60 minutes homeless crisis ideas for Seattle

76 Replies

Just watched the 60 minutes special on the homeless crisis. Very concerning when you realize that we are part of the problem. To keep our business profitable we absolutely have to screen tenants for felony’s, rental history, etc. so what can we do?

What about recovering attics? How long should we go back for evictions? Should we try to set a property aside as our “take a chance on someone” unit.

Especially this time of year that was a tough show to watch. Does anyone out there have any ideas or practices in their business to help solve the problem?

You have to treat this as a business and abide by standards. The government should be the one dealing with the homeless crisis.

I believe many of the homeless do not want to work and many have mental illness. The government definately needs to address this and provide the proper care for those that need it.

Those that do want to work should be given the opportunity and the government should have programs for this.

I think you mean we’re part, a big part, of the solution. If my rental was just a second home there be even more homeless. If i sold to homeowners instead of using it as a rental, another poor family would be homeless. 

I do agree the government and all its regulations are causing much of the problem if that’s your point. Rent control causes there to be less rental properties, a known fact, and yet they keep introducing more of it. They pass a law saying you can’t ask if they’re an ex-felon less rentals. Seattle also caused some of the problem with their minimum wage laws, the job losses among the struggling class were devastating. 

Unless you get out there and battle for smaller government and less regulations there’s not much you can do other than move your rentals to a more “landlord friendly” state. They just keep pushing their evil/greedy landlord narrative to the detriment of of our clients, especially the poorest. 

States/cities with the highest minimum wages/rent control have the most homeless, what a coincidence. 

Sorry but I disagree.  I believe a large percentage of the homeless have severe mental health issues so I look at it as a mental health crisis.  Here we go again.  The news is telling you "a" story not the story!  So if you take out the mental health issues the problem is much smaller than advertised.

I did not watch, but IMO folks that are in crises have little options.  Our society does not believe in redemption or that serving time should of cleared the debt to society.  We leave many folks with no option but to live in tents on the side of the freeway. 

I also know a lifetime homeless person - we have tried to help her but that is the life she chooses at this time.  

Having known others that hit bottom and came back up it is possible.  And IMO there should be standards that will help landlords understand who is a good applicant and who is not (beyond no criminal history) there is a time coming soon where declining folks based on time served in prison, arrests etc will no longer be allowed. 

I wish I knew the solution 

@Bill Brandt when I say “part of the problem” I meant I’ve bought apartments with 400$ rent and raised it to 800$ rent over the course of a few years. For someone who is living on 1200$ that is life changing and arguably causes a personal crisis. Clearly the hospitals, college loan borrowers, and credit card companies have no heart, but as a small time landlord it weighs on my mind from time to time

County government paying kick backs to their relatives to build brand new over priced housing and “giving” it to people that will trash it in a month can’t be the best solution. Maybe heating abandoned buildings, purchasing out dated buildings via Imminent domain, or hiring local property managers to lease out units on behalf of the government would be potential solutions.

Originally posted by @Matt Higgins :

@Bill Brandt when I say “part of the problem” I meant I’ve bought apartments with 400$ rent and raised it to 800$ rent over the course of a few years. For someone who is living on 1200$ that is life changing and arguably causes a personal crisis. Clearly the hospitals, college loan borrowers, and credit card companies have no heart, but as a small time landlord it weighs on my mind from time to time

County government paying kick backs to their relatives to build brand new over priced housing and “giving” it to people that will trash it in a month can’t be the best solution. Maybe heating abandoned buildings, purchasing out dated buildings via Imminent domain, or hiring local property managers to lease out units on behalf of the government would be potential solutions.

I wouldn't worry too much about it. I lived in Seattle for my first 55 years and I actually know some of the homeless and soon to be homeless and a couple of friends simply fell off the face of the earth along the way never to be heard from again. I volunteered for 5 years working with some pretty tough characters. Mostly they are into drugs and alcohol. I asked one guy if I could give him a ride to City Team for the night (a rehab facility on Lower Queen Anne) and he said no, "they make you go to bed too early" and he said he was making too much panhandling outside the store. In fact I repeatedly went to City Team to hire guys to work on my flips and one maybe two out 60 to 70 guys were willing to work. I would work them for the day and the next day they wouldn't work.

These are decisions, choices, lifestyle.

Snowflakes may want to skip this post for fear of having their feels hurt.

