To solve the housing crisis, build more housing

Microsoft Köln, RheinauArtOffice, Rheinauhafen Köln-3603

Before (lightly) criticizing Microsoft’s specific choices, it is important to say that their investment in local affordable housing is generous, one that their investors would probably not prefer, and that we are fortunate that that a global company is directing a disproportionate amount of its surplus to its home county.

With a total $750m commitment to the cause, the latest $65m allocation includes

$40 million into a fund operated by Urban Housing Ventures, a privately funded company focused on creating affordable apartments. UHV will use the funds to reduce the rent for 40% of units in three apartment buildings to middle-income levels.

UHV says the novel model allows investors such as itself to purchase apartment buildings and then lower the rents on some of the units without losing financial viability. The reduced rent allows buildings to operate at lower vacancy and turnover rates, offsetting some of the costs of converting the units, according to UHV.

Monica Nickelsburg, Geekwire
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News roundup: reopening

Jefferson Car Barn-1941

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News roundup: getting going

Incoming Colourful SWIFT BRT Blue Line

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KC Council quarrels over Metro service guidelines

As Metro applies its new, equity-focused framework, some North King representatives have questions

Northgate Station

Beginning last year, Metro developed a “mobility framework” that expressed the values that would guide service allocation. Alongside technocratic measures like ridership potential, the new framework considers notions of economic and racial equity to correct longtime disparities in investment. An “equity cabinet” of representatives of various disadvantaged groups would shepherd the production of derived documents like the service guidelines.

Those derived documents don’t exist yet, but the framework clearly points to substantially more investment in places like South King County. And here the framework collides with the ongoing North Link bus restructures. Specifically, the 47,000 hours that used to operate Route 41 between Northgate and Downtown, now entirely obviated by North Link.

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ST considering more changes to fares, fare enforcement

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At its October 22 meeting, the Sound Transit Board heard proposals to reduce concession fares for Sounder and reduce the law enforcement footprint in fare enforcement.

In community discussions about fare enforcement, ST has heard four main things:

  • fares are confusing;
  • the law enforcement character of enforcement causes “discomfort;”
  • fares are a hardship for some; and
  • riders appreciate a security presence.

In response to this feedback, and broad board settlement to meet the moment in decriminalization, ST is launching a “fare engagement ambassador” pilot program. These ambassadors will be agency employees rather than private security contractors. They will have new, less threatening uniforms, more emphasis on education and warnings, and less on infractions. Ambassadors will only call law enforcement for “other aggravating factors.”

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News roundup: slipping


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Prop 1 cruises, Washington Democrats in control, Feds TBD

Seattle’s Proposition 1, which partially preserves existing transit taxes, has 82% of counted votes. There aren’t enough uncounted registered voters to mathematically change the result.

As expected, Gov. Inslee is winning easily. Joseph O’Sullivan says ($) that if current results hold, Democrats may gain a Senate Seat at the expense of Sound Transit nemesis Steve O’Ban, extending their new majority.

Everything is still in play at the Federal level, except the House is clearly still Democratic.

Last chance to vote in the general election!

Unless you’re really into the arcana of American politics, you may not have realized that today is Election Day.

We didn’t do formal endorsements this year, but I explained why Seattle voters should approve Prop. 1. Furthermore, Seattle Subway did their homework and released endorsements informed by very similar principles to what I would have used as a member of the Editorial Board.

Beyond Prop 1, virtually the entire state government is up for grabs. Olympia has vast power over land use and transit outcomes in Seattle and everywhere else in Washington. I hear there are some federal races too.

It is not a good idea to use the US Postal Service this late in the process. Instead, find your nearest drop box and insert your ballot no later than 8pm tonight.

Or, if you need more assistance, managed not to register to vote, or are just old-fashioned, don a mask and register and/or vote in person.

Finally, if like most eligible people you’ve already voted, please track your ballot today so that you have time to rectify any problem that arose.

News roundup: this is why

A Final Look Back at Ze MV Tokitae

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News roundup: returning

Inside Seattle's King Street Station

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Challenges, more closures for East Link construction

Bellevue Downtown Station (Sound Transit)

On October 8th System Expansion Committee received briefings on various capital projects. The centerpiece was a detailed review of East Link. The system is 85% complete, within the budget set in 2015, and on schedule for opening in July 2023. But there’s also some bad news.

Major civil engineering should be done in early 2021, and systems work by early 2022. Most of 2022 will be “pre-revenue” testing, and from September 2022 is 9 months of “float”. But some things are not going well.

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I-976 struck down

Temple of Justice, Washington

No details as of yet, but who needs the details:

The immediate practical importance is that various transit and transportation agencies will not have to refund the money they have been collecting since I-976 passed, easing pressure on budgets statewide.

All justices but Barbara Madsen, who found only one reason to reject it instead of two, signed the ruling. Story here ($).

Vote Yes on Prop. 1

A King County Metro Route 8 Working on 10 July 2019

Seattle loves its bus service. As pandemic measures temporarily reduce demand, new challenges like the West Seattle Bridge closure arise. It would be irresponsible to reject a measure that doesn’t even fully replace the tax that it succeeds.

In 2014, Seattle approved a $60 vehicle license fee and 0.1% sales tax to fund increases in bus service that greatly increased the number of Seattle residents within walking distance of bus routes that run every 10 minutes all day. That tax expires on December 31st, and Metro has already cut some service in anticipation of losing that revenue.

Booming tax revenues, and a lack of bus capacity at Metro, led Seattle to find other worthy transit-related goals. Notably, Mayor Durkan introduced the “ORCA Opportunity” program, providing free passes to Seattle Public School students and therefore nearly eliminating youth fares in the City of Seattle.

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