Building high rises to increase affordability in Seattle

I want to propose what may seem like an odd concept, but which I believe might actually work in reality. I suggest increasing housing affordability by building more high-rises.


Here are the reasons why I think we should do this.


First, by building more multi-family high-rises, we increase the total supply of housing. These provide more lucrative returns to developers; therefore, the city can demand more affordable units by allowing high-rise zoning. In this sense, the supply of both affordable units and the total housing number will increase. Based on simple supply and demand, this will lower the price of housing.


Second, by building more high-rise residential buildings, we can have a positive economic effect. For example, it will create more jobs, such as contractors, laborers, and house cleaners.


Third, by building more high-rise residential buildings, more people can live in or near the city. With demographic changes, more and more millennials want to live in or closer to the city. Building more high-rise multi-family buildings will indeed solve this problem.


However, it won’t be as easy as I described above. We need great infrastructure to support this idea and government incentives to achieve it.


One way to make building high-rises attractive to people of different economic status will be to give the right amount of incentives to developers, so that developers use incentives to create more affordable units, and, at the same time, they can build feasible projects.


The other critical piece is to create the good infrastructure that can facilitate high density. Easy access to public transportation, sufficient parking, grocers and access to fresh food, and personal service providers are all crucial.


In fact, in China, I’m used to the idea of living in a high-rise building with good amenities and great access to public transportation. With strong population growth in Seattle, building more high-rise residential buildings, including both apartments and condominiums, can be a viable solution to accommodate the population growth as well as make it affordable to everyone.



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