Step one would be to cut the bull **** about these people.

Let's stop pretending that they are all mentally ill. Estimates of mental illness among homeless seem to range from 25% to 45%. That's of any mental illness. Does your tenant require an ESA? They suffer from mental illness too! Feeling a little down? You suffer from mental illness! Nowadays everyone suffers from some sort of mental illness - well, everyone except the hardworking taxpayers that have to support this bull ****. Estimates are that 25% of all adults in the US have some form of mental illness and that in your lifetime you have a 1-in-2 chance of developing at least one mental illness.

Let's stop pretending that the cost of living is too high and that is why they are homeless. If you can't afford to live in the highest priced cities in the world, then MOVE. You have no right to live here any more than you have the right to have a Ferrari or drink Dom Perignon Champagne. Right now Ames, Iowa has the lowest unemployment in the US at 1.5%. Cost of living in Ames is around 7% below the national average. Why aren't the homeless flocking there to secure work and cheap cost of living? Could it be that they don't want to work and instead would prefer to leach off the progressive policies of the coasts?

Let's stop electing feel good politicians just because they have a D next to their name on the ballot. This is not a political statement, this is just pure fact: Progressive policies have completely failed and until they stop implementing them or until the voters stop electing the same type politicians, there will be no meaningful change.

Let's stop talking about building shelters. The current shelters are empty. There is story after story of government workers going to the homeless camps and offering them a bed in the shelter. Only one or two people will take up the offer. The homeless don't want shelters. Shelters have rules, no drugs, curfews, etc. That isn't what the homeless want.

Let's stop talking about building new housing and affordable units. It's a feel good joke that is being played on the stupid people in exchange for votes. Let's just be honest about it. We're not going to build new housing because the current infrastructure can't support much more. Also, the existing homeowners don't want it and if the politicians tried to put through any meaningful changes, the homeowners would fund their opponents campaign at a 100-to-1 margin. As for affordable housing, no one wants to live next to a building with 200 low income tenants. Yes, that may sound snobbish, but it is the truth. No one wants to spend $750,000 on a home in a decent area to have a giant apartment building put up next door with hundreds of people who shouldn't be able to afford to live in that area. You can say I'm a horrible person for saying that out loud, but the fact is that when it comes down to it, the majority of people living there feel the same way. They're all progressive and for helping the vulnerable low income, until the point it actually impacts them.

What we are seeing is a lifestyle choice. It's the new hippie generation. I just wanna live free and under the open air and the government can give me money for food and a free cell phone and a place to bathe and I can spend the days making a couple hundred dollars panhandling and buy my drugs and do them out in the open. Life is good man....

Time to stop pretending and time to start cracking heads.

@Matt Higgins I'm guessing that along with the rent increase from $400 to $800 you probably invested in some needed repairs/updates in the property,  and its a lot more likely that your operating budget now covers all expenses, allows for ongoing basic maintenance, and makes enough return to be worthwhile to you.    

And in general....

I've lived in Seattle for all my adult life,  and been a small landlord since 2006.

Its true that supply and demand is a fundamental law of economics, and as more comparatively well off people pile into seattle, housing is going to get more expensive and the bottom-barrel housing units that used to be out there 10 or 20 years ago that people who were living solely on disability or SSI or maybe could hold down a low wage job despite issues like substance abuse or mental illness were able to afford is getting redeveloped.   In my old neighborhood (Georgetown Seattle - industrial chic hipster central) in the time I was there at least half dozen or so big old mansions and boarding houses (all at or near the end of their useful lives without major rehab) were demolished for townhouses.   Each of these judging on their size probably had between six and 15 rooms,  probably individually rented,  and each room was probably going for a few hundred a month up until the end.  Odds are pretty good the ownership wasn't too picky about residents either, as long as they could come up with the move in costs.

My own SFR residence I bought recently was previously being used as a boarding house. It was uninhabitable when I bought it (leaking roof, collapsing chimney, no functional baths or kitchen, no laundry facility, illegally subdivided basement room, wiring, plumbing issues, cockroaches, trash filled yard, etc. I don't know whether the prior owners sold due to seattle's rental housing inspection program, not having funds to fix the place or personal issues (probably a combination) but due to Seattle rental policies I have no intention of re-offering this place for rent. When I move on, I will sell it. (Its habitable now, by then will be nicely fixed up)

The fact that there hasn't been an official 'boarding house' zoning designation for decades up until just recently (SEDU's - small efficiency dwelling units)  means that most of that kind of housing is at or near end of life and anything replacing it is new and comparatively expensive,  or its being replaced with housing that appeals to higher income people.

