Here’s why Edmonds’ housing strategy won’t work | Guest View

By Eric Soll | Jan 07, 2018

The article in the Beacon, "Soaring rents, 500K ramblers: Housing strategy to debut this spring" (Dec. 14), addressed the increasing cost to purchase or rent a residence in the Edmonds area.

There is a certain irony that the city of Edmonds is implementing a "strategy" to address this issue, as governmental policies and actions at all jurisdictional levels have contributed to the current situation through a range of policies and revenue enhancing "strategies."

There are many actions that have increased the cost of all housing in Edmonds.

Restrictive state land use policies such as Washington's Urban Growth Management Act have reduced the availability of land to construct housing. That unavailability has dramatically increased the cost of constructing all types of housing.

The Washington Condominium Act, which has dramatically reduced the number of middle-income condominium projects, is often an avenue for middle-class, first-time buyers or empty nesters to enter the condominium market.

Policies overly rely on inadequate mass transit strategies at the expense of private vehicle transportation. Commuting by automobile from outlying areas that contain less expensive housing options is prohibitively time consuming and is discarded as a viable option by many local employees, resulting in increasing competition for housing in Edmonds.

The extensive use of the initiative process to fund a host of governmental and special interest social policy activities unrelated to housing has increased the cost of owning or renting a residence.

Implementation of misguided rental restrictions on landlords in adjacent cities has had the unanticipated consequence (for some) of raising rents and limiting tenant access which result in increased rental competition in Edmonds.

Environmental mandates have increased the cost of housing. While some mandates are necessary to maintain the quality of life, others provide minimal benefit and raise the cost of all housing.

Excessive government spending in other states for government programs, salaries and generous pensions have resulted in excessive taxation and prohibitive real estate costs.

One million individuals legally migrate to the United States each year and require housing. In addition, lax illegal immigration enforcement allows millions more to illegally enter and remain in the U.S.

One assumes the Edmonds Strategy Housing Task Force's final recommendations will include the application of tax dollars to resolve the problem of affordable housing. This effort will be doomed to failure for a variety of reasons:

• Many underlying reasons for increased housing costs and rents are often beyond the scope of Edmonds acting alone to effect any meaningful change.

• Strategies such as providing tax incentives to builders to provide affordable housing units either decrease the funds available for other requirements, or require additional tax revenue to service a growing population.

The outcome of this process is undoubtedly predetermined. There will be some government-funded attempt to alleviate the issue of affordable housing in Edmonds, and taxes will increase for all, including those least able to afford them to subsidize a lucky few.

In addition, the suburban lifestyle of a few politically marginal neighborhoods containing moderately priced single-family houses will be sacrificed on the altar of "density" and "affordable housing.” But there will be kudos and congratulations all around on a job well done, while once again government intervention causes more financial pressures for an increasingly greater number of individuals in the community without really resolving anything.

Eric Soll, a retired attorney, has been involved in social and community "development" type of issues that directly impact homeowners, in positive and negative ways, both professionally and as a citizen advocate. He and his wife transformed their former residences in the area into rental properties.



Comments (1)
Posted by: Leslie K Brown | Jan 10, 2018 11:16

Mr. Soll , and fellow Edmonds residents: I find your observations here tainted with cynicism. You clearly have in-depth knowledge of the complexities of local and state housing regulations and policy.  Is there some reason that your PROPOSED SOLUTION is absent from this diatribe?

I have little respect for comments like yours which focus on complaining and criticizing and do not offer any positive suggestions.


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