A house is torn down every day in Seattle, according to an August 26th article in the Seattle Times: A teardown a day: Bulldozing the way for bigger homes in Seattle, suburbs (http://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/a-teardown-a-day-bulldozing-the-way-for-bigger-homes-in-seattle-suburbs/). The rate of tear-downs in some neighborhoods is even higher. According to reporter Mike Rosenberg, more homes have been razed and replaced in the past 18 months than over the past four years.
Tear-downs are changing the face of Seattle. In a tight seller’s market, the subdivision of lots into multiple properties makes more homes available at higher prices. The new homes are built for sale, many of them on the luxury market, and as their numbers increase, the store of single-family homes available for rent decreases.
The Magnolia house that Heather Cashman bought is a case in point. Cashman, who founded Axiom Design + Build in 2000, bought the Magnolia house sometime “last decade,” according to Rosenberg. For years she rented out the house built in the 1940s; last week she had it torn down.
Companies that specialize in tearing down houses can usually turn a six-figure profit on a home in about a year. In one case, developers bought a 1929 Ravenna home on 17th Avenue Northeast for $450,000 in 2015 and replaced it with a box-style home three times its size that sold, to a Amazon executive, for $1.435 million. In another, a small Medina home was purchased in 2014 for $750,00 and replaced with a 5,300-square-foot home now valued at $3.41 million. Most of us wouldn’t be able to afford the $750,000 home that was torn down.
The listing of a derelict West Seattle home that was not only too dangerous to enter but “toxic,” prompted an “insane” bidding war of 41 offers culminating in a sale price of $427,000, more than twice the listing price. That home was torn down to the foundation. Finishing touches are now being put on a replacement home that will debut at the million dollar price mark (Seattle home too toxic to enter sparked a bidding frenzy — now we know why,” http://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/seattle-home-too-toxic-to-enter-sparked-a-bidding-frenzy-now-we-know-why/). “Everybody is 10 times busier than they were before,” Cashman told Rosenberg. “Everybody’s so busy, they can just charge more.”
According to Rosenberg, the typical home that is demolished is a “1,300-square-foot, single-story structure built more than 70 years ago, with a small yard.” That comes close to describing my own home, which was built in the 1940s. Mine probably has a bigger yard, and the primary story was built over a habitable basement and garage. The Cashman house, too, was a 1940s home.
When sweeping changes are afoot in the housing market, it’s customary to evaluate issues of density and affordability for buyers. I don’t spend a lot of time reading about the real estate market, but I haven’t noticed market watchers writing much about the likelihood that the tear-downs are often homes, like Cashman’s, that once provided supplemental income to families while giving shelter to renters. I haven’t heard much about how gentrification changes the balance of single-family homes that are available to rent.
Seattle is becoming a city in which increasing numbers of residents cannot afford to purchase the “luxury homes” that are built and sold for three times the price of the older homes they replace. These days, it’s a seller’s market. The result may be that the single-family homes that remain available as rentals are leased at premium prices. Tenants may increasingly be shunted into large buildings run by corporate interests, effectively tenements for those who cannot afford to buy. And perhaps tenants who attempt to keep the single-family homes that are available to rent as their domiciles will, like me, become enmeshed in the property wars of corrupt neighborhood watches and criminal developers and speculators. Tenants will be the collateral damage of these property wars, increasingly harassed and cyber-stalked out of their homes until they lose their jobs, their health, and even their lives; forced to move again and again until the next bubble bursts or until, for a brief interval, market conditions flip-flop and renting out a home becomes more profitable than flipping.
Gentrification means tear-downs. The relationship between real estate mobbing—criminal harassment in the name of forced eviction—and gentrification is established, in Spain, in Europe, even in the United States, as well as in documents by the United Nations and Amnesty International. With a tear-down a day, it’s likely that the anti-renter neighborhood watch in my northeast neighborhood of Seattle—the Pol Pot of neighborhood watches—and their developer and speculator cronies, have already slated my home for demolition.
There’s no better way to get rid of renters, than to get rid of rental homes. ▪