You have to hand it to Bush & Company, they were spot on when they proclaimed that the free market would most assuredly take care of such problems as affordable housing. Who could have known, a mere three years ago, with housing prices skyrocketing and rents pricing out most renters, that a social revolution was brewing. Social reformers and liberals cried out for government aid to build low income housing. Who knew that the mind behind Bush had a smashing plan for bringing down the cost of housing across the board and across the nation? Genius, pure genius! Drive the economy into the ditch and pretty soon you are picking up quarter-million dollar homes for $100K in Florida and California. Here in Seattle, rents have dropped dramatically and landlords are offering incentives to get their units occupied. Problem is no one has the money to snatch the cheap real estate. Ah, the magic of the free market at work.
What, you may well ask, does this have to do with the Greenbridge development? Greenbridge is more than a housing project, it is a master plan for the community. Greenbridge, and High Point, were developed with certain assumptions in mind.
The project, launched in 2001 with a grant from the federal Hope VI program — the same program that has contributed to the redevelopment of High Point and Holly Park — is supposed to include 1,025 living units. That’s a lot more housing than Park Lake held, but a lot less of it will be subsidized for the poor. The mix is supposed to include 300 rent-subsidized units, 353 workforce rental units, and 372 homes for sale at market rates. This represents a net loss of 269 rent-subsidized units. Instead of maintaining a large pocket of low-income housing in White Center, the county decided to disperse.
As well, the project was developed before the economy hit the squids and before the current real estate meltdown. Hence, the criticism that some of the economic assumptions underlying the project were wrong.
The King County Housing Authority built the first part of Greenbridge at the height of the real estate boom, when prices for everything were sky-high. The sale of lots for market-rate housing was supposed to reimburse the county some of the cost. By the time the housing authority offered its first relatively small group of market-rate lots for sale, the market had plunged. Only one developer bid on the land, at a price way lower than expected. Having bought high, the county felt it couldn’t afford to sell low. It retracted its request for proposals. For now, the single-family portion of Greenbridge is on hold until the market picks up.
As well, some readers of this blog have expressed concern that the early learning center is a lot of wasted money, destined more for monuments than for education. Needless to say, Greenbridge and its constituent parts have no shortage of critics. This is so, despite the very involved political process used to formulate its goals. Unlike private developments, the development Greenbridge required input from a great many constituent groups. As well, the philosophy behind Greenbridge incorporates the revolution in urban planning that did away with such government-manufactured ghettos such as Chicago’s infamous Cabrini Green towers. When all is said and done, Greenbridge is supposed to be a place that is safe, pleasant and attractive. And it will be organically connected to the larger White Center Community.
More to come, but feel free to jump in with your observations and comments. (As always, be civil, or your comment will be deleted.) In the interim, here are some pictures taken on November 23rd, showing the current progress.