Friday, February 22, 2008

Just Stop Calling them Affordable

There are lots of valid arguments why condo development is not necessarily a bad thing. Affordability is not one of them. Sure, a 400,000 condo is less expensive than a 600,000 house (at least before you add in the monthly fees). That does not mean that building more of them allows more people with lower incomes to move to the area. I'm sick of hearing that argument. People with lower incomes are being forced out. Buying a condo is still not affordable for a large number of people, especially as the no down-payment model falls out of favor. It also isn't the guaranteed good investment that real estate has always been touted as. Those who talk about how the demolition and building will stop when it ceases to be profitable for the developers have a great point, but the developers will have a much easier time of recovering from that than the people who bought the condos they could barely afford and find themselves unable to sell them.
The bottom line? Some people really do have to rent, and the 1 bedroom apartments that were $545-$625 less than 5 years ago are now starting at $925 (without any updates to the 50s buildings they're housed in).
It's a great time to be a landlord. I would encourage developers to consider getting into the apartment business.
Supposedly the plans for the old/new QFC building actually call for just that. Apartments. Maybe soul-less, new construction apartments, but there's a chance that they might go for under $1000/month. Construction is set to begin any day now on a 268 unit, mixed use building. Interestingly enough, most discussion I've heard around that has involved some skepticism about whether or not they're actually planning on keeping them as rentals. Knowing three different people who were kicked out of three different apartment buildings to prepare for conversions within a one-month period last year, it's easy to see where a certain level of paranoia comes from.
Speaking of mixed use, can we start seeing some more creativity with that than just smoothie places and tanning salons? Maybe like this last ditch effort for the Sunset?