Morning Roundup: Whoa…that was intense!

Good morning HAs! On this the final day of the penultimate month of 2007, heading into yet another season of Merry this and Happy New that, I can think of nothing cheerier than just 417 days remaining till 1.20.09, the inscription I wear on the tattered baseball cap I use to cover my aging bald head in the hope that it keeps hope alive.

Good news and glad tidings abound today. We need look no further than Olympia for an inspiring monument to legislative productivity: The “emergency” passage of I-747′s recently ruled illegal 1 percent cap on annual property tax increases. Wow…that was intense. Hey, the next time anyone complains about government lethargy, ineffectiveness and sclerosis, just remind them of Nov. 29, 2007, when in just 1 day, not even that really, 10 hours or so, the Legislature passed and the governor signed into law major legislation affecting the future welfare of the entire state! So let’s not talk about “lazy politicians” and “government inaction” here. Our folks showed they can really get the lead out…provided it’s the holiday season and they’d rather not be working, provided an election year is approaching, and provided political expediency obviates any real need to consider the implications behind what they’re doing. Somehow in all the hand waving and bombast, the real issue of a tax cap in a worsening recession (the P-I quote from the Gig Harbor homeowner who somehow thinks his house is worth more at the end of the day than when he woke up going stupefyingly unchallenged) just never quite made it to radar. Ah well. Gotta get back to the home district and finish the Christmas shopping…

Speaking of housing, we regrettably inflict on you dear readers the latest woeful stab at coverage of the Seattle affordable-housing rat’s nest. Today’s P-I has a long piece on quote affordable housing that somehow never manages to answer the musical question, What Is Affordable? Now you will find, if you stick with the package long enough, a reference to affordability based on median income: “Apartments would be affordable to a single person earning $43,600 a year or a family of four bringing in $62,320 a year. Condos or homes would be affordable to a single person making $54,500 a year or a family of four bringing in $77,900.” But there’s no translation of this to real-life application, e.g., how many square feet for that single person or that family of four? How much of that income is assumed to be for ‘housing.’ And what does ‘housing’ constitute in the income formula.

As HA’s own astute readers have noted, yes I’m talking about you Roger Rabbit (if that is indeed your real name), housing costs a lot more than just a roof and four walls. Do those income figures include property taxes…maintenance…utilities and other costs of being ‘housed’?

The real problem, of course, is that income-based indices in today’s economy are a moving target, moving faster all the time. Virtually all costs of living are going up onerously while income, especially at the so-called “affordable” level, is frighteningly stagnant. Those teachers and firefighters and cops and service workers who cannot “afford” to live in Seattle are finding it harder to afford even the suburbs. The rule of thumb used to be that housing should take up no more than a quarter of one’s take-home salary. Now it’s up to half for many. Which might be reasonable except that other costs are taking up a fatter part of the equation. Transportation alone now accounts for a quarter or more of many worker incomes. In California, some municipalities have to go without police and firefighters because they simply cannot afford to live anywhere near the jurisdiction.

So yeah, let’s start with how big and where an “affordable” unit would be in our fair city. And then let’s pencil out the numbers, and see whether a single on $43k or family of four on $62k…wait a minute, a family of four in an apartment? OK, you see how ludicrous the game already becomes, simply by failing the sniff test.

And the whole fight is over 3 to 7 percent of the housing?

Memo to news desk: All those folks supposed to fill those thousands of new jobs that we’re building these warehouses in the sky for can’t afford to live there. Talk to them about affordability, don’t go by artificial and patently unrealistic bureaucrat definitions. Then you might be able to publish a story that shows some street sense and actually explains issues and conflicts to the readers you are supposed to be serving.

OK, stepping down off the pulpit, it was with sadness that we read of Benella Caminiti’s passing. In my days of yore as an environmental reporter, I had the great privilege (and learning experience) of working with Benella on a few stories. You always knew it was Benella on the line when, without even identifying herself, she launched into her latest update on her current crusade in diction and detail so refined your head began to swirl. You knew letters and boxes of documents soon were to follow. Benella was a reporter’s best resource: Someone with energy and passion and an unswerving belief in the rightness of her cause, but with the dedication and chops to document and source each iota of outrage she imparted. She made our job so much easier, a concept difficult to fathom in today’s world of paid PR spin and the Orwellian doublespeak of officialdom, where the goal is to make a reporter’s task so convoluted, befogged and enervating as to thwart, if not entirely prevent, real journalism from being done at all. RIP Benella. You made a lot of us better people, and the world a better place.

Comments

  1. 1

    Jane Balough's Dog spews:

    I can’t wait till 01/20/2009 because that is when our next republican president gets sworn into office.

  2. 3

    Puddybud spews:

    Paul: Who complains about political lethargy?

    I saw Goldy waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa like a little baby over his transit loss. I saw Goldy waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa like a little baby when Eyman’s initiative won. When politicians realize their political careers are in trouble because they are out of step with the people, they all of a sudden listen to the people and magically a good vote comes out of the chambers.

    What a concept!

  3. 4

    Puddybud spews:

    Paul: Did you know the Commerce Department reported the economy grew at a 4.9 percent pace for the summer of 2007?

