Seattle Under Siege

(Ross Clark) #21

Large (family-sized) houses, cheap houses, and reasonable commute times. You can have any two, but not all three.

In the post-war period the predominant change in urban form in American and other New World cities was for the inner cities to empty out in favour of the suburbs. Now that the inner city has come back into vogue, the greater demand for land and housing - a shift in the underlying ‘fundamentals’ of the market - has put ‘family-sized’ housing in the inner city under real price pressure.

Part of the solution is in improved mass transit links, especially rail, as this reduces commute time over driving and makes it feasible for people with families to still live some distance from their work and still get there in a reasonable time. This is how British cities of any size work, leaving the inner city with something of a skewed demographic (more single adults and fewer children) - and quite evident in the churches, as well, as any look at Redeemer in NYC will make clear.

(Jay Tuck) #22

Probably not “conservatives.” NIMBYism is a universal phenomenon.

(Joseph Bayly) #23

I’ve wondered over and over what you meant by that. Am I missing something? Did somebody advocate that here?

(John M. ) #24

While it’s certainly true that houses in the suburbs, then as now, are larger than those in inner cities, Americans had been raising families of all sizes in inner cities until after WWII. The thing that drove people to the suburbs was crime. And lo and behold, after 20 years of more-or-less falling crime rates, middle-class people are moving back to inner cities. It’s true that most of the folks doing this are not looking to raise large families, but I’d argue that’s mostly because innser city schools are horrible, even by declining American standards.

(I’d argue that awful public schools across urban, suburban and rural parts of the US are a major driver in small family size, but that’s a little OT for this thread.)

(Joel Norris) #25

Yes, a universal phenomenon that includes “conservatives” who claim to be “free-market”. It is ironic to hear people complain that the state legislature is “liberal/socialist” when it is considering a law that would loosen very burdensome local regulations on housing. E.g., freedom is when you are able to stop your neighbor from building a duplex. Socialism is when the state government tells you that you can’t stop your neighbor from building a duplex.

It was a general observation. Concerning housing, Soviet-style planning is what we have in the United States, especially in California, and we are so immersed in it that we can’t see straight, even “conservatives” (see above). The level of regulation is so great that market principles don’t apply, which causes a great deal of confusion. The link you posted above is accurate enough, but the lack of fungability between different classes of housing I think still reflects the lack of a genuine free market. When housing is very regulated and very little housing is built compared to demand, then yes, adding a few luxury condos or a few studio apartments doesn’t do much to help families. My point is that we shouldn’t think the free market is failing when we are nowhere close to having a genuine free market.

(Jason Andersen) #26

For my part, I guess I’ve just concluded that we live in a country that is now hostile to the family, and so it follows that the housing market would reflect our values. Having a large family has become an increasingly abominable hindrance to the pursuit of the American dream in the last 30 years or so, so it follows that homes built in the last 30 years aren’t going to be geared toward that. Combine that with the radical notion of fathers being providers and wives being at home, and housing becomes that much harder to find. The world simply isn’t built for the single income family model anymore.

That said, I am grateful for God’s provision for my family. As our family has grown, he has always met our needs when it comes to housing. But house-shopping has been eye opening.

(John M. ) #27

There are a lot of large homes that have been built in the last 30 years, and they aren’t selling as fast as smaller homes, which works nicely for those who are interested in buying them.


Anecdata: we bought our current home last year in a market where 3 bedroom homes were under contract within a week, mostly. Shopping for a 4/5 bedroom place, we had plenty of time to shop around, do comparisons and make offers. The house we wound up buying had been on the market for 4-6 months, with the owner steadily lowering the price and she was ready to sell when we were ready to buy.

(Topher) #28

I grew up around Seattle through the eighties, and what you are seeing now is nothing particularly new. There has always been homelessness and campgrounds around Seattle, even back then. The violence was heavy too; a close friend was beaten by a Samoan gang into a coma from which he never recovered. He was simply defending his girlfriend from their advances. Crack and heroin killed off many acquaintances. Where do you think the energy and angst of grunge came from?

I’m not saying it’s “all good”, but the measure of problems may be a bit dilated by some kind of romantic idea about the past. There has been an ellipsis in the situation because of Microsoft, the DOS gangs and Internet stuff brought in cash (and big building projects). But the underbelly of Seattle is not new.

The thing is, each part of the USA is a region, and there are aspects that make each what it is that might have less to do with the polarity of Liberal VS. Conservative (which is, arguably, just an expression of Modernity / Nihilism), and more to do with the temperate climate, the fresh water, the forests and the number of bridges you can camp underneath.

(John M. ) #29

Have you been to Seattle lately? I’m led to understand that things on the west coast are getting worse.

I have spent some time on business in Silicon Valley in the last two years, and I can say that it’s awful. The numbers in the newspaper tell us that the economy is doing well, and Silicon Valley (like Seattle) is one of the boomtowns driving the US economy. Yet the homelessness looks like it’s out of the Grapes of Wrath.

Every place has its problems, but I think this is different.