Letter to the editor: Multifamily housing isn’t always ‘affordable’

Editor:

There has been a lot of news in Edmonds and Washington state about “Affordable Housing” lately. I want to share my latest experience with this. My office is in the “No Corners” (formerly 5 Corners) area of Edmonds. Next door to my office on 82nd Place West was a 50-year-old, 1,886-square-foot rambler.  The zoning has been multi-family for a long time. The home was built before the change in zoning.

Drive by and take a look, 21222 82nd Pl. W. On June 14, 2019, a developer bought this home for $550,000 (according to the Snohomish County Assessor’s Office). It was then torn down and in its place is now a two-story fourplex. They are for sale now. Two are priced at $824,000 and the other two are $899,000.

This was all legal and I might add “proper.” I believe real estate should be used for the best and highest use according to the market within the zoning and building code guidelines. My opinion is that this did not work out very well for people looking for affordable housing.

So beware rezoning single-family lots to multifamily, thinking you will get affordable housing. My opinion is that the government should not be involved in trying to create “affordable housing.” It seldom works and frankly is not the job of the government.

People should decide where they will live and it should be a place they can afford. If they work some other place it is called “commuting.” If you aren’t living in the home you want, where you want it, then you need to make a plan to increase your income and/or save enough to be able to afford it.

I hope to see some lively discussion of this idea. Best wishes to all, even those of you who disagree with me.

Ben Cain
Edmonds

13 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Multifamily housing isn’t always ‘affordable’”

  1. Thank you Ben for saying the obvious. The same story repeats itself on 8th by the cemetery. One older home removed and two homes built and sold for a price of 1.1 million. This older home that was in need of updating could have been a starter home for a new buyer.
    Additionally, these homes built and sold create a higher market overall in the neighborhood.

    The government should not be involved in housing. The government should not tell the citizens how THEY should live as they live in their Gated guarded Mansions.

    Laura Johnson, a Council Woman tweeted in December, you are not an environmentalist. if you prioritize single family over expanded housing options You are part of the problem. Laura lives in her downtown home. What makes Laura think a resident that doesn’t want to be priced out or boxed in,
    is the problem. We voted Laura in to represent us, not her ideology.

    The county increases taxes for the middle income in snohomish county through our property taxes, while giving apartment owners a break on taxes? They tax the farmers, so our meat is more expensive that we need to feed our families. The government says we need to drive electric cars so they are forcing gas prices up. Is the government buying you that new electric car??

    Please demand that council brings any changes in our city neighborhood zoning to the people in a ballot vote. We don’t want your surveys we want a ballot. Additionally, any subsidized housing should go to a vote. We the people should always have a vote especially when the change will affect your home life and your taxes.

    Thank you,
    Dee

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  2. I’ll bite. One single family home which could have stayed that way was purchased by a investor who was able to turn it into a 4plex. The market has been great the investment has likely given the investor a 100% plus profit in the 3 years, well done. The author is correct making 4 houses out of one hasn’t reduced the price of approximately the same square footage per house it only increased the population density and the amount of imperious surface and likely the tree canopy. Seems the theme from my friends on the left, is to cry about the environment and affordable housing at the same time they encourage exactly this type of project which helps neither. But what it does do is increase tax revenue to be wasted by the governments bloated bureaucracy.

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    1. Using the one third of gross income metric you would need to make about 160 thousand per year to afford a 900 thousand dollar house. Plus you need the down payment 5% is 45 thousand dollars. So for a example a journeyman electrician and a registered nurse should be able to afford a 900 thousand dollar house. Didn’t Amazon just raise starting salary for some tech jobs from 160 thousand to 350 thousand? Must be lots of young professionals out there making a really good living because these houses are selling about as fast as they are listed. The idea that a single low wage worker should be able to afford to own a home in Edmonds hasn’t ever been the case at least in my lifetime. For renting a 15 dollar a hour worker should be able to pay about 1000 a month for rent here is the problem there are not many places in that range but there are plenty of places if you are willing to have a roommate. I think a recent article on the homeless said rent prices averaged between one and two thousand.

