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Know the West

Strayed reporting


I’ve been reading HCN for over 30 years and have always appreciated your coverage of issues concerning the American West. But lately, many of your articles have strayed into ultra-liberal and one-sided territory, failing to examine multiple points of view.

One such article was January’s “Rent control.” Rather than portraying landlords as evil money-grubbers, look at some of the other causes of unaffordable rentals. In Seattle, my hometown, property values and thus rentals have skyrocketed. In the rural community where I currently live, the cost of living is similarly high, and incomes much lower. The average carpenter, plumber or electrician — if you can get them — is around $80/hour and the average building cost is $250 to $300/square foot. Tough to build affordable housing with these expenses, property taxes and property insurance. Well, they just keep going up.

Eviction is a dreadful process and one to be avoided at all costs. That’s why landlords try to screen their tenants so rigorously and, some may think, unfairly. Eviction can take up to three months — three months where you get no rental income and are unlikely to ever recover it, and your property might be damaged maliciously. In the rural community where I now live, a housing trust nonprofit is successfully buying land and building affordable housing. The wait list is long, but it’s a start.

—Michelle Schmidtke, via email