Seattle, having distinguished itself for several years running as Forbes Magazine’s “Most Overpriced City in America,” has now made their top ten Least Affordable Real Estate Markets list as well. This should surprise no one.
In recent months, the attention of many has been held by the Lora Lake drama that has unfolded in Burien. An agreement reached several years ago with the Port of Seattle during negotiations over the Airport’s third runway slates the 162-units of affordable family housing for demolition to make way for commercial development. To housing advocates, Lora Lake has come to symbolize the three steps back that we take for every hard won step or two forward. For the City of Burien, in which the vast majority of housing is affordable, Lora Lake is about economic development and having the autonomy to plan their own city.
We need our neighboring communities to be our allies in the fight against homelessness. This is why, in the fight against Burien, even if we win, we lose. Our affordability problem is right here in Seattle, where those who profit excessively from the loss of affordability, for the most part, have not even been named. Outfits like Clise Properties, Touchstone Corporation, Harbor Properties, Vulcan Real Estate, Samis, and even outside investment corporations like The Blackstone Group use their enormous influence to drive development in Seattle, and are too seldom called upon to reconcile their profit-taking with our broader interests as a community.
But we're not seeing any interfaith vigils at their offices are we?
Have we made Burien our affordable housing whipping boy because it’s easier than taking on the rich and powerful right here in Seattle? We can make our problem Burien's, to their great resentment, or we can take a closer look at why they have enough affordable housing and we do not.
It's great to see people finally get worked up over something, and a little bureaucratic hardball never hurt anyone. But if we're going to take a fight all the way, let's be sure that it's the right fight. Burien, for many reasons, makes a convenient target that everyone from the church to the state can get behind. But that, in itself, should make us wonder what's really going on.