December 03, 2003
While the Seattle Times editorial page deserves all the criticism I heap on it (scroll down or search my archives), it is also home to the best local editorial writer, Bruce Ramsey.
In today's column, Ramsey explains the causal link between Seattle's lack of affordable housing and the city's burdensome regulations on the construction of new housing
That's the Seattle way. We put a regulatory blanket over all construction, then permit exceptions. Our policy indicates that we want housing to be expensive. When people are shocked by the effect on the poor, they raise the flag of compassion, tax property owners and build housing with public subsidy. But new housing is costly, and our subsidy creates only a little of it.
(The print edition includes a nice graphic that illustrates the fall-off in new construction).
renters will not be better off until Seattle "progressives" recognize that the interests of renters and builders are roughly the same, and that the best way to make housing more affordable is to let profit-directed people create more of it.
should publish Ramsey more often.
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at December 03, 2003 11:51 AM
For years Ramsey was an ornament on the business pages of the P-I, and his departure rendered that paper about 100% more worthless.
And he's right - what he points out about Seattle's climate of land use regulations illuminates the philosopy of its elitist City Council: Everything not compulsory is forbidden. Particularly, an uninhibited trade between willing buyers and sellers of land and housing.
The forbidden part is easy, and Ramsey shows how that works in today's column. The compulsory part is in the Growth Management Act: There Will Be Affordable Housing.
Of course the elitists on the Council (and the State legislators who wrote that piece of idiocy) had no intentions of dipping into their personal trust funds to cover the costs; they cynically assumed that further legislation would impose those costs on some wrong-voting capitalists. Without that legislation, it may take some real wealth-generating work by the self-elected activists of the Seattle Displacement Coalition to finance some really affordable housing.
Lets not talk too much about this. I've been counting on just these kinds of policies to make a bundle. I own real estate (a couple of single family houses) that are appreciating handsomely. Thank you Growth Management Act and building regulations. Anything related to housing that puts a smile on a Seattle/King County bureaucrat will certainly force the cost of housing up. I win. Making land scarce and forcing builders to provide/extort money for public improvements in exchange for the ability to build housing is music to my ears. New construction costs rise and the existing house stock appreciates concurrently. Wahoo! Of course when I retire, I'm leaving this crazy place.
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Owners will never go for relaxing the regs, and a larger propotion of them vote than do renters. Prospective owners probably can't vote. It's not going to change.
And the owner's can get a little rightious thrill for being anti-development ( any bonus to the pocket book is pure coincidence ).