Sunday, July 17, 2016

The root cause of gentrification

It's very simple, sometime after the show Friends, people started wanting to live in the city.  Friends is not the only thing behind the trend, but it does give a decent ballpark estimate of the date when this trend started.  At first, it was just an interesting new trend.  For some time in the 90's and early oughts, Seattle and Chicago saw a reversal of the general direction of commuting.  There were more people living in the city and commuting to work in the suburbs than the other way around.  But now, we have gentrification.  The popularity of the city is running into constraints on the supply of housing.

You will see a lot written about why this is happening and most of it is wrong. The fact is, it is illegal to build affordable housing in Seattle, and most cities not called Manhattan have some kind of law against building anything without parking.  Seattle had such a law for a long time.  It mandates that there be a car space for every dwelling unit, and guaranties that traffic will get steadily worse and that nothing new will be built for the urban car free lifestyle. This post from Nextdoor shows the grass roots origin of this trend

This post represents very well the prevailing attitude in Seattle. It never occurs to this person that someone might live in Seattle without a car. That's literally unthinkable. The fact that I have done it for nearly 20 years doesn't register. The fact that a chunk of those years were spent 500 feet from the address being discussed in this post makes this all the more infuriating to me.

We can stop gentrification, and even reverse it. When the supply of housing grows faster than the demand, gentrification will recede. This can't happen if it's illegal. The necessary first step is to repeal the law requiring all new units to include a space for another car. Another step, even more important, is to push back against this idea that its not possible to live in Seattle without a car. It is possible. I have done it, and continue to do it. Car2Go and Zipcar have nearly erased the difference between having your own car in your driveway and renting.  I actually drive several times a week and have a car any time I need it. I may have to walk a mile to get the car, but it's available to me, and I spend quite a bit less than even a car owner who has finished with their car payments.

The fact that people in Seattle complain about the traffic, and then insist that we legally mandate a parking space for every new dwelling unit deserves a spot in the DSM.  Maybe we can call it homeowner derangement syndrome.

The way car owners view the city-owned street parking spaces as a thing they are entitled to is another facet of this post that needs mockery. Everything in this post has been said to me by leftists living in Seattle with a straight face. Some of them homeowners. And some were renters. Both united in the belief that street parking was a thing that they are entitled to and that they have a right to block construction that threatens it. If we continue to force developers to prioritize their lifestyle, we will be the next SF Bay area. Everybody loves to hate on the tech-bro who said he shouldn't have to be bothered with the sight of homelessness, but he is not the cause of this gentrification. Parking space defenders like this Next Door user are.

No comments: