I got an email from change.org this morning. Like everything from change.org it’s a request to sign a petition. This in and of itself isn’t shocking since that’s the purpose of change.org.
What got to me was the specifics of the petition.
The petition is to save an apartment complex.
They claim it’s affordable housing. It is. Kind of.
The Theodora is a property presently (formerly?) run by a not for profit entity: Volunteers of America (VoA from now on). From various searches I’ve seen this described as section 8 housing or a nursing home. In either case it’s not strictly the type of place that people think of when they’re think of affordable housing.
Presumably VoA wants to sell the property so they can use the money to do something else with it. Land prices in Seattle are, for better or worse, through the roof. Selling something that’s grown in value substantially over time is typically not a bad move; you can use the money to do something else.
The site is obviously zoned residential already since it’s an apartment. I’m guessing that a developer will want to come in and build newer apartments and make money like that. (From looking at the permit application it’s looking to re-do the existing structure and add additional units)
So, what’s the problem with that? It’s a private transaction between two businesses.
If VoA wants to get out of the business in that location there’s nothing that can compel them to stay there. If another company wants to build there’s little that can be done to outright force the creation of “affordable” living spaces. (You could offer tax abatements or similar devices to incentivize the developers)
The petition is going after the developer. Why isn’t it going after VoA to get them to not sell?! Aren’t they the ones that are abandoning their clients?
Why is building more housing (new apartments that the market desperately wants) bad?
If what you’re looking for is affordable housing, shouldn’t you be looking to increase the viable housing stock not stifle development? (These existing apartments are only around 550 ft^2 tops, maybe smaller since the specifics of how the square footage of the building is not specified, hallways might, for instance, be counted as well) In all there will be a net loss of four units according to the application and these units are going to exactly the people that are making it not affordable to live in Seattle. These are the people that are competing with the average person to get a house or apartment.
Like I said, why demonize the developer? They just purchased something from VoA when VoA didn’t want to support the market you’re crying over.
For the folks that are being displaced? Yes, I do feel bad for them. They’re not the charges of the city nor the developer. They are being left behind by VoA if anyone. VoA might want to consider taking some of the massive windfall to help provide for the people that need to find alternate housing.
If you, the citizen, feels as strong as you seem to feel why don’t you guys just form a coalition to buy the building yourself and keep it how you want it. Oh, that’s right, you don’t want to spend your own money on it.
The housing market is looking to expand. The developer, Goodman Real Estate, is looking to fill that need. Unless you can reduce the demand for quality (that is 800-1200 ft^2+ with modern amenities) living spaces to keep up with modern needs you’re fighting a losing battle. Shouting and petitioning will just cause the housing market to keep going up faster.
From looking at the application it’s looking to expand the existing structure just a bit and not put of one of the modern monstrosities that are popping up all over the city. I would want to encourage that type of development if anything!