1. File this one under On Other Blogs Today, or (and the real reason we're writing about it), as a follow-up to an article we published back in February about the recent City Council report showing that Seattle's incentive zoning program wasn't working.
That report found that incentive zoning—making developers pay into an affordable housing fund or making them build affordable housing on site in exchange for building taller—wasn't actually producing much housing. And worse, the housing it was producing wasn't affordable to the people who were getting priced out of Seattle, those making below 60 percent of median income ($37,000 for one person ... $53,000 for four people).
Yesterday's New York Times Magazine published an article reporting that progressive solutions like incentive zoning—and even the more left-leaning solution, inclusionary zoning (mandating that developers set aside affordable housing)—aren't working anywhere.
Many of these solutions are dwarfed by the sheer size of the problem. London alone needs, by one count, 800,000 new units by 2021 to meet both pent-up and new demand. Sydney, where the median rent on a two-bedroom apartment is now $2,600 a month, aspires to build more than half a million units by 2031, a goal for which it would have to double its normal pace of construction. New York needs more than 300,000 units by 2030. By contrast, inclusionary zoning, a celebrated policy solution that requires developers to set aside units for working and low-income families, has created a measly 2,800 affordable apartments in New York since 2005.
The article recommends the "Singapore Solution"—building big for more supply. The article also notes, though, that building big is "politically impossible" because locals object to disrupting their neighborhood environment.
But then comes the article's Fizz-worthy rejoinder from Harvard housing economist Ed Glaeser:
“One of my pet peeves is that environmental reviews are only focused on the local environmental impact of building the project, but not the global environmental impact of not building the project.”
2. In the queue since City Council got initial details early last year, but running into sponsorship and vendor problems, Puget Sound Bike Share—pledging an initial 500 bikes at 50 stations to be located in downtown, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, Eastlake and the University District for starters—is ready to announce its new sponsorship deal this morning.
Contracting with Portland-based bike vendor Alta—which replaced a Canadian vendor that went bankrupt earlier this year—PSBS and Mayor Ed Murray will unveil new details at the South Lake Union Discovery Center today.
Typical bike share programs in cities such as D.C. and NYC have daily, monthly, and yearly payment options—around $7, $35, and $80 respectively.
3. Despite Mayor Murray's big win last week—getting signoff from both labor and business on a $15 minimum wage deal to head off a big initiative battle—picture this: City Council, as expected, passes Murray's plan in early summer, but the dissident task force member, council member Kshama Sawant, goes forward with a ballot initiative for a 15Now no-compromise version.
At that point, would the council—at the urging of business, which doesn't like the Sawant version—be forced to put its own version on the ballot? And would labor, which has now shaken hands with business, and which, like Murray, desperately wants to avoid an initiative battle—be forced to help fund the ... initiative battle?