Why Cities Need Diverse Housing Options
I recently spoke out in support for an eleven-story building of rentals to be built at the corner of 1st and Jackson in Pioneer Square during a Preservation Board meeting. When I was asked to provide a public comment in support of the building from the developers, I did my due diligence; I glanced at the design of the building, but I barely spent time here as I trusted the Preservation Board to ensure that the aesthetic would match the neighborhood. I checked out the specs of the apartments and weighed the typical demographic that would likely rent here. I cared a lot about the rental pricing upon opening. I spent the majority of my time researching the development company and their past development history, and especially their social responsibility - what materials they typically used, what construction companies they typically hired. But in all honesty, it would have been difficult for me to say no to not supporting this development.
Pioneer Square is growing from all angles except one, the most important one - its middle-class. Right now, Pioneer Square is a paradox of extremely high net-worth housing, social services, and low-income housing. The middle-class comes to dine in Pioneer Square, but they cannot afford to live, buy, or spend their life here.
In order for cities to grow economically, culturally, and socio-economically, the middle-class needs to grow. Cities are for everyone, and cities begin in neighborhoods - just like Pioneer Square.
Diverse housing options are a cornerstone for the redevelopment of a neighborhood, and it has been proven that housing investments create a powerful effect on a neighborhood's vitality for the following reasons:
1) Increased housing demand leads to higher property taxes.
2) Higher property values provide more revenue for the city, which translates to improved municipal services or lower taxes.
3) Increased disposable income, which enhances business and job growth in the neighborhood.
4) Less likelihood for gentrification because of socio-economic diversity.
The timing for supporting this project was important for me, too. Historically, housing and neighborhood improvements do not happen laterally. It's important to prioritize the investment in diverse housing developments in this neighborhood now because we're investing a lot into Pioneer Square; the Alliance has recently announced their newly drafted PSQ 2020 plan, and invited neighborhood stakeholders to participate in subcommittees for the plan. It's also no coincidence that Pioneer Square is the most active neighborhood in Seattle.
The outcome of any city's strategy is determined by its neighborhoods. I'm looking forward to using Pioneer Square as a model for other Seattle neighborhoods to replicate, so we can build the kind of city in which we want to live.