“Rent is obscene here”: The issues forcing people in Seattle onto the street
Anderson Cooper visits a tent city in the Seattle area and hears from some of America’s more than 500,000 homeless people
Tricia Wood: I used to be one of those people that thought that if anyone was homeless they just needed to go get a job. That would solve their homeless problems.
Anderson Cooper: How would you answer that question now? Why can’t they just get a job?
Tricia Wood: Oh my goodness. Maybe they have a job.
Josiah Wood has a full-time job. He gets up before dawn and takes mass transit to work as a maintenance supervisor at the Hard Rock Café downtown. Though he makes $19.50 an hour, the rent for an average one-bedroom apartment in Seattle would eat up half his salary. He and Tricia say they’ve been saving up money so they can afford a security deposit and monthly rent.
Anderson Cooper: How long do you think you’ll keep living in the tent city?
Tricia Wood: I would hope we are out of here by winter.
Here’s one take:
“Stephen, you’ve been proven right on housing, and I think you’re about to be proven even more right. The most important driver of home prices is supply and demand. And right now, there is a chronic undersupply of homes in America.”
Census Bureau data shows an average of 1.5 million homes were built each year since 1959. Yet since 2009, just 900,000 homes have been built per year. In fact, fewer homes were built in the past decade than in any decade since the ‘50s!
We have a serious housing shortage in America today. It would take less than six months to sell every existing home on the market…
The Biggest Housing Boom In History Has Just Begun
Stephen McBride, Forbes
California, the country’s wealthiest and most populous state, also has the most homeless, an unremitting crisis that has confounded the state’s political leaders for decades and exposed one of the most extreme manifestations of economic inequality gripping the country.
Tent encampments — Oakland city officials count 90 of them — are now as much a part of the landscape as the bars and restaurants that cater to the city’s rising affluence. Many Americans are one medical emergency, one layoff, one family disaster away from bankruptcy or losing the roofs over their heads.
I was driving around Downtown Denver earlier today and drove past three people sleeping on the street, a few blocks from the ballpark. They didn’t have much baggage – no tents or sleeping bags, and one of them was in a large electric wheelchair. You see a lot of homeless people in Denver so I might not have registered these three, but that I had read this article earlier in the day, and I can’t see how someone survives being homeless in an electric wheelchair.
CONTINUING SHORTFALL IN SUPPLY
Just as the recent housing downturn was longer and deeper than any other since the Great Depression, the residential construction rebound has been slower. Since reaching bottom in 2011 at just 633,000 new units, additions to the housing stock have grown at an average annual rate of just 10 percent. Despite these steady gains, completions and placements totaled only 1.2 million units last year—the lowest annual production, excluding 2008–2018, going back to 1982.
The sluggish construction recovery is in part a response to persistently weak household growth after the recession. On a three-year trailing basis, the number of net new households dropped below 1.0 million in 2008 and held below that mark for seven straight years, including a low of just 534,000 in 2009. By comparison, even through the three recessions and large demographic shifts that occurred between 1980 and 2007, household growth still averaged 1.3 million annually and only dipped below 1.0 million once.
With the economy finally back on track, household growth picked up to 1.2 million a year in 2016–2018, close to expected levels given the size and age composition of the population. But new construction was still depressed relative to demand, with additions to supply just keeping pace with the number of new households (Figure 1). As a result, the national vacancy rate for both owner-occupied and rental units fell again in 2018, to 4.4 percent, its lowest point since 1994.
JOINT CENTER FOR HOUSING STUDIES OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY
In Minneapolis, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $1,228, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $49,122. The average price of a home in Minneapolis is $250,779.
In Denver, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $1,725, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $68,983.
The average price of a home in Denver is $352,172.
In Boston, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $2,384, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $95,344.
The average price of a home in Boston is $486,752.
In San Francisco, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $5,052, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $202,094.
The average price of a home in San Francisco is $1,032,732.
To count the unhoused and unsheltered population—the shelters are usually full to bursting with waitlists hundreds or a thousand names long—county health or human services agencies, or nonprofits to which the task is contracted out, often resort to the simplest method of enumeration known, the one you learn in kindergarten: They (or citizen volunteers, mostly) go out with flashlights, clipboards and pencils, and literally count heads, or curled-up street sleepers, or RVs, or tents.
How many people an office manager or sales rep guesses are sleeping in an RV or a tent they’re peering at in the semi-dark becomes data. Whether the volunteer presumes two or four is up to them—I can tell you this, for I have done it twice, in 2009 and 2017, and I don’t believe my guessing skills improved much—and thus wholly arbitrary, a snap decision that can result in a variance of 100 percent. Or more. Is that just some old car, or an old car someone lives in? Is that RV the glamping vehicle for an Instagram influencer or some eccentric Burner type, or does it house the family of four who couldn’t afford the landlord’s latest offer? You don’t know and you can’t know. Yet, this is the data the federal government uses, and we arrive at neat numbers like, “500,000 homeless people in America, 8,011 homeless people in San Francisco.”
How California’s Homeless Crisis Grew Obscenely Out of Control, Chris Roberts, Observer.com
From 2010 to 2017 the greater San Francisco Bay Area added 546,000 new jobs but only 76,000 new housing units. Where did civic leaders think these hundreds of thousands of additional people would live? California, which has the nation’s worst statewide housing crisis, needs to built 180,000 units a year just to keep up with population growth. Yet in no year from 2007-2017 did the state build even 100,000 units.
Shaw, Randy. Generation Priced Out
This building is in Denver, on Broadway and just south of I-25. The boxiness is fine, the color scheme chaps my hide though. Loud and inharmonious. Reminds me of the old orange roof on Howard Johnson’s. Least that had the justification of letting people know there’s some place to eat.
WBUR is on it ->
In cities like Seattle, Boston, Denver and Charlotte, new “luxury” condos and apartment buildings are going up to meet demand for new housing. But many of these buildings look like simple, plain boxes.
Those ‘Luxury’ Condos Look A Little Drab
The toxic politics are bad enough, but the city also has become unaffordable for the middle class. Partly, that is due to high demand (which is a good problem for a city to have), but it’s also due to self-inflicted wounds, such as a restrictive housing policy that artificially caps supply. Seattle is well on its way to becoming the next Vancouver, British Columbia, with the median housing price having spiked to an eye-watering $820,000, far outside the reach of the middle class. Unless they are able to save for about 14 years to afford a down payment, millennials can forget about homeownership entirely.
The writer has lived in Seattle for 14 years and is moving on.