Say hello to Big Tech, say goodbye to affordable housing.

Two recent articles on Amazon’s nation-wide beauty contest won’t tell us Silicon Valley old-timers–defined as anyone who’s been here more than five years–anything we shouldn’t already know.  But the effects of having an overwhelming Big Tech presence have snuck up on us so stealthily that a refresher course might be in order.

There’s the upside:

  • tens of thousands of high-paying jobs
  • a highly-educated and diverse workforce
  • rising property values for those lucky enough to buy before “unaffordable” became a common descriptor of local housing or affluent enough to buy since then
  • a sense of energy and purpose.

Most would agree that this is preferable to job flight, an unemployable and demoralized labor pool, stagnant or declining property values, and the malaise that comes from going nowhere slowly.

The downside?  “A shock to your housing market”, according to Bisnow Boston.  Among other things.

“Economic growth is a wonderful thing”, says one native-born Seattleite quoted in the Bisnow article about Amazon’s effect on her city–but not “if it comes with traffic congestion, rising real estate prices, huge commute times and less family time”.

“Disruption” is how another native Seattleite, writing for the New York Times, describes Amazon’s impact.  “You think you can shape Amazon?”, he asks rhetorically.  “Not a chance.  It will shape you.”

What he means to say is that whatever it was about your city or region that attracted people–whether you were an ideal blend of fast-lane jobs and relaxed low-density lifestyle, as Silicon Valley was, or if all NAFTA left you is low-cost living and plenty of huntin’ and fishin’–it’ll be under relentless assault.

“[Seattle] no longer works for some people”, he continues.  “The pace of change, not to mention the traffic, has been disorienting.”  Its character has changed:  once low key, “now a city on amphetamines”.

Seattle, a city whose real estate is permanently stuck on seller’s market, with cops and teachers priced out.

“As a Seattle native”, he writes, “I miss the old city, the lack of pretense, and dinner parties that didn’t turn into discussions of real estate porn.  But…I like the fresh energy.  To the next Amazon lottery winner I would say, enjoy the boom–but be careful what you wish for”.

Amen brother.

copyright © John Fyten 2017




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