FYI Guy examines the data on the resilient rodents. Has the construction boom got them on the move?

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As if traffic congestion and skyrocketing housing costs weren’t enough for Seattleites to complain about, here’s another problem you can blame on Seattle’s recent growth spurt: rats.

According to the 2013 American Housing Survey, which was released in June, we’re one of America’s rattiest metropolitan areas. Rat sightings were reported in 28,600 homes here — that pencils out to 2.1 percent of all occupied housing units in the Seattle metro. Of the 54 areas surveyed, that makes us the 7th rattiest.

Could it be an unintended consequence of our building boom?

Rat reporting

To file a complaint about rat infestations, call Public Health — Seattle & King County at 206-263-9566, or go to their website for more information: http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/ehs/rats.aspx

“Construction is definitely playing a role in it,” Erik Öland of Puget Sound Rodent Exclusion Specialists tells me. He says he has many clients in older homes near a property that is being redeveloped. “When you knock down the house, you eliminate the habitat, but not the rats — and they move on.” So if you live next door, you could wind up with some new, unwelcome housemates. (No word on whether a multi-rat family zoning proposal is forthcoming from Ed Murray’s office.)

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While new construction may be increasing the number of sightings, rats have long thrived in Seattle. “Conditions here are perfect for rats,” Öland says. It doesn’t get that cold, so they go unchecked through winter. And with our abundance of lakes and streams, there’s plenty of fresh water.

While Öland says the bulk of his business comes from folks in older homes in North Seattle, Magnolia and Queen Anne, new construction in the suburbs isn’t any better. “Sammamish Plateau is rotten with rats,” he says. The water-retention ponds that come with some newer houses are a habitat for rats.

The American Housing Survey (AHS) data show that homeowners in Seattle are nearly twice as likely to report rat sightings than renters. But area renters are 8 times more likely than homeowners to report an infestation of cockroaches, which is another pest included in the AHS data. Not surprisingly, households below the poverty level are significantly more likely to report sightings of any pest than other households.

The AHS provides information about the quality of housing units in the United States. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and conducted by the Census Bureau. Housing units participating in the AHS are scientifically selected to represent a cross section of all housing in the nation. The survey is conducted every two years; 25 of the metro areas (including Seattle) were surveyed in 2013, while the others were surveyed in 2011.

But it’s not all bad news: among the pests included in the American Community Survey data, rats are the only ones where we rank highly. Sightings of mice and other rodents are much lower in Seattle than in most other areas. And — reason enough to live here, if you ask me — we’re second from the bottom when it comes to cockroaches. Only Portland has a slightly lower percentage of roach infestations.

In fact, if you combine the sightings for all the pests included in the survey, Seattle has the lowest percentage of households reporting an infestation — just 7.3 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum is New Orleans, where 46.1 percent of households report a pest sighting of some sort. The Big Easy is also No. 1 for rats and unspecified rodents, while mice prefer Philadelphia, the murine “winner.”

Roaches are apparently drawn to the warmer climes: Tampa is tops in that category.

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