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  3. There will never be affordable housing in Edmonds because it is a desirable place to live. Zoning laws meant to allow affordable housing are for developers and the politicians they back.
    Just drove on I90 through Issaquah. They are building 13 story buildings right along the highway now.
    We are losing our small towns and character people. Please consider that when you vote and let you council members know.

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  4. Hey Ben,
    Can you afford to purchase your home at the current market rate? First, second, and even some third time buyers are struggling.

    Soon most will become priced out of the community – police officers, judges, servers, small business owners, nurses, teachers, lawyers, accountants and civil workers.

    Where we all going to park?

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  5. Denise Cooper,
    I want to comment on one of your statements: “the government is forcing up gas prices”. The government has little to do with gas prices; rather it is a free market commodity. During the first of the pandemic, as demand plummeted due to people not commuting, supplies were not replenished at the same earlier rate, creating less supply at the present. As demand has increased recently, so have prices. And of course, with even more limited supplies due to current events related to Russia, we are seeing prices skyrocket. There is little the government can do about that other than release reserves which are quite minimal and so have little impact. It’s going to be tough going in that regard for some time.

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  6. Another reason is the government is profiting from these housing codes. That single family affordable house pays very little in taxes compared to the dense housing being built. In fees buying, selling, construction and property taxes. It’s all a smokescreen to maximize monies being poured into the bottomless pit of government spending.

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  7. A true environmentalist would do a little research and learn about “embodied carbon.”

    https://projectsight.trimble.com/reduce-embodied-carbon-on-your-next-building-project/

    Excerpt:

    “The building and construction industry currently accounts for 39% of global carbon emissions (source), meaning that changes we make will have a pivotal impact across the world and could represent the tipping point between success or failure.”

    “Embodied carbon is the sum of all greenhouse gas emissions (mostly carbon) resulting from the construction lifecycle of a building. This includes emissions from material extraction and transportation, the construction phase, keeping the building operational (such as refurbishment) activities, and ultimately the end of life stage through demolition and material disposal or processing.” 

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/green-living-blog/2010/oct/14/carbon-footprint-house

    Excerpt:
    “If this one study is representative, the message for the construction industry is clear. Investment in the very highest levels of energy-efficiency for new homes is, even at its best, an extremely costly way of saving carbon. Investing in improvements to existing homes is dramatically more cost-effective.”

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  8. Cindy, Yes the govt has an effect on pricing based on allowing completing of pipeline for ease of crude delivery, not allowing new refineries to be built, restricting regulations and closing leases on federal ground. Allowing the USA to become a net crude purchaser instead of a crude exporter like the last administration. I could go on and one. The Wall Street traders are driving this too for profit. Chaos = Profit

    This information was provided by someone with many years in the gas industry.

    Cheers!

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  9. Good comments. In my 20s I had two roommates to be able to afford an apartment in Arlington Virginia. My point is that if you cannot afford to live there, you cannot live there (as I think about living in Woodway). I cannot afford to live in Woodway and please do not build a tiny house there for me.

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  10. You’re not going to get “affordable” home ownership options with townhomes. It just doesn’t pencil out. The only way is to have condominiums with less than a thousand square feet units. These buildings aren’t going to end up in the middle of some single family neighborhood without strong neighborhood objections. From a “Green” standpoint, new construction is always going to be a dubious carbon reduction. Better to look at it as a localized quality-of-life issue.

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  11. This whole idea is a developers ploy to have us look like Ballard. The whole character of our town would be destroyed in the name of affordable housing. Very few houses are “ truly affordable” here anymore and it ruins the whole character of Edmonds to cut all the trees and build boxes for people to live in. These boxes with no retail space for local businesses on the ground level and no parking for tenants who also have cars and do drive. The styling of some of the units being proposed is not in keeping with the entire character of our town. Even when permits for tree removal or cutting are permitted this cutting or “topping” should not be allowed. This is horrible for the trees (like what Pt. Edwards did) and was done to purely enhance the view. We have to remember that life up here in the Evergreen State was meant to be lived with trees and outdoor spaces. Cut everything and built 3 or 4 houses were one used to be is not in keeping with Edmonds and does not enhance our town or environment.

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