New and expensive apartment complexes are popping up in downtown.
Recently, an opinion piece published in The Olympian argued that these buildings don’t displace low-income residents because the new buildings were constructed on vacant lots. It’s true that they were built on vacant lots, but they absolutely do displace people. We should be concerned.
The new, luxury apartment complexes fuel displacement in two ways. First, they drive up rents across downtown, and second, they create conditions for the demolition and redevelopment of cheaper apartment buildings.
We all know that rent is rising. The average two-bedroom is up $500 since 2011. The new buildings cost even more. People are moving to Olympia, but most of our new rental housing is luxury. This drives up rents across downtown, even in older buildings. As rents rise, many tenants simply can’t afford it. I know plenty who can’t afford to live downtown anymore, moving out of town. If this isn’t displacement, then I don’t know what is.
While the new buildings are built on vacant lots, it won’t be long before older buildings get replaced with new ones. As rents skyrocket, it becomes profitable to purchase aging buildings and replace them with luxury apartments, directly forcing out the residents.
Gentrification is kicking the poor out of Olympia or onto the streets. We can’t wait for the market to figure it out. Housing will get more expensive and people will be displaced. The time is now for concrete action to demand affordable housing from new development.