters when they decide to do a “drive-by” and “own the Libs”.

    2. Mark, I previously posted a link to an article noting Gov. Hochul’s solution to declining ridership and farebox recovery on the MTA is to increase the payroll tax on employers several billion dollars. Her rationale is the MTA benefits employers by allowing their employees to commute to work, although the irony is the proposed payroll tax increase is because fewer are commuting to work. Irony is often lost on politicians like Hochul.

      It may also be the Governor’s hope employers force more employees to return to in office work which would be good for the city, but I think that will be difficult. Many employers are already downsizing their office space because NYC office space is very expensive, or was, and employees just did not like commuting several hours/day on NY’s decrepit subway system that has seen high profile crimes. With the loss of the work commuter riders during peak times don’t have the same ratio of normal vs. scary riders.

      Gov. Hochul’s may see her payroll tax increase as a form of “equity” by effectively making fares free by lack of enforcement, and having employers pick up the tab (and law-abiding riders which makes them angry and hits the working class). The problem there is NYC is seeing a large migration of employers out of state to areas with lower taxes and lower cost of living and lower crime, most notably Florida that also has warmer weather. If employees are WFH moving the residency of the company becomes even easier.

      As I always say, money can move.

  22. “Social housing measure I-135 has big lead in Seattle special election”.


    “The measure’s lead grew after a second day of vote counting, with about 54% favoring the measure as of Wednesday.”

    “Details: I-135 would create a new social housing developer — a public development authority that would manage housing units where rent is capped at 30% of a tenant’s income.

    “The units would be publicly owned and available to people making between zero and 120% of the area median income. The area median income in Seattle last year was $120,907 for a family of four.

    “The measure itself doesn’t raise taxes or mandate a multimillion-dollar investment from the city.

    “Yes, but: I-135’s supporters hope to get government funding in the future to help jumpstart the building and acquisition of affordable units.”

    My three issues with I-135 were:

    1. Cost. I didn’t think it was a good look that Seattle would have to front $750,000 for offices and salaries for two staff for 18 months. That sounds pretty extravagant for an agency that is supposed to create affordable housing, and little different than the rest of the industrial housing complex.

    2. If rent is capped at 30% of AMI, and AMI in Seattle for an individual is $115,000 which means a single person can afford around $2875/mo. in rent ($2300/mo. for 80% AMI) will that person want to spend the same amount to live in a public affordable housing complex, especially with Seattle’s strict limits on background checks or prospective tenants? One of the reasons behind developers paying a fee in lieu of and limiting affordable housing set asides in new multi-family development at 80% AMI, is developers think their market rate tenants or purchasers don’t want to live with folks below 80% AMI. 80% AMI folks look like they do; 50% AMI not so much. It is why the logical solution, housing vouchers, don’t work well.

    3. If the units are new construction publicly funded construction runs around 30% more than private construction. If instead the new agency purchases existing housing that will only exacerbate any shortage in the housing market for those who don’t win a lottery and get one of these subsidized units, but ironically will end up paying for the bonds through higher property taxes.

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