The campaign season has begun, and it should be no surprise that housing is already featuring in one of the contests. Noted growth and microhousing opponent Bill Bradburd has announced he’s running against Councilmember Sally Clark. Clark, not particularly a friend of microhousing or growth either, has filed to run for one of the two citywide council seats. It’s also rumored that Clark wants off the Council, but hasn’t been able to find an alternative job or appointment.
Still, she seems highly motivated to keep the job she has. In fact, she and Councilmember O’Brien are pushing to bring back low-rise legislation which we appealed last year. Wouldn’t it be better to have the low-rise proposal with it’s significant reduction of housing capacity in the low-rise zone be considered by the Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Committee? We think so. But clearly Clark thinks Bradburd would be able to use the Council’s not passing the legislation in the campaign. Here’s the e-mail we sent out last night urging people to contact the Mayor’s office to not forward the low-rise legislation to Council.
Clark and O’Brien should know that this is too important for politics. The Mayor’s Committee needs a chance to factor in the destructive legislation in its deliberations about overall housing need in Seattle. The City itself has said the legislation reduces density and housing in the low-rise zone; is that a good idea at a time of increasing demand for housing throughout the city? And should job security for incumbent Councilmembers trump new housing and the benefits of growth for big parts of the city?
Subject: HALA Committee and Proposed Low-Rise Legislation
To: Faith Pettis and David Wertheimer, Co-Chairs HALA Committee
Leslie Price, HALA Committee Staff
We support the Mayor’s efforts and yours to develop a better sense of what the most important issues and problems in Seattle’s housing market. These are complex issues and we know that you are working diligently to develop some smart and compassionate proposals that address challenges regular people in Seattle face when trying to find housing.
However, there are efforts to push legislation in Olympia and at the City Council that would profoundly impact housing. For example, Councilmembers O’Brien and Clark are planning to pass legislation that would profoundly impact housing in the city’s low-rise zones. We think the HALA Committee should have a chance to discuss that proposal fully before changes are made that will reduce housing supply in neighborhoods best suited for growth.
Please urge the Mayor not to forward proposed legislation to the City Council but, instead, include the legislation in the broader discussion of the HALA Committee.
It’s all set. I’m going to San Francisco to be part of a panel on housing. I’m not sure I will wear any flowers in my hair, but I will for sure be ready to tell stories about how things are going here is Seattle. And I am looking forward to learning from members of the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, which has the best acronym ever, SFBARF. SFBARF is led by Sonja Trauss who you can watch in the featured video above courageously standing up for common sense and increasing housing supply. As she is taunted from the gallery behind (including about what she’s wearing) her, she makes the clarion statement we’ve made many times here. Build more housing. The meeting is about a plan for more development in West Oakland. She starts with a brilliant analogy; does the rain cause umbrellas, or do umbrellas cause the rain? (Traids starts at about 1:48:00. I’m working on an edit of the video)
Do new houses cause rents to rise? [CROWD: Yes!] No! . . . We can look at an experiment. In San Francisco we effectively did not build. We have not been building to keep up with population. Have rents been steady in San Francisco. No! No, they have not, they have risen. So when you don’t build enough, it’s reasonable to expect rents to rise. People are going to move to West Oakland, because the Bay Area is a great place to live [Crowd: It was before you got here!] I don’t want to repeat San Francisco’s experiment here. I want to build as fast as people move here . . . then we’ll have enough housing for all of the people that move here . . . [CROWD: Affordable housing is what we need!] And we will have affordable housing if there is enough housing!
San Francisco now has the dubious distinction of being America’s most expensive city thanks to a spiral of outcry about rents, followed by supply killing regulation leading to higher prices, and more outcry. I called it the San Francisco Death Spiral, a ride our City Council seems determined to take.
Trauss is courageous, standing up against a wave of vitriol and bad economics. She does so with confidence, a sense of humor, and because it what she believes is right. The only thing I can compare Trauss’ political and principled performance is Margaret Thatcher pushing back on socialists in the House of Commons when she said, “You’d rather the poor be poorer, provided the rich were less rich!” a stunning rebuke of what often masquerades as progressive politics, that somehow what makes social justice is making sure nobody gets too far ahead of anyone else, regardless of how much better everyone is doing. But we know that if we build more as Trauss suggests we can avoid the “San Francisco experiment” that has lead to higher housing costs.
You can read more about Trauss and what she calls her “club of weirdos” in an article in the San Francisco Examiner. I am looking forward to meeting other weirdos from San Francisco and the Bay Area who are weird enough to believe that supply and demand applies to the housing economy.
When Tien Ha’s family moved to Washington state, he was 13 years old. His father Chu had been a lieutenant in the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese army and then imprisoned as a P.O.W. for seven years. An agreement with the U.S. government granted Chu and his family the right to immigrate legally to the United States.
The family almost didn’t make the move. After being freed, Chu Ha resumed his life. He rose up through the ranks at a corporation in Vietnam that had construction holdings. He learned as much as he could, then went on to own his own thriving design-build firm in Vietnam. But, above all, Chu Ha was a realist. He knew that in a country like Vietnam, his kids wouldn’t have the opportunities he wanted for them. He wanted freedom—for himself, his wife and his brood of six. So with the money he had made in construction, he made the move to the U.S.
