Institutional investors are pouring money into Seattle’s apartment rental market, according to the Seattle Times, not building apartment buildings, but buying them: $3.8 billion worth last year alone!
The Seattle region’s rising rents, stoked by strong job growth and low apartment-vacancy rates, have made apartments attractive to pension funds, real estate investment trusts and other investors.
Some apartment buyers have also said that given the price they paid for buildings, they need to raise the rents.
Investors have swarmed the Seattle area and bid up prices. Developers of new apartments and longtime owners of older apartment buildings have found it a good time to sell, but renters in those buildings often face much higher rents or even displacement due to massive renovations.
I mean, why invest in building affordable housing when you can make much more money by buying existing housing and making it unaffordable? Hooray for rational self-interest!
Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant gets ridiculed by the serious people for advocating for rent control. And yes, I know that poorly done, rent control risks unintended consequences, and that it is currently preempted by state statute. So it wouldn’t be easy either politically or in practice. But you gotta admit that rent control would put a damper on this sort of speculation and the skyrocketing rents it produces.
To bad we’re not allowed to have a serious conversation about rent control, because even talking about it is crazy or something.