I just spent a long weekend exploring Seattle, Washington where I interviewed people about why they live where they do. It’s one thing to ask a city planner, economic development official, or transportation engineer about what people want in theory, but I prefer to ask ordinary people directly about the choices they’ve actually made.
Heather and Moe are a married couple in their early 40’s. They have two dogs and will be fostering or adopting a child soon. Heather is in school studying interior design. Moe is a physician’s assistant who spent much of his professional life in the military. Last year they bought a Charming 1930 fixer-upper with a generous yard for $425,000 and they’re in the process of bringing it up to a good standard on a tight budget. They’re doing much of the work themselves. The first project they tackled was converting the lower level of the home from a master bedroom suite and family room into a separate apartment that they rented to an old friend, Koll. Koll’s rent helps them offset their mortgage. At the same time Koll gets a high quality 1,000 square foot apartment with full access to the garden at a very affordable price with built-in community. Heather, Moe, and Koll often enjoy barbecues together on the back patio and Koll is pressed into service as dog sitter when needed. He had previously lived in Wallingford which was far more walkable and much better served by transit, but staying there meant paying more for a 500 square foot studio apartment. Koll, a lawyer, is stoic and continues to take the bus to his downtown office ten miles away even though it isn’t always as convenient as he would prefer. He said the bus is still far superior to driving and having to own a car.