UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 24, 2009

BOARDING HOUSE RETURNS TO SEATTLE

Seattle Times - Videre is brand new. The kind of housing it will provide is anything but. It's a rooming house. Older ones dot the city, especially in neighborhoods like the University District. But Seattle officials can't remember the last time anyone built a new rooming house from the ground up.

The rooms are small - about the size of a parking space - but the project's developers say they fit the budget and lifestyle of young adults who might be working as baristas or $12-an-hour clerks in big-box stores.

Tenants will get a cable-ready, furnished room with private bath with shower for around $500 to $600 a month, with all utilities and broadband Internet included.

They'll get a single bed, table, chair and refrigerator. They won't get a closet, a private kitchen - or very much space. The 46 rooms range in size from 90 to 168 square feet, including the bathroom, according to plans filed with the city.

Potter says many younger people now don't do much more than sleep in their apartments anyway. "You have a living room somewhere else," he says - perhaps a bar or coffee shop.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Mairead said...

$500-600 a MONTH for a closet? There's something genuinely inhuman about that very idea.

Whoever signed off on this should lose their job and pension. I'd hope the developers go broke, but no doubt they're using public money as per usual --socialise the risk and costs, privatise the profits.

July 25, 2009 1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree Mairead, it reminds me of the sleeping pod rooms one can get in Hong Kong, which I saw in a National Geographic years ago.

Ikea will do a great business in selling loft beds to the tenants of these boarding houses.

Housing prices in Seattle really are that bad still, in the U district they probably won't have much trouble filling those pricey closets.

Sad, but true...

July 26, 2009 11:41 AM  
Anonymous Mairead said...

I wonder how many people would go for the idea of socialising housing.

I wouldn't have any problem transferring the ownership of every rental unit to the tenant. I'd exempt owner-occupied buildings if the owner doesn't want to play, but the buildings owned as businesses? Take them. Housing emancipation.

If they're too awful, tear them down and harvest whatever can be recycled. Otherwise, set a valuation on each unit, be it apartment or house, credit it to the new owner, and let everyone increase or decrease the value by the work they do (or don't). Let people trade freely, perhaps with a lottery to handle conflicts, so that people at different times in their lives can at least hope to have housing suited to their needs.

Then, if someone really is happy with a closet to live in, or is a committed drunk who can't even really keep up a sleeping pod, then at least what they have is what the've chosen, not what some bloodsucker forces on them.

How many people would go for such a guaranteed housing scheme, do you think?

July 27, 2009 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The main problem with socializing housing is many rental houses, and small complexes, like triplexes, are owned by regular middle class people who have invested money got by hard work to buy the rental property. People in that position could be losing their retirement if their rental(s) were socialized.

I have no problem with this when it comes to large developer projects, but I really would hate to see normal folks have their retirement taken away from them, by socializing all rentals.

July 27, 2009 1:49 PM  
Anonymous Mairead said...

I have some problem with that, too.

But there are also the cases of the "nice" slumlords (I met one of them, recently, while apt-hunting). Pleasant-seeming people who are (they say) "just trying to get by and have something for retirement", but who are in fact slumlords that exploit their properties and their tenants. (The one I met gave me the creeps even though she was, on the surface, friendly and 'normal').

Since, if we socialised housing such that everyone could have their own, that would certainly kill off rental housing as an industry. To keep from wrecking the lives of the ones you mention, we could include a buyout program. But how would we set up the cutoff point so that wealthy slumlords couldn't jump on that gravy train - means test?

I think of the examples that Oscar Ameringer gave of how conversion to social ownership could work (he was talking about state socialism, of course). He pointed out that Lincoln's ending of chattel slavery essentially deprived without compensation a helluva lot of more-or-less-innocent people of their valuable property, and that some of the former slaveowners must have suffered a massive drop in their socioeconomic standing because of it. Yet pretty much everyone not a psychopath will agree that it was right to do it.

How would you handle the situation?

July 27, 2009 2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd do exactly what Henry George showed us we need to do.

July 28, 2009 4:05 PM  

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