I support some of the zoning changes the city has been making, like allowing 2 ADU's on most residential lots. (I don't support removing the owner occupied requirement for such properties though - as that makes it essentially triplex zoning, and now anybody who wants to own their own home has to compete with investors) and there is PLENTY of underutilized higher density zoning areas in parts of the city that could be redeveloped. Within a mile of me and all along the existing light rail route going south from Seattle there is acres and acres of vacant land. Some of it is already in the development pipeline for sure. There are acres of dumpy, deteriorating warehouses along the duwamish river that seems to me could be rebuilt as a whole new urban waterfront neighborhood.

The city (and surrounding ones) do need to make it less complex and easier to build at all scales.   For example my 4-plex has a 350sf, above grade full ceiling height finished storage area.   It is completely unused except for some of my junk right now,  and could easily be built out as a studio apartment.   There is enough parking already,  space in the meter panel for another meter,  and easy access to add plumbing.   I could hire out structural modifications to add needed egress windows and strengthen the shear walls and rough in the breaker panel,  then frame the place myself, pay somebody to drywall it,  then install the kitchen and bath stuff and probably have a unit ready to go for someplace around $50K.   Unfortunately the zoning, building, and fire codes have changed since this building was built and retrofitting the rest of the building to comply would probably double or triple that number.  (1980 building)  I'm fine with doing comparatively easy, low cost stuff like thickening exterior walls to upgrade insulation (just add shim layer on inside to allow 6" insulation gap) but I'm not going to gut the other 4 units to bring everything up to current fire code just to (re)finish about 10% of the gross sf of the building.    And this would be a unit that for example the mail delivery person in the CBS segment would probably be able to afford and would work well for her.

Similar story at my triplex,  which I recently learned due to zoning changes there I could theoretically build 3 more units while preserving the existing structure, enough parking for one space per unit, and actually INCREASING green space on the lot.   However the permitting costs, time involved, and (this being in seattle) the extreme anti-landlord policies in place there means I have little incentive to do so.   So more likely when I sell the property,   its subdivideable lot (for 4 standalone "RSL" - small lot standalone homes) - will go to a developer despite the property being in excellent condition.   The existing $1500/mo 2br units would get lost to $3000+/mo mortgages on the replacement homes.

I know where the market has the most need - and I am sitting on the resources necessary to make a contribution of a few units - but various regulations, costs, etc. are disincentivizing or holding me back.   I wonder how many more people in my position there are around here.   Probably enough to account for at least a few thousand units.    Not enough to "solve" the problem - but it would make a dent.

@Account Closed Many of the people living on the streets in Seattle are doing that by choice,

Just like you mentioned.

The ultra liberal mindset of letting people do whatever they want, including heroin in the parks where my kids used to play (I have since left seattle for Mercer Island where we don’t put up with that kind of sh*t) has turned seattle into the dump that it is. There is absolutely no accountability anymore in the city, which has attracted people from all over the country who want to hang out and get high (I know there are also mentally ill people experiencing homelessness which is another issue).

Additionally, the homeless industrial complex in Seattle is huge, and the amount of tax dollars that are being funneled into the special interest groups that are supposed to be solving the homeless problem is staggering.

As an aside, Amazon has been the most effective at addressing the issue through their support of Mary’s Place

@Brian Hughes the points you made about zoning are valid. The HALA upzone that just occurred is going to destroy single family homes in the city, as is the proposed change limiting new homes to less than 2500sq ft; seattle is pro homeless and anti family now.

Per your comment on the area around the Duwamish, it is insane that the city won’t upzone Sodo. All of the public transportation infrastructure is there, the dirt is there, but the city wants to maintain parking lots and light industrial / one story commercial here

@Matt Higgins

I live in Seattle and can tell you right off that the biggest problem is the cost of living especially housing. The big firms there (Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook etc) raised $500M to try to start to tackle the problem since they partly created it (skyrocketing of house prices and rent) but they have to deal with the red tape. Secondly, majority of the homeless a tually come from other states (NY, Oregon etc) because WA and the City of Seattle do have very good care program for the poor but the inflow outweighs the available resources. And we are already at 10% sales tax, 20% alcohol tax etc.

