Let’s welcome developers into affordability discussions

In 1997, Apple was about 90 days from going broke. Today it is valued at $1 trillion, more than the combined value of Boeing, Bank of America, Walt Disney, Volkswagen, Ford and a dozen other familiar companies. The story of how they did it is the stuff of legend in entrepreneurship circles.

We might say the housing affordability problem in Seattle and surrounding communities is at the same broken point today.

Creativity and collaboration were key ingredients to Apples’ turnaround as people in the company with different interests and disciplines came together to begin forging a new direction. Managing the supply chain to respond to demand once they got traction with their new direction was itself a mind-boggling effort. Before all of that, though, everyone had to buy into the notion that they could get there.

The complicated and expensive process of supplying housing in all forms is a similar challenge and really at the root of the affordability problem. But for some reason, the actors in the real estate play are viewed differently than suppliers of other products, like Apple. In this drama, the developer is too often viewed as the villain.

A creative starting point would be bringing real estate developers to the table to help elected officials take a fresh look at the Growth Management Act and to reformulate regulations with a mandate to more closely tie the supply side to the demand side in the housing equation.

From start to finish, a typical apartment building in Seattle might take three to five years to deliver to market. That long lag time from concept to completion forces suppliers to speculate on demand. By the time the market catches up, it might be too late and a bubble of supply will have hit the market.

When rents swing up and then suddenly pull back in the bubble, as they are doing in Seattle today, it’s unhealthy for everyone. The costs of housing for consumers ratchet up several notches, only pull back one or two. That pattern repeats itself too often, and a major reason is the artificially high cost of limited land inventory designated by local communities for development under their Growth Management Act mandates.

Political leaders at the local and state level are challenged in this space. Few have any real experience in the private sector and even fewer understand the challenges developers face trying to deliver an affordable product. Like many of their constituents, some still view developers as the bad guys and don’t want to be seen hugging up to them or their lobbying groups, even in good conscience.

The genius of the Apple turnaround concerned who was at the table. Facing its demise in 1997, the company had no choice but to get everyone in the room to agree on a new direction. That, more than anything, is what the housing affordability problem needs today.

There’s a middle ground between the current circumstance and unregulated growth, but we can get to it onnly if things are choreographed together. A scrub of the Growth Management Act might be the right venue for the first act.

Tom Hoban is CEO of The Coast Group of Companies. Contact him at 425-339-3638 or tomhoban@coastmgt.com or visit www.coastmgt.com. Twitter: @Tom_P_Hoban.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Business

DJ Lockwood, a Unit Director at the Arlington Boys & Girls Club, is an Emerging Leader. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
DJ Lockwood: Helping the community care for its kids

As director of the Arlington Boys & Girls Club, Lockwood has extended the club’s programs to more locations and more kids.

Alex Tadio, the admissions director at WSU Everett, is an Emerging Leader. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Alex Tadio: A passion for education and equality

As admissions director at WSU Everett, he hopes to give more local students the chance to attend college.

Dr. Baljinder Gill and Lavleen Samra-Gill are the recipients of a new Emerging Business award. Together they run Symmetria Integrative Medical. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Emerging Business: The new category honors Symmetria Integrative Medical

Run by a husband and wife team, the chiropractic and rehabilitation clinic has locations in Arlington, Marysville and Lake Stevens.

People walk along the waterfront in front of South Fork Bakery at the Port of Everett on Thursday, April 11, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Port of Everett inks deal with longtime Bothell restaurant

The port will break ground on two new buildings this summer. Slated for completion next year, Alexa’s Cafe will open in one of them.

Alex McGinty is an Emerging Leader. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Alexandria McGinty: Her volunteer activities cover the spectrum

Volunteer events and activities take time, McGinty says, but “it’s important to incorporate them into our daily lives.”

Ahmad Hilal Abid, founder of House of Wisdom at Edmonds College, is an Emerging Leader. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Ahmad Hilal Abid: Offering students support and mentoring

The founder of The House of Wisdom at Edmonds College hopes to bridge the gap in education inequity.

Emerging Leader Jonnathan Yepez Carino (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Jonnathan Yepez Carino: Helping fund student dreams

“Proud to serve minorities.” Carino recently established a scholarship fund for Latino high school students.

FILE - In this Friday, March 31, 2017, file photo, Boeing employees walk the new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner down towards the delivery ramp area at the company's facility in South Carolina after conducting its first test flight at Charleston International Airport in North Charleston, S.C. Federal safety officials aren't ready to give back authority for approving new planes to Boeing when it comes to the large 787 jet, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. The plane has been plagued by production flaws for more than a year.(AP Photo/Mic Smith, File)
Congress summons Boeing CEO to testify after Everett whistleblower’s claims

Sam Salehpour worked on the 787 Dreamliner but grew alarmed over changes to the assembly of the fuselage.

A man walks by Pfizer headquarters, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in New York. Pfizer will spend about $43 billion to buy Seagen and broaden its reach into cancer treatments, the pharmaceutical giant said Monday, March 13, 2023. (AP Photo / Mark Lennihan, File)
Pfizer to lay off 119 workers with closure of south Everett plant

The pharmaceutical giant plans to relocate the facility’s Seagen drug production to a plant in North Carolina.

The Port of Everett and Everett Marina on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Port of Everett bid to expand boundaries to be on August ballot

The Port of Everett is planning a series of public meetings on the measure through June.

Black Press Media operates Sound Publishing, the largest community news organization in Washington State with dailies and community news outlets in Alaska.
Black Press Media concludes transition of ownership

Black Press Media, which operates Sound Publishing, completed its sale Monday (March 25), following the formerly announced corporate restructuring.

Maygen Hetherington, executive director of the Historic Downtown Snohomish Association, laughs during an interview in her office on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Snohomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Maygen Hetherington: tireless advocate for the city of Snohomish

Historic Downtown Snohomish Association receives the Opportunity Lives Here award from Economic Alliance.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.