Seattle is still in the midst of a building boom that’s adding thousands of new apartments to the city each year — but new data shows a slowdown is likely to begin soon.
There are fewer planned apartments and condos on Seattle’s horizon than this time last year, according to housing market data firm RealPage. The city issued permits to build 14,816 multifamily units in the 12-month period ending July, a dip of 6.3% compared to last year’s permitting. And as of June, Seattle had 19,345 apartments under construction — 19% fewer than the same time last year.
One reason developers are pulling back is that they don’t expect job growth to continue at current rates, said Drew Daly, co-founder of Seattle multifamily developer Daly Partners. “There’s a fear of recession,” he said. “The building cycle has gone on for so long that people are getting more cautious.”
Close to 10,000 new multifamily units opened in each of the last two years, making Seattle the fifth-busiest market for multifamily construction in the country, behind the much larger metro areas of New York, Houston, Dallas and Washington, D.C. And a countrywide slowdown in apartment construction means that despite the reduced pace of construction here, the city still holds that rank. Across the U.S., the number of multifamily projects breaking ground has dropped by 5% year-over-year, RealPage reported.
Downtown residents have noticed the slowdown in apartment and condo construction in rising rents and, notably, fewer cranes. In July, the median rent across all Seattle properties rose to $2,700, its highest level in almost two years, according to Zillow.
And for the first time in three years, Seattle isn’t home to the most cranes in the country. As of June, both Seattle and Los Angeles had 49 cranes each, the Puget Sound Business Journal reported in July. That’s down from a peak of 65 cranes in Seattle skies last year.