The huge amount of construction going on in our area is currently a hot topic of conversation. Cranes, hammering, street signs—it seems like it’s everywhere! Yet despite all this building, the Seattle area continues to struggle with extremely low housing inventory. In fact, the National Association of Realtors estimates that our region is 70,000 units short of meeting our current housing needs. How can this be possible? Well first off, we know that our area, with its beautiful setting and booming economy, is attracting lots of newcomers. And when I say lots, I mean lots. The Seattle area is adding more than 350 new jobs every day. Big businesses like Amazon play a huge role in this, with Amazon alone occupying 19% of all prime office space in Seattle–the most for any employer in a major US city. And while the influx of people coming into the city grows, we just plain are not keeping pace with new construction to house them. It turns out, in fact, that the majority of those building projects we see all over the city aren’t really addressing low housing inventory because current city and county regulations make building offices and rental units more appealing to developers than condos, townhomes and single-family houses. Sure, we see a lot of the “Modern Boxes” (as they’re being dubbed) going up all over our neighborhoods. However, building space is limited and their numbers aren’t near enough to fill the inventory shortage and oftentimes they’re just replacing a home that’s been torn down. Hmm, so what about condos? It seems that in an urban area condos could potentially come to the rescue as their structure allows for more condensed housing on a smaller footprint. Believe it or not, however, there have been virtually no new condo projects in recent years due largely to the Washington Condominium Act which includes provisions requiring developers to warranty their construction work for four years. Seems like a good idea, however due to the fact that a number of past Seattle condo projects are now in lawsuits or arbitration, developers know that new projects could have a similar fate and thus opt out for safer projects like office space and rental units. So there you have it—our dilemma in a nutshell. Our cities future will largely be determined by how city and county officials design new regulations and find creative solutions for a housing shortage that will only get worse if not addressed head on.
Spring has sprung and many of us just can’t wait to get out into the garden to start planting. If, however, you are one of those who is hopelessly lacking in the green thumb department, but who would like a little more curb appeal, there’s hope. Read on for some easy landscaping tips that will brighten the yard with little on-going effort.
- Plant Just One Tree: If your yard is lacking trees or tall shrubs then it’s likely lacking variance in height. You want a variety of tall, medium and short plantings to create a balanced picture. Planting just one tree is low on effort and maintenance, but can be huge on impact. Japanese Maples do well in our area and can be a great choice for adding height as well as color and texture to the landscape.
- Utilize Massing and Shape: Annuals can be an easy way to add color to a landscape, but the biggest landscaping mistake I see is a lot of small annuals scattered all over place. This creates tiny little color dots that the eye can barely detect and that does nothing for the overall picture. Instead, mass annuals and group other smaller plants into appealing shapes that the eye can actually see from the street. And if you are using containers, choose medium and large ones and group plants together to make them stand out.
- Edging, Mulching & Trimming: In nature there is random growth and this randomness is actually subliminally a big part of the excitement of being in nature. In a garden setting, however, it is more ideal to strike a balance between the excitement of random growth and the calm that comes from bringing some order to that growth. Ways to create a sense of order and calm in the garden include edging, mulching and trimming. Edging can take the form of bricks, stones, ground covers, split logs, copper piping—you name it! Mulching plant beds adds color and texture and helps create those overall shapes we talked about earlier. And when trimming bushes, think clean lines to further emphasis a sense of calm and order.
- Keep It Low Maintenance: Finally, the single tip that will make life easier for the non-gardener is to choose low-maintenance and native plants from the get-go. Certain plants are just easier to deal with; they don’t require dead-heading or trimming and also don’t require constant watering like some plants do. Be sure to take the time to talk to your local nursery expert before purchasing to make sure the plants you are buying are going to make you happy in the long run.