Caffeinated News

1. Seattle City Council member Nick Licata's office sent an email to constituents on Friday explaining the new council legislation on microhousing (a.k.a. aPodments, a.k.a. small eficiency dwelling units, SEDUs). 

Licata helped nudge the legislation from logical (it rightly closes a regulatory loopole so that design review kicks in with an actual living space count instead of a lax phony "unit" count) to onerous (it mandates two sinks and a pushy square footage minimum). And yet his constituent email candidly (?) unwittingly (?) concedes the central objection that developers and urbanists had to the new rules all along: That it will make the housing more expensive.

After a straightforward summary of the legislation, the email notes: 

"Many of you have contacted Council member Licata because of his track record promoting affordable housing.  Some of you have expressed concerns that this legislation will result in higher rents for residents of SEDUs..."  

Rather than disputing the claim—developers have estimated the new rules will increase aPodment rents from an average of $800 a month to $1120 per month—the email simply explains that current aPodment dwellers along with aPdoments currently in the development pipline won't be affected and will remain "at the lower rent range ... for the unregulated product."   

This legislation only applies to permits submitted after the legislation takes effect.   The more than 3,600 units in the permitting pipeline, or completed to-date, are authorized to be built without the requirements enacted in this legislation and consequently should be able to be at the lower rent range reported by developers (~$800/month) for the unregulated product.

2. Pronto, Seattle's new bikeshare program, debuts today with a ride starting at 11 am from Occidental Park.

That is where cities have come in, with mayors, city governments and grass-roots organizations emerging as the true leaders in efforts to raise wages from the bottom up.

With 500 bikes and 50 stations around the city (clustered in downtown, Capitol Hill, and the U. Distirct mostly, with zero stations south of I-90, actually, meaning no Pronto stations at transit centers such as Mt. Baker (Northgate neither), it's an exciting, but flawed kick off. 

3.  And a PubliCola LIKE from over the weekend: In an editorial flagging "stagnating wages" and economic opportunity "concentrated at the top of the economic ladder in a self-reinforcing process that makes broad prosperity impossible," The Sunday New York Times, wearing its urbanist politics loud and proud, called for "Raising the minimum wage, city by city." 

With Congress unwilling to address those challenges, the states have picked up some of the slack. Currently, for example, 26 states and the District of Columbia have, or soon will have, raised their minimum wage above the paltry federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

Even so, these more robust state minimums tend to cluster around $8 to $10 an hour, which is better than $7.25, but still lower than the $11 to $18 an hour that is needed to bring minimum wages in line with relevant benchmarks, including the cost of living, average wages and labor productivity.

That is where cities have come in, with mayors, city governments and grass-roots organizations emerging as the true leaders in efforts to raise wages from the bottom up.

In his July magazine feature on the $15 minimum wage deal, Josh sounded a similar note.

As headline issues like climate change, education, and income inequality stall at the federal and state levels, cities like Seattle have the opportunity to become the de facto leaders on urgent national policy issues. In that context, the implications of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage legislation are huge. 

While sound bite government has failed, energized cities like Seattle—having now inked a successful minimum wage agreement at the negotiating table—are poised to set the national agenda with a progressive “Metropolitan Revolution,” as Brookings Institute policy nerds have labeled the current moment.



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