On Other Blogs
On Other Blogs Today: Foreclosure, Affordable Transit, and the Definition of a "Home"
Our daily roundup.
1. Seattle "homes" are "disappearing," the Seattle Times reports histrionically. "Prepare for battle" if you want to buy a home in one of Seattle's most sought-after neighborhoods, because the number of homes is declining.
Except, whoops: The "homes" the Times is referring to are single-family houses only—and in fact, what's actually happening in Seattle neighborhoods is that far more homes are being built, just not single-family ones.
The Times goes on to suggest that the way developers "have found a way to make room" for new people is by "building tall, narrow houses on back or side yards of existing homes."
But far more of the reason the number of new single-family homes has been declining is the fact that developers have responded to consumer demand, building townhouses and condos instead of big houses. If there wasn't a demand for them, developers wouldn't be building them.
"Homes" aren't disappearing. Homes are being built. They just aren't the kind of "homes" that meet the Times' definition of a "home"—large, suburban-style single-family houses with big yards. That may be the kind of home the Times considers legitimate, but it isn't the kind of home people are actually demanding—and buying.
2. Over at Slog, Ansel Herz has a piece accusing Mayor Ed Murray of "bashing" a West Seattle couple who have been facing eviction due to foreclosure because Murray noted in a statement that Adult Protective Services had been inside the home and reported that conditions there were unsanitary and unsafe, particularly for disabled veteran Byron Barton, the former owner of the house.
Herz calls Murray's statement a "flimsy attempt to undermine the Bartons' credibility with the public" and quotes Jean Barton, Byron Barton's wife, and the Barton's lawyer as saying APS found "no problems" in the house.
Herz also accuses Murray—taking Jean Barton's word for this claim—of lying when the mayor said that the city has offered the couple numerous services to help them get on their feet, including city, county, and federal health and human service assistance. "No, no!" Herz quotes Barton as saying.
In contrast, the West Seattle Blog reports that Sheriff John Urquhart, like Murray, also confirms that conditions in the house are unsanitary and unsafe. (Weird, the Stranger didn't accuse Urquhart, whom they have supported politically, of "bashing" the Bartons or making "unseemly" statements.)
WSB also reports (unlike Herz, who says "malpractice by behemoth banks" is responsible for the foreclosure) the fact that the Bartons owned the house outright—it's been in their family for more than 60 years—but, according to court records, took out $650,000 in loans against the value of the house and then stopped making payments in 2011. Their claims that they should not have to pay their loans back have been dismissed twice by two judges, once with prejudice.
The Bartons were formally evicted this morning, according to WSB.
3. And speaking of the Stranger and housing: Smart Growth Seattle eviscerates another Herz story, this one claiming that socialist council member Kshama Sawant and a handful of tenant advocates successfully prevented a developer from raising rents at an affordable housing development in the Central District through their heartfelt protests. Except, whoops, that wasn't actually true: The housing development, owned by the Central Area Development Association, has a covenant requiring rents to stay affordable through 2064.
Smart Growth writes that "someone pushed [the] panic button, bad information was circulated, and the apartment became a cause celebre for Sawant and others. The truth was much more complicated than the dominant narrative of greedy landlords throwing people out of low income housing."
(I'd link to the original story, which ran in the print edition of the paper, but it appears to have been taken down without explanation. In a subsequent post, Herz blamed the whole situation, including his story, Sawant's appearance, and the protests outside the Bartons' house, on a "misunderstanding" and said the developer has "agreed" to keep rents affordable.)
4. We agree with Carla Saulter, who wrote this morning's Likes and Dislikes Fizz, that King County deserves props for implementing a low-income fare, which will cost people making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level $1.50. But we don't like that it still will cost $1.50 for people who are very low-income (or no-income) to get to services in and around downtown, whereas the Ride-Free Area was free.
And we don't like the prospect that, as commenters on Seattle Transit Blog point out, it may be tough to implement, requiring low-income people to A) Find out about the program and B) Go to health and human services centers to get their special low-income ORCA cards. (However, we do like the eventual switch to all-card service, since paper transfers are inefficient and easy to abuse). In other words, we're conflicted about the whole thing. Plus ça change.
5. Tired of cyclists riding on the streets? The Atlantic's CityLab has an idea: Build more bike lanes. "Yes, some cyclists may ride on the sidewalk to annoy the universe," they write. "Many more no doubt do so because they find sharing the road with cars to be exceedingly dangerous." Meanwhile, studies have shown that when cities build bike infrastructure, sidewalk riding decreases—even as total ridership goes up.
6. Finally, speaking of infrastructure, the Urbanisthas some ideas about where Seattle might build roundabouts—those big traffic circles that have replaced U.S.-style traffic lights all across Europe. Roundabouts reduce collisions, cut gas consumption, provide open space, and are safer for cyclists and pedestrians.