Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Platform: Affordable housing—not

I mentioned a month or so ago about a housing construction project in Kent called “The Platform” across from the public library. I found it praiseworthy that its construction actually involved a diverse workforce, which apparently was the reason why several bearded white men were picketing the site for several weeks for “unfair labor practices.” I had asked one of the construction workers what their complaint was about, and he just shrugged and said that “we” were taking “their” jobs.

Now that the project is completed, the question is who can afford to move in. From the outside, it looks like it ought to be “affordable.” According to the Kent Reporter, it has 174 units, which sounds like it should be “affordable” insofar as the population density should allow for some reasonable long division. But if you think that a 435 square foot studio apartment is small, the rent is not: $1019 to start. This is being touted as 40 percent less than what someone would pay for something in downtown Seattle, but it still well beyond the means of many.
The problem is, this isn’t downtown Seattle, its Kent. Who can afford to live in it here? "We have young professionals and retired people” according to property manager Heather Lagat, who notes such enticements as “There's great dining and a movie theater across the street," meaning congested Kent Station. Low-income people in need of affordable housing need not apply. In fact, don’t even bother to think about it, because you are not the kind of “clientele” the place is priced for anyways.

One bedroom apartments range from $1299 to $1565, while two bedroom apartments range from $1699 to $1845. To put this in perspective, the “official” federal poverty guidelines put $11,670 as the maximum for a single person, $15,730 for a 2-person household, $19,790 for a 3-person household, and $23,850 for a 4-person household. Thus the rent for a very modest studio apartment costs more than a single person at the “official” poverty level earns gross. The story is similar for two-person households and above. 

In fact, it appears that “The Platform” is built not for families, but for single people, young couples, and retired people. While strictly not forbidden, it is clear that it was its set-up is meant to discourage the presence of children. And not just that, but it’s for people with fairly sizable incomes—and usually people who don’t do anything constructive except “speak well” and look suitably “attractive” in a pallid-faced way. 

According to my calculator, even the lowest priced unit has a yearly rent of $12,228; even for a single person making double the “official” poverty rate, this is about 75 percent of their take-home pay. My calculations suggest that a single person would need to earn at least $32,000 to “comfortably” afford to live in the lowest priced unit. Overall, I would calculate that the average household income to live on this property would be at least $42,000 and probably more.

The way that this place is being “sold” is that it is close to the Kent Station shopping boutique (believe me, the security guards who roam the place are there for a reason), and the Kent Station Sounder train link, where there is always a transit deputy acting like he’s just waiting for an excuse to crack someone’s skull, costing the county $10 million in a lawsuit. Before I noted that the demographics of the construction workers was diverse along the whole range of races and ethnicities; I doubt that any one of them could afford to live in the place they built—and this was the whole “point” of it.

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