The Best News I’ve Heard All Year

[ Graphic: Seattle Times; Source: City of Seattle DPD ]

Seattle has reached 50% of its 2024 housing growth target. That rocks my hugeasscity world. But as might be expected, this news has raised concerns that Seattle may be growing too fast. Pshaw!

The sooner we put more housing where it makes sense — in Seattle’s urban centers and villages — the better. It’s a win each and every time the demand for one housing unit is supplied in compact development rather than in sprawl. And the more housing there is available, the more likely this is to happen. (Not to mention that increased supply tends to decrease prices.)

Furthermore, the sooner higher housing densities are established, the sooner we’ll get serious about transit. As our history has shown, Seattle residents are not inclined to fund transit when driving is so much more convenient. As population density increases, it becomes easier to justify more frequent and comprehensive bus service. This makes riding the bus more convenient, which in turn promotes more ridership, which then justifies better service, and so on (e.g. bring on the dedicated bus lanes).

Concerns about public services and amenities keeping pace with housing growth are legitimate. But as noted by Erica Barnett over at SLOG, my sense is that in this case much of the concern is overblown. As quoted in the Seattle Times, Nick Licata offers no specifics about where he believes there are shortcomings caused by new housing. The only specific issue noted in the Times story is overcrowded bus service. But that is a relatively easy problem to fix, and as I pointed out in the previous paragraph, increased demand for transit instigates a virtuous circle for better transit.

The one component of our infrastructure that definitely will not keep pace with housing growth is roadway car capacity (see here and here). Nor should we expect it to. Nor should we in our right minds desire it to. It will be painful for many in the short term, but it will save far more pain for everyone in the long term.