    Reading Rabid Rodent Roger Rabbit (Pelletizer (TM) ), the economy sucked because he got his info from the liberal MSM which tries to make Hilary look good so thet told the world the economy sucked!

  4. 5

    spews:

    Yeah, I feel really sorry for lower income people that find it hard to find regular affordable housing in King County, and instead go on Section 8, where they only have pay 30% of the rent. In other words, if the rent is $1000/month for, let’s say, a 2 bedroom apartment, they would only have to pay $300 a month. The government pays the landlord the other $700/month. Everyone else renting in that apartment complex, who is not on Section 8, is paying the full $1000/month rent. Thank you, Paul, for telling me about their plight. Now let me go find my box of tissues.

  5. 6

    ewp spews:

    For homeownership you have to assume standard underwriting guidelines set forth by HUD/FHA. Those include assumptions such as no more than 35% of gross income is available for payment of principal, interest and taxes, and a downpayment of 3%. Obviously there are a lot of variables so if you took a group of buyers all at 80% of area median income, they would be able to afford homes priced at slightly different levels, dependent on the amount of downpayment they can come up with, how much other debt they have, etc. As for house size, if it’s affordable rental HUD has a table to show what size home is needed for a particular family size. So you couldn’t for example say that a studio rent is affordable to a family of 3 at 80% of median income just because the rent doesn’t exceed 35% of their gross income. A studio is innadequate housing for a family of 3. However there isn’t any limitation on housing size for homeownership, that’s left to what the buyer thinks is adequate. Median income is adjusted for family size. The baseline is a family of 4, which here in Seattle the median is $75,600. For a single person at median here in Seattle the income is $52,900. Using standard underwriting guidelines a 3 person family at 100% of median income ($68,050) could purchase a home priced around $225K. There aren’t too many condos or houses suitable for a 3 person household in Seattle priced at $225K. Consequently people buy something that’s probably too small for their needs, or they find a lender willing to underwrite a loan that doesn’t conform to the standard guidelines, such as using 45% of gross income for debt service. Housing affordability in Seattle is a serious problem that is rapidly approaching crisis levels. If nothing is done to stimulate development of more affordable housing we’ll price all but the weathiest out of our city. This will worsen traffic congestion, encourage sprawl, and generally diminish the quality of life for all of us.

  6. 8

    David spews:

    For “a republican” to win next year, you have to actually pick one. A generic straw man Republican does well in polling, but any specific real candidate doesn’t look near as good. What actual Republican currently running has any real chance? Rudy? The weekly scandals are close do doing him in…so much baggage. Romney? The man never met an position he hasn’t flip flopped on (going to be more supportive of gay rights than Ted Kennedy remember) Huckabee? Looking better, socially conservative, but believes in big/useful government, which is why he hasn’t gotten support from the base before now. And then there’s the rest of the group, which has no chance to get the nomination (sorry McCain/Thompson…you have more chance than Ron Paul, but not much).

  7. 9

    spews:

    I still say Obama is better than Hillary. I don’t care who’s running for the Republicans because I won’t be voting for that person, but they will win if Hillary is the candidate for the Democrats. That’s my take on it. Feel free to disagree – it won’t hurt my feelings.

    The Republicans stand a better chance against Hillary than they do against Obama.

  8. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “Memo to news desk: All those folks supposed to fill those thousands of new jobs that we’re building these warehouses in the sky for can’t afford to live there.”

    This wasn’t a problem until those zero-down, interest-only, 250-year-term, teaser-rate, mortgages resold as securities to small investors in Bangladesh dried up.

  9. 13

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Back in the ’80s, on Saint Ronnie’s watch, the S & L meltdown (spell: massive fraud) cost taxpayers half a trillion dollars.

    This time around, the bank-and-mortgage meltdown on Saint Shrub’s watch is going to cost us a devalued dollar and massive inflation.

    Yup, guvmint regulation that promotes a stable currency and keeps thieves from looting your savings account is a bad thing because it interferes with personal liberties, e.g., the liberty of stealing from you …

  10. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Speaking of “deranged” and people with “mental health” issues, I can hardly wait to find out if the deranged guy with the bomb strapped to himself who took hostages in Clinton’s New Hampshire campaign office is related to one of the first 3 posters in this thread — or maybe all three?

  11. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @4 Puddybud, did you know that ALL of the economy’s growth since 1970, plus another 12%, has gone to the rich?

    Did you know that a young worker today makes 12% less, in purchasing power, than his father did in 1970?

    Did you know that workers’ share of GDP has dropped from 60% to less than 50% since Chimpface took office?

    I think the point here is this alleged 4.9% growth doesn’t mean a goddamned thing to people in the bottom 95% income bracket.

  12. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The truth is, for the average American, the Bush Economy sucks seagull farts. And it’s about to get a whole lot worse. The dollar has lost 40% of its value since 2001, and continues to devalue at accelerating speed. If you believe the official inflation rate of 2.5% is the real inflation rate faced by ordinary citizens at the gas station, grocery checkout counter, and real estate office, you’ve been sucking on a tailpipe. The economy sucks!!! It’s good only for the very, very rich. Everyone else is poorer. And that’s a big part of the reason why Republicans will get crushed in next year’s election.

