I Hope They Don’t Paint All the Houses Mellow Yellow…

December 15, 2008

A couple of important stories over the weekend, housing-wise. Let’s start on the national front, where President-elect Obama selected Donovan as his HUD Secretary nominee. No, not singer of the song “Mellow Yellow” Donovan! New York City Housing Commissioner Shaun Donovan. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn

November 6, 2008

In the face of this, it’s nice to be ranked #1 for this: “Real Estate Markets Most Likely To Rebound”.

Readers Agree: We Make Good Mixed Use Affordable Housing

November 5, 2008

Congrats to Capitol Hill Housing for winning Affordable Housing Finance magazine’s 2008 Reader’s Choice Best Overall Project award. The project is featured on the magazine’s November cover.

Apparently, Broadway Crossing has already received a number of awards, including a 2007 Governor’s “Smart Communities” Award, a 2008 Associated Builders and Contractors Excellence in Construction Award, and was a finalist in Home Depot’s Excellence in Affordable Housing Competition. The building is also the first multifamily building in Seattle to achieve a LEED Silver Certification.

Good stuff. One more example of how affordable, workforce housing can be aesthetically pleasing, fit neighborhood character and complement other planning and development goals like density and transit-oriented development.

Dear Federal Government:

October 30, 2008

I see in the news you are going to spend $50 billion to guarantee mortgages. Apparently the plan will entail lowering interest rates for 5 years for distressed home owners. I am writing to let you know that I am distressed. I have a 30 year mortgage in which I put 20 percent down. My wife and I have been making extra payments each month to pay off the mortgage early. I am distressed that you will be giving my hard earned tax payer money to people who have been irresponsible. I can assure you that if you give me some of the $50 billion I will put it to good use. For example, I will spend it on candidates for office who won’t give a bunch of money to irresponsible people on Wall Street and Main Street.

Best regards,
Sam Kaplan

The Right Thing for the Wrong Reason?

October 14, 2008

So, the Seattle City Council voted to limit the size of houses on small lots. This is something that many communities have been doing/talking about recently because they’re worried about “neighborhood character” (translation: “you’re blocking my view” or “you’re making me feel bad about the size of my house/wallet”).

But it seems to me that the important issues here have to do with environment/energy use and density. You hear that same “neighborhood character” concern when you talk about increasing density in a neighborhood because people don’t want large buildings with their “traffic” and “noise” (and “low-income people?”) The way to increase density in those single-family zoned neighborhoods, therefore, is smaller houses on smaller lots. Everybody gets their pied-à-terre, but we get more people per acre which makes it easier to service them with transit and we don’t use a ridiculous amount of fossil fuels to keep the fourth floor master bedroom warm in the winter. Oh, and those smaller houses are more affordable to buy and own, too…

I Want to Get High

September 17, 2008

Very interesting article on the city’s proposals for height limitations in South Lake Union. The basic point is that Seattle believes that you can raise height limits in ways that both benefit the developers of market priced residential and office space while using fees on those height increases to fund public benefits like affordable housing and open space (and maybe cultural facilities?).

Whatever the city decides to do, there are interesting arguments for this approach. Especially as we encourage more density and transit oriented development, finding ways to accommodate more people in the same amount of land is the major question, and ensuring that those units are accessible to the workforce has to be included.

Driving the Economy

September 8, 2008

Interesting event coming up in Seattle in October by a group called the Mobility Agenda about the link between car ownership and economic success. According to the announcement: “Research has shown that workers who own cars have greater employment and earnings potential than those who do not.”

First, I wonder if that is an association that is changing as more people – particularly higher income folks – move into more dense urban areas where they can walk, bike or use public transportation: If rich people don’t have cars, then the data will show that car ownership is more associated with lower incomes. Second, the more we increase the supply of affordable housing in transit-oriented development, the less that those people will need cars also.

Housing Winners and Losers

September 8, 2008

Big weekend/beginning of the week in housing. Out with Kerry Killinger. In with government “conservatorship” of Fannie and Freddie.

What’s interesting to me is how some of this is being spun in the media as a benefit. Read the rest of this entry »

Credit Crunch Trickle Down

August 8, 2008

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) held a housing summit at Bellevue City Hall yesterday to highlight her leadership in modernizing the low-income tax credit program. There were a couple of interesting panel discussions, one on development of low income housing and one on the financing of low income housing projects.

In a previous post, I mentioned the fact that the credit crunch in our country was one of the factors that prevented people from being able to take advantage of falling home prices. What I neglected to mention – and what was touched on yesterday – was that the credit crunch also inhibits housing affordability because developers can’t finance their projects as easily. Read the rest of this entry »

You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Or At Least You Shouldn’t)

August 4, 2008

So, there’s all sorts of things to pick apart in this Richard Morrill piece, but this one quote really exemplifies one of the biggest issues we have in this country on a whole host of issues:

The overwhelming reality is that there are people who prefer denser urban living (structures and neighborhoods) and people who prefer less-dense living (single-family homes and neighborhoods).

Remember when Vice President Cheney said that Americans have the right to drive big gas-guzzling cars? I think we have an interesting sense of entitlement about what we’re allowed to do sometimes. There are a lot of things that I would prefer that a) I can’t afford or b) impact the greater good to the extent that I’m not or shouldn’t be allowed to do them. Just because we all like living in 5000 square foot detached single family homes on a half acre doesn’t mean we should. There are impacts on transportation, the environment and growth management that we have to consider, and sometimes public policy dictates that we make alternative choices.

Big House, Small House

July 31, 2008

Piece in the P-I today about cottage housing as an option to increase housing affordability. Certainly not news that a) huge houses cost more and b) people are getting a little tired of townhouses. The option to live in a smaller house on a subdivided unit or even turn a backyard garage into a separate living space is not only more attractive and affordable, but also more environmentally-friendly because of increased density and the lower energy costs to cool, heat and run it.

In general, another way the economy is driving people to think smaller…just like high gas prices inspiring people to buy smaller cars. For all you SAT lovers out there, McMansion is to Hummer as…

Housing Prices vs. Housing Affordability

July 29, 2008

So, one of the things I bet people are going to start saying is “Housing affordability isn’t a problem anymore, since the bubble burst and prices are falling!”


First off, our prices haven’t fallen that far. Second, our prices were “pretty darn high,” so a little fall only makes them only “pretty high.” Third, there’s also a little thing people are calling “the credit crisis,” which means that even if homes are at the right selling price, mortgage payments still put them out of the range of affordability.

Just sayin’.


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