Stop pushing Seattle’s housing problems onto developers

Oct 24, 2017, 12:21 PM | Updated: 4:58 pm

A Jenny Durkan commercial came up on our in-studio TV during our show this week. The volume was off, but the message was strong enough to echo in my head.

What are we talking about here?

The graphic said Durkan is going to “hold developers accountable” for 20,000 affordable housing units.

That’s the moment I reconsidered casting my vote for her.

I got my ballot in the mail this week. I took an online quiz that was supposed to tell me which candidate I was more in line with. The results pointed to Jenny Durkan. I was going to just swallow hard. Until I saw that ad about holding developers accountable.

Accountable for what? Creating jobs and paying fees? This line of logic drives me nuts. It literally does not make sense.

Follow me here. In the Pacific Northwest, we want developers to also be responsible for affordable housing. Think about that for a minute. That’s like going to Boeing and saying, “you’re in the transportation business. You’re now responsible for buses for the poor.”

So imagine you’re a real estate developer. You want to build a big building in Seattle. It’s going to be risky. It’s going to be expensive. You are taking a huge gamble that by the time you finish your building, the economy will still be where it is today. You are going to have to wade through a swamp of paperwork, financing, fees, and taxes.

I spoke with someone connected to a very large project downtown — they wished to remain anonymous. Their project is putting $500 million into the local economy. That’s right, one building – half-a-billion dollars. The city will get well over $10 million in taxes, and another $1 million or so in fees. If you’ve ever tried to even build a dog house in Seattle you know how much this place loves its taxes and fees.

This one project will employ at least 2,500 people in our area. That’s just the people that show up on the job site, not all the satellite and support jobs attached to the project. These are people with good jobs. Many of them union jobs with nice benefits packages. Jobs like engineers, demolition crews, heavy machinery operators, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and cement drivers. You get the picture. And this is just one building.

Take a look at all the cranes in this town. Not every project is as big as this one, but the developers are not the villains in this story.

So after overcoming the inevitable mountain of challenges that come along with any building project, the city now wants to tack on being responsible for affordable housing?

What are we talking about here?

Seattle, you have $300 million set aside for this. Jump in the game. You go buy some land, you design a building, you hire all the workers and pay all the fees. You build affordable housing. That’s your job. That’s why you were elected and get to collect all these tax dollars. Do. Your. Job.

Now I don’t know who I’m voting for.

You can hear “What are we talking about here?” everyday at 4:45 p.m. on 97.3 FM.

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Ron and Don


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Stop pushing Seattle’s housing problems onto developers