  13. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The Bush Economy

    Our money is worth less.
    Wages are not keeping up with prices of food, fuel, and shelter.
    Fewer people have health insurance.
    More people are living in poverty.
    Good paying jobs are disappearing, replaced by low-paying service jobs.
    More of the national income is going to fewer people.

    Meanwhile, in 2006, at least 3 hedge fund managers earned compensation in excess of $1 billion a year, and enjoyed lower income tax rates than janitors and waitresses.

    This country is fucked up big time, but we’re going to straighten all of this out beginning Jan. 15, 2009. Count on it.

  14. 18

    Puddybud spews:

    Roger Rabbit: Wow all the way back to 1970?

    Let me see. I am making waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more than Daddy ever did even in 1970 dollars. Why? I made something of myself. I didn’t have much of a pot to piss in let alone other things you took for granted when you grew up bub!

    I wanted to have something better in life than my parents did. When I got my first job I sent $$$ home each month as a thank you to my parents.

    BTW Roger Rabbit if I a black man can make it in America, why can most of these posters on HorsesAss?

  15. 19

    Puddybud spews:

    #16 I will agree with Roger Rabbit the $ buys less overseas, as a frequent traveler overseas.

    But on other things I have purchased some great bargains since 2001.

    Speaking of hedge funds – I wonder how much in taxes George Soros paid?

  16. 20

    compassionatelibertarian spews:

    Roger doesn’t understand economics. But that’s ok, because he’s a Democrat.

    Money grows on trees right? Rich people STOLE their wealth, right? Give me a fucking break. Focus on improving your own lot instead of unnecessarily comparing yourself to others.

    This is why any “analysis” on income inequality is bullshit on face. Only individuals have the power to increase their incomes – not the government, not charities, not NOBODY else. If you don’t like the wages you earn right now, go to night school, apply for a different position, start your own business…the opportunities in this country are endless.

    I’m happy that the vast majority of wealthy people in this country are SELF-MADE. This reinforces my strong belief that only INDIVIDUALS can affect THEIR OWN INCOMES.

  17. 21

    compassionatelibertarian spews:

    If you’re whining about rising fuel prices or unaffordable housing and you:

    1) Smoke
    2) Drink
    3) Eat out
    4) Drive a new or nearly new car

    You are full of shit. You just want to live beyond your means, and don’t want to work for it. Its really that simple. Ever wonder why the children of illiterate Korean grocery store owners in Compton go to college and make something of themselves? Its because they WORK HARD, SAVE MONEY, AND STEER CLEAR OF MONEY-BURNING VICES. END OF STORY.

    Oh, and those Korean dads are vicious with a switch of bamboo…

  18. 22

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    OK Paul, let’s do a commo check* to make sure I understand this thread properly.

    * For you civilians, that’s a test to see if the communications system is working properly.

    You think housing prices should be lower and property taxes should be higher. Is that correct?

  19. 23

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The real estate market is an auction. Homes sell for what buyers are willing to pay, no more no less. Buyers and sellers determine price levels.

    Seattle’s housing is expensive because this town has a lot of high-paying jobs and dual-income households. If you’re not a Boeing engineer, Microsoft programmer, corporate lawyer, doctor, banker, etc., then you’re at a disadvantage in the husing market. If you’re single, you’re at an even greater disadvantage.

    A single person with an average job simply can’t compete with, say, an orthodontist married to a systems engineer. We have a lot of two-professional families in this city. They bid up the cost of housing and everything else.

    Because of the high-paying Boeing jobs, Seattle was always an expensive city for everyone else. Now, you have another large high-paying employer here too — Microsoft. If you don’t work for one of those employers, it’s hard to compete for the limited housing supply.

    It comes down to how badly you want to live here. If living in Seattle means enough to you, then you’ll make sacrifices elsewhere in your budget and lifestyle. That’s what I did for 40 years, and am still doing.

    I can’t offer a solution to those crying for “affordable housing.” There isn’t one. I’ve heard people talking about “affordable housing” for decades. Seattle housing has never been affordable for people of ordinary means, and that’s not going to change overnight, and probably is not ever going to change.

  20. 24

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @21 “Ever wonder why the children of illiterate Korean grocery store owners in Compton go to college and make something of themselves? Its because they WORK HARD, SAVE MONEY, AND STEER CLEAR OF MONEY-BURNING VICES. END OF STORY.”

    Really? Asians are the biggest gamblers around. They’re also are aggressivly competitive and ruthless in getting their place at the economic trough. They double up in housing, share cars, and have their own banking system. That mom-and-pop Korean grocery may have a dozen families financing it. They live like the wolf is right outside the door. But no vices? You’re dreaming.

  21. 25

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I know of a city agency whose Asian hiring manager systematically hired and promoted only Asians. And nobody stopped him.

  22. 26

    compassionatelibertarian spews:

    Cutthroat is better than lazy and complacent. That’s why those illiterate grocery store owners get to leave the black ghettos behind after only one generation.