My guess is that those that are all for “cracking heads” have never been in a black place themselves..... it is not as simple as “if they wanted to work they would”...

People need help.... and while yes, one has to decide to chnage, if you have forgotten how to do life differently, if you have an addiction knawing at your soul, or a mental illness etc... it is not that simple. 

I find it repulsive that so many can turn their backs and add to the problems by thinking that only their wellbeing is worthwhile. 

I dont know the solution, but turning our backs is not going to do it   

And while folks may think i am a bleeding heart, this is not true, however, i do have a concious and believe that there is enough in this world for all and that life is not a zero sum game  

They can move to toledo OH and rent a 3 bedroom house for 800/month .. but instead they choose to live in Seattle where (i assume) a 3 bed house is 4000/month

@Greg M.

Greg it is clear by your post that you are some kind of a super genius ! It is rare that a man would take a strong stance publicly to stand up for what we all know to be true but won’t admit it and I commend you good sir . If you ever decide to run for public office , I will move to your district and vote for you .

@Matt Higgins Hey Matt - I also saw the 60 minutes report on Seattle’s homelessness issue. I’ve done some volunteer work on skid row in LA and based on my experience poor prison release programs, substance abuse, and mental illness are the primary drivers of homelessness, not heartless landlords. I read a statistic that over half of homeless people suffer from mental illness or substance use issues.

With that being said, there are a couple of govt solutions that can help (e.g. LIHTC and local variances for affordable housing and supportive housing developers). LIHTC assets may be an area you should consider. There are people who not only make a lot of money in it, but also satisfy a societal need.

In my opinion, Real Estste investors should run their properties like a business. If you’re passionate about helping Seattle solve this issue, I would look for LIHTC investments and volunteer opportunities.



Thanks @Cameron Huard ,
We rent properties to a couple recovering attic programs here and have had great success with them.  I haven’t heard of that agency but I will look into it.  One of my other business ventures is a bail bond business so I’m all to aware of the price addiction pays on families and society.

I  would just like people to have a path to recovery.  The screening software is so good it seems like it would take less time to qualify for a mortgage after a bankruptcy than to qualify for a rental after an eviction.  The government makes the eviction process so expensive and slow up here that you almost have to avoid it at all cost.

I love how everyone in areas like my state wants to help out the homeless, help illegal immigrants, increase welfare, increase incentives not to work, are content with running deficits & want to give free college to everyone. They want to help everyone except for the shrinking middle class. 

How about someone sticks up for the middle class every now and then. Neither side Republican or democrat seem willing to do so. Each side has their own special interests in mind. 

You shouldn't have to feel guilty about about the homeless situation. Theres already lots of programs out there to help people less fortunate. Someone with drug issues and mental illness etc wouldn't be able to afford a $400 or a $800/mo rent anyways. What we should worry about in this country is the massive divide between the middle class and the ultra rich class that have their pockets in every single industry. 

@Matt Higgins I did not see the show and even though we live a couple of hours sw of Seattle I have never been there. I have seen first hand the homeless in San Francisco and Vancouver Canada. Homelessness has nothing to do with me or the fact that I am a landlord. We need to stop calling the addicts, alcoholics and mentally ill 'homeless'. Giving them a home has no impact on their plight-it is like me teaching my dog to sing. I am wasting her time. 

The government wants people to believe it is a housing situation probably so they can blame LL? While there are some genuinely 'homeless'-families living in their car who may have fallen on hard times; but they are by far the exception. It is an addiction and mental illness problem and/or a lifestyle choice. 

They all have a story-sometimes it even has s smidgeon of truth to it. As A much younger man I even tried to help rehabilitate some of these people by offering them simple warehouse jobs sweeping-packing, picking etc. None of them ever even showed up! IMO the first thing is to call it what it is.

Originally posted by @Dennis M. :

@Mary Mitchell

Hey Mary how many homeless (that you pretend to care about )have you personally taken in to your investment properties and gave free housing to end their unfortunate plight ?

.. that’s what I thought ,now shut your fat yap .

not sure whats up with your attitude towards me....  (or is it women in general?)  but your comment is not really adding value (altho maybe you get likes for them so that is why you do it??)

as for the topic at hand..... actually my family and I have helped people....  I mentioned one of them in my post.there were others.....