This Zillow screenshot shows houses for sale on the Eastside that cost at least $1 million.

This Zillow screenshot shows houses for sale on the Eastside that cost at least $1 million.

Housing in Seattle is expensive. Trulia says the number of million-dollar homes in the area has tripled since 2012, and now account for 7 percent of the housing stock.

This, of course, isn’t a Seattle-specific problem. A whopping 57 percent of houses in San Francisco are worth $1 million or more, per Trulia, and the trend affects all major West Coast burgs. Governments, newspapers, and residents all bemoan the housing crises.

Yet nobody is really doing anything about it. This is the gist of an Atlantic article that examines whether Portland can maintain an affordable housing stock even as the city grows in population and affluence. Portland’s not as big as San Francisco yet, so it still has time to stem the growth of rents and home prices. Furthermore, it’s super-liberal, so Portland should be a laboratory for sensible housing policies.

But, as author Alana Semuels writes, “Portland hasn’t been able to slow its rental crisis because in a city that prides itself on progressivism, many of the traditional tools used to create more affordability are off the table.”

Requiring developments have affordable units was banned until March. Oregon has no rent control. Anti-displacement measures don’t accompany urban renewal projects. In short, Portland appears to be going down the path of its West-Coast sisters: Liberal enough to care about housing, but selfish enough to not do much about it.

The reason why? Justin Buri has an idea:

“There are limits to white urban liberalism,” Justin Buri, the executive director of the Community Alliance of Tenants, tells me. “When it comes to housing and schools, all of that goes out the window.”


Robot traffic

People suck at driving. We gawk, accelerate needlessly, spill coffee, check text messages, and neglect blind spots. Self-driving cars, like the ones Google is developing in Kirkland, don’t do any of that stuff, so the working theory is that roads filled with robot cars would significantly improve traffic.

But this theory neglects one key variable: volume. Accounting firm KPMG took this into consideration in a recent report. They concluded that autonomous vehicles will so dramatically improve mobility, particularly for seniors and teens, that vehicle miles traveled will jump from 3.1 trillion last year to over 5 trillion by 2050.

Some notions of the report make previous all-is-well assessments of autonomous vehicles seem far too optimistic. The ability to freely work or socialize in a car could negate the hindrances of car-centered development, namely clogged freeways and long-distance commutes.

With widespread self-driving cars, people may again flock to suburbs and exurbs; a two-hour commute is more palatable when you can get two hours of work done in that time. If driving is more convenient, more people will drive.


Elsewhere on the Web

Minecraft is going to China, and that’s a big deal.

Let’s hope Microsoft’s chat-bot assistant isn’t really called “Bing Concierge Bot.”

Paccar will wait for diesel prices to rise before rolling out its hybrid trucks.

Wood skyscrapers would be huge for the Northwest economy and, if harvested soundly, less resource-intensive than steel or concrete.

As developers make more money, janitors want a cut.