NIMBYs (and a Legislator) are killing the economy

Matthew Yglesias  at Vox has written an important response to an article in the New York Times about how housing is holding back economy. The author of that article spends lots of time on people being hesitant to buy houses, but Yglesias points out that in cities like Seattle housing isn’t being built fast enough which means fewer jobs and less money in the local economy.

Yglesias says the real drag is the anti-housing movement trying to slow housing development.

A significant swath of America is facing a housing affordability crisis, and simultaneously the country is facing a massive economic slump largely driven by a depressed level of housing construction. Opening up the spigots of development in high-priced, high-demand areas could considerably reducing housing affordability problems and create a ton of new jobs in the construction sector and related fields. But most the areas of the country where housing demand is strongest are generally the areas most politically dominated by left-wing people who are reluctant to embrace a deregulatory agenda.

In Houston, for example, where zoning and regulation is less strict a lot more housing is getting built than in San Francisco. I’m not advocating that we try to emulate Houston’s growth patterns, but we certainly want to do the opposite of what San Francisco has done which is over regulate housing. Now that city is 100,000 units behind where is should be considering the demand for housing there.

And as if to help prove Yglesias’ point the anti-housing movement in Seattle will be hosting an NIMBYpalooza on the evening of April 30. The Coalition for an Affordable and Livable Seattle is massing their troops to talk about ways to slow down new housing development. This group even wants a moratorium on new housing. The event is billed this way:

It’s a rare opportunity to meet and share ideas with likeminded folks from across Seattle. We hope you can make it – in fact – we need you if we are ever able to effectively organize a movement to respond to these forces threatening Seattle’s livability and affordability

Guess who’s part of the anti-housing movement now. Representative Gerry Pollet will be speaking to the group.

You’ll also hear from State Housing Rep. Gerry Pollet from Seattle’s 46th District, a leader in Olympia supporting our letter and the call for managed growth. He’ll give his reaction to unmanaged growth and tell us what he’s doing down in Olympia to address the problem especially lack of adequate notice to our neighborhoods when land use changes occur, and take your comments.

Rumor has it that Representative Pollet may be running for City Council in one of the newly formed Council Districts. This would explain his grandstanding on small-lot legislation. Pollet’s embrace of the anti-housing movement is and his legislation are another perfect example of why housing prices continue to climb; more rules, more process, and more costs.

If Pollet has his way every Lot Boundary Adjustment in Seattle could be subject to costly appeals. Who pays those costs? First to pay are the City taxpayer and the developer. The taxpayer foots the bill because the appeals are against the City. These appeals are almost never successful, but the developer sees her costs go up as she waits for the appeal to unwind and that means higher housing prices. The City pays legal fees and loses tax revenue and jobs when projects don’t get built, all so Pollet can score some points with wealthy existing homeowners.

polletBut who really suffers and pays for Pollet’s political play for his wealthy and litigious constituents? People looking for new homes, who will have to wait longer and pay more for housing. This hurts the economy in lost construction jobs and tax revenue if projects don’t get built.

Yglesias is right. But it isn’t just about not supporting deregulation. In Seattle the local economy is being attacked by people who got here first who already own homes and want to shut the city’s gates to new people. The City Council has made some questionable decisions about housing regulation, but now one State Legislator is trying to make things even worse by teaming up with NIMBYs to stymie the development of new housing.

Email Representative Pollet at and ask him to stop playing politics with Seattle’s housing economy.

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