On Other Blogs

Roger Valdez: On Transit-Oriented Ghost Towns

By Erica C. Barnett July 14, 2011

On his Seattle's Land Use Code Blog, Roger Valdez riffs off my reporting yesterday on a tense exchange between city council members Sally Clark and Tim Burgess over density in Roosevelt. (Burgess supports increasing heights around the planned Roosevelt light-rail station; Clark says the city needs to go through a process with the neighborhood before it considers moving forward with more density).

During yesterday's meeting of the Committee on the Built Environment, Clark told Burgess she worried that neighborhoods will end up “derelict and underused” if the city approves too much density and no one moves in. "My fear is that we would be so aggressive in our zoning and so out of step with the market that we would create a disincentive for the folks who were there now to invest and to make changes that can actually change the quality of life for the people who are there now."

Valdez's cutting response:
Owwwww! I can’t stand it. So we’re going to intervene in the market place to ensure that new development doesn’t end up “derelict and underused.” Please, think for a second. Let’s say that happened. What would the price of those “derelict” units be? Let me go back to supply and demand 101. If the developers over build around light rail and nobody shows up, the price of those units will drop. I promise. I do.

On the other hand, we can keep larding up our code with all kinds of limits to the supply of new housing. Lower supply, increasing or steady demand, and then you have “unaffordable housing.” Why is this basic and iron clad rule of economics so hard to understand. I’m a philosophy major! Even I get this.

I have plenty of hair on my head, but I won’t for long if the City Council can’t get their basic economics straight. ... If the people don’t come, and we have an over supply of housing, SHAZAM, we’ve just solved our affordable housing “crisis.”

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