Sightline is the Bomb

Perhaps rather more polite and soft spoken than your typical bomb, but totally the bomb nonetheless. As in this recent Daily Score post about the irrelevance of GDP, with the opening line, “This just cheeses me off.” Or this little gem of a title: Less Driving Means Less Dying.

But the post I want to draw your attention to presently asks the question:

“Given that people with lots of disposable income are choosing to move closer to downtown, is there a good way — or, indeed, any way — to retain decent, affordable housing for middle- and lower-income folks close to downtown jobs?”

And continues:

“It could be that downtown development is a virtuous cycle with a vicious edge: as the city gets wealthier, its amenities get better and better, attracting even more wealth — and making it harder and harder for middle-income folks to find a decent, affordable place to live that doesn’t require a long and fuel-wasting commute.”

But then points out that:

“Then again, this is not the worst sort of problem for a city to have. Consider the alternative. For decades, wealthy folks avoided downtown, and many urban centers became concentrated enclaves of deep poverty. The results — economic segregation of the inner city — fostered far worse social ills than housing affordability presents today.”

In theory, increasing the housing supply should help reduce prices. But as is usually the case, the real world doesn’t behave like an Ayn Rand fable of ideal capitalism. In today’s world there is an effectively infinite pool of wealth available to drive housing demand in cities with perceived value. And this is why I have previously written that “the only effective means we have to ensure that enough affordable housing will be provided in Seattle is government subsidy.”