On the Radio: $73 Million for 148 Units at Magnuson

Last Wednesday morning I was on the radio with Dave Ross talking about Mercy Housing $73 million rehab of 148 units at Building 9 of the decommissioned United States Navy barracks at Magnuson Park. Here’s Mercy Housing’s description of the project:

Building 9 will offer 148 apartments for working families and small households in the historic former Naval Air Station barracks.  The project is located in the beautiful 350-acre Magnuson Park on Lake Washington with proximity to many resources including the Magnuson Community Center and Sand Point Elementary School. The adaptive reuse of this vacant building will preserve the exterior and key historic interior elements with an emphasis on energy efficiency resulting in beautiful, comfortable and affordable housing.

I have no doubt that for $73 million or about $493,243 per unit that the units will be “beautiful, comfortable” units. But why is it so expensive. One non-profit developer I heard from off the record agreed this cost, especially for a rhab not new construction is high.

I know lots of people think I’m mean for criticizing Mercy Housing and other non-profits. It’s not nice, they might think, to be hard on people trying to help poor people. But think about it: the more per unit that gets spent on this housing project is fewer dollars for other units that won’t get built. And when the money is not available, the non-profits have come after market rate builders to tax them to get the money. That means higher prices for market rate housing and then more demand for subsidized housing. That seems pretty mean to me, too. It’s really worse than mean, it’s wrong. Hopefully, the study we’ve asked for from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) will shed some light on costs so that we can figure out how to make all housing more affordable.

You can listen to my about 5 minute interview with Dave Ross on the My Northwest podcast player.


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