The cost of renting or buying a home in Seattle is climbing out of more and more people’s price ranges. Join us as we discuss potential solutions.
Seattle Times business reporter Sanjay Bhatt held a chat on the Seattle area’s housing costs and what would help keep affordability within reach.
As of this morning, more than two-thirds of respondents to a survey say the free market will not fix the problem of housing costs outpacing incomes. The most important solution respondents cited by a long shot is “more housing that’s affordable” (42 percent of respondents), followed by “better mass transit system” (20 percent) and lifting the incomes of poor households (14 percent). Another 22 percent of respondents said “other,” like zoning changes to allow more multi-family housing, rent control and housing assistance for senior citizens.
As one reader put it, “Almost all major cities — NY, SF, London, Paris, Tokyo — are also not affordable to poor and working class residents. Why do you think Seattle can be different given that larger and wealthier cities have failed to achieve this goal?”
The chat’s panelists are Jake McKinstry, a housing developer at Spectrum Development Solutions; Skylar Olsen, a senior economist at Seattle-based Zillow; Nela Richardson, chief economist at Seattle-based Redfin; and Keri Williams, program director at Enterprise Community Partners, a national group that helps finance affordable housing.
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Wages for the typical household haven’t kept pace with the rising cost of living in the Seattle area. The average rent on a one-bedroom apartment in King County has risen 8 percent over the past 12 months to $1,266, not including utilities or parking, according to Dupre+Scott Apartment Advisors. Zillow reports that rent now consumes nearly 31 percent of the average renter’s monthly income in the three-county Seattle metro, which means the market is becoming unaffordable.
Renters have difficulty buying a home because of record-low inventory of homes for sale and high prices: In March, the median price of homes sold in the city of Seattle was $535,000, an 18.9 percent jump over a year ago. But if renters can afford to buy, Zillow says they should: They could break even on a home in 2 years or less in about two-thirds of the zip codes in King and Snohomish counties.
For more than a year, Seattle’s political leaders have been exploring what the city can do to increase affordability.