11.01.2006

Will the last poor person leaving Olympia please turn off the lights


I find myself stranded in Tacoma and I have myself quite a dilemma. Lord knows I tried to find a cheap apartment in Olympia, my preferred location being in the downtown area, no further than one cigarette smoke away from Sylvester Park. My timing was bad, I was looking for a place to live just as all the Evergreen students were converging on town and providing some formidable competition for the apartments. I know I have another shot coming up when the first wave of students start dropping out or reconsolidating during the winter break.

While I don't mind the competition for the apartments, I'm a pretty shrewd and crafty competitor myself, I am appalled at the rents being charged in Olympia, in particular the places and locations I would desire. I looked at the Capitol House, kind of my sort of place, but the rents for a one bedroom were like $620, albeit with utilities included. Not exactly my neck of the woods, but it would do. At $520 I would have snapped it up. Still the Capitol House is well over a hundred bucks a month more than they would charge in Tacoma.

I had the opportunity to buy a house in the Olympia area a year and a half ago. Sadly my bank would only loan me up to 135k, and the cheapest houses in Olympia, at that time, were bumping up against 200k and those were pretty much tear downs. So I ended up in Centralia where you could buy a house for less than 100k. Now Centralia is a fine little town with lots of potential, but I don't exactly see myself as a pioneer in that particular locale. Centralia was fine for a married man, but not so good for an unmarried man with a whole slew of projects up in Pierce and Thurston counties and not being a driver. I pretty much eschew the motor vehicle, except for public transportation, but my favorite mode of transportation is walking.

So getting back to the dilemma. I need to be living back in Olympia. I need to be downtown. I need to walk around as my major mode of transportation and I need to be a part of my community and make the contributions I feel are important. I have a way cool apartment in Tacoma, but it is not enough. Sure I have great job prospects in Tacoma, for way more money than I'm accustomed to, but that is not really my thing. I'd prefer to be poor and happy in Olympia than wealthy and miserable in Tacoma or anywhere else. In the end I'll end up paying $100 more a month for rent in Olympia. A small price to pay to be happy and a member of a true community. I wish we had the selection and flexibility of the housing choices in Tacoma, but that is not yet in the cards. Be assured, once I find my apartment, I ain't leaving.

Olympia is a very desirable place to live. More and more people are finding this out and moving in faster than the existing housing can withstand. Supply and demand. Location, location, location. Olympia is starting to be a difficult place for a poor person to live. I know, from other cities, it is the poor people that give a town or district the reputation that the wealthy will want to take over. Once the poor establish a place as desirable to live in, the gentrifiers will start flocking in.

Olympia is rapidly becoming a place where the poor will no longer be able to live. I don't think there is anything wrong with being poor. Money is not the measure of anyone's humanity. The poor are creative, resourceful, and have better understandings of the important things in life. Money tends to distort these attributes, and not for the good. A day will come when even if the poor are willing to pay the outrageous rents of Olympia, the landlords will be looking for more "mainstream" tenants and just not rent to the poor. That is not the sort of thing that this town needs.

2 Comments:

Anonymous mike said...

I know what you mean. I live in Lewis County also, mainly because of school and employment choices made about 15 years ago. I could sell the LC place and own a much smaller Oly house and be able to walk and bike more. It's very tempting, but my kids and grandkids and friends come and go from the 'big house' on a regular basis right now and it's very comfortable and satisfying. The downside is driving up and down the road to my Oly life almost every day. I continue to be troubled by that element. Also, the politics of progressive Oly, the coop, the parks, the greener kids, all that oly stuff feeds my soul.

So, maybe it's time for a housing coop in Oly?

7:26 AM  
Blogger crenshaw sepulveda said...

Don't get me wrong, Centralia and Chehalis are fine places with lots of potential. I'm even seeing both places as possible futures for the poor of Olympia. Both towns have lots to work with, great downtowns, natural areas within the city limits. Lots of really cool people amongst the hardcore republicans. I often think they are republicans because they really don't know any better. They just need to find out there is a better way.

I like many things about Centralia. The mural dedicated to the Wobblie Massacre, the fact that Centralia was founded by a former slave. I think Centralia needs to embrace these roots. It would be great if some of the unions here in WA would set up their offices there.

The Centralia people have been univerally friendly and supportive. I get the feeling that places more accustomed to poverty have those sorts of spirits.

I could easily mention the Olympic Club, but the Hub just down the street from it is way cool as well, and locally owned for generations. The Visiting Nurses thrift store can not be missed. While there are, in my opinion, too many antique stores downtown, they have some excellent prices and some very intriquing merchandise. The Outlet stores I can do without. The Centralia Antique Mall, the one with the Wobblie Mural, is owned by an Olympian. Should a migration of Olympian start, I may just join the wagon train. Again, Centralia/Chehalis may end up being where Olympia is reborn given the direction that Olympia is going.

7:50 PM  

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