Company Founded: 2004
Employees: 25 + General Contractors
Development Type(s): Apartments, Office Buildings, Hotels and Religious Facilities
Number of Projects per Year: 6
Throughout Tien’s childhood in Lynnwood, Washington, and all the way through high school, he and his siblings helped his parents make ends meet. His parents worked janitorial jobs, while his siblings toiled at McDonald’s, but everyone worked, even 13 year old Tien helped out. After years of scraping by, his father not only managed to buy a house for the family, but started a new business as a remodeler and handyman for small residential projects with Tien and his brother tagging along to learn the ropes. The die was cast: both brothers went on to attend WSU for construction management.
Right before graduating in 2004 on a visit home, Tien saw an apartment complex with a poorly executed siding job. The next thing he knew, he had talked the project manager into hiring him and his dad, under the auspices of a company they formed on the fly called HACT Construction (Ha, their last name and C and T for their first names Chu and Tien).
“During the downturn, the little money I made went to pay my suppliers and subs. My father taught me that determination and a good work ethic will pull you through, even in the roughest times.” ~ Tien Ha
Mark Huber of Huber’s Custom Building has been building homes in the City of Seattle for over 35 years. His is a family business, employing his wife and daughter full-time, and a hand-picked team of sub-contractors who he has specially vetted to meet his high standards of excellence and workmanship.
Huber’s focus is on Four-Star Built Green™ homes that reflect each of his clients’ individual styles and budgets. In addition to custom homes, Huber has also found a niche building custom, in-fill developments, such as townhouses and additional homes on lots to make better use of limited, in-city land.
Huber’s Custom Building
Company Founded: 1980
Employees: 3 full-time + 1 part time + sub-contractors
Development Type(s): Custom homes with a specialty is 4 Star Built Green and In-fill developments
Number of Projects per Year: 8 townhome units
But Mark Huber isn’t your typical business-owner; in fact, you could say he lives a double life. Most know him as a good family man and successful contractor. But Huber also raises funds and recruits people to help build homes for families in need in Honduras—and he started doing this in the midst of the Great Recession.
Since 2011, Huber, and his daughter alongside him, has been partnering with a local, Ferndale-based organization called Dwellings which connect people to Central American families who are homeless and living in extreme poverty. He and his daughter fly to Honduras several times a year, and to date, have helped build over 20 homes for these families who have no place of their own to call home.
Huber’s passion for giving back taps into a need we as humans have that makes giving such a rewarding experience. He has recruited family members and sub-contractors to join him, but his passion for his project knows no bounds. After building four townhomes in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, Huber recruited three of the four homeowners to join him in building five homes in Honduras. These three homeowners (who call themselves “Team Eclectic”) have returned three times to continue helping out—and they’ve used their companies’ matching funds to donate toward the projects they’ve worked on.
As far as Huber is concerned, it’s a win-win situation. The Honduran families finally get a place to call home, and his friends, family and clients have the opportunity to learn how to swing a hammer and build a house, while also learning the bigger lesson of the importance of giving to others who are less fortunate than themselves.
“If I find a group of people who are interested in working with me to learn to build a house for a needy family anywhere in the world, I will go.” ~ Mark Huber
Columbia City’s neighborhood blog, Columbia City Source, recently featured a video highlighting the ongoing work the Dwell Development is doing in the neighborhood, building energy efficient and affordable homes. We’ve featured Dwell’s work on passivhaus before and highlighted their unique approach to building housing. Dwell is partnering with the Seattle Housing Authority. Here’s more background on the video and their work in the Rainier Valley:
Dwell Development LLC, the award-winning design/build firm focused on building modern sustainable homes, is pleased to introduce the Columbia City Story: a sustainable micro-community in Columbia City’s Rainier Vista consisting of 42 homes with individual blue prints to make each home unique. The project began as a partnership with the Seattle Housing Authority and a commitment from Dwell Development to build 15 homes but due to the excitement and demand generated by the project, the Dwell Development team signed on for an additional 36 homes.
The philosophy of the project was to create a community within the bustling Columbia City neighborhood that brings together like-minded individuals who value community, sustainability and modern design. Each block of homes has a communal courtyard to encourage neighborly connections and a community garden to promote sustainable living practices such as growing organic vegetables. “It is actually a tour de force so to speak, where everyone can really enjoy living together, sharing habitat together and growing together,” says Anthony Maschmedt, owner of Dwell Development.
This project embodies Dwell Development’s ultimate goal of building beautifully designed net-zero homes that preserve the health of its inhabitants and the planet. The Rainier Vista community includes Dwell Development’s first Passive House – a voluntary standard for ultra-low energy buildings designed for comfort and efficiency. Passive House construction is centered on airtight spaces that reduce heating and cooling needs by incorporating extra insulation, high-performance windows, smart home technology and details in the design to support solar gains. Every home was designed with efficiency in mind; such as perfectly angled roofs to accommodate solar panels so the entire community is solar-ready.