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Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

August 27, 2013 at 11:00 PM

Apartment shares on the rise as Seattle rents soar

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June Songtantaruk in her Capitol Hill studio apartment that she shares with a friend. (Photo: Gene Balk/The Seattle Times)

Any married couple would find living in a 500-square-foot studio apartment to be a tight squeeze — but imagine sharing a space that small with a friend.

June Songtantaruk can tell you all about it. The 22-year-old moved into her friend’s tiny Capitol Hill studio almost a year ago; Songtantaruk sleeps on a convertible sofa while her friend gets the bed.

“People think it’s crazy, but neither of us make much money. We’d love to find a larger apartment,” she says.  But after months of searching, the roommates still haven’t been able to find a one-bedroom in the neighborhood that they can afford.

Songtantaruk hasn’t lost hope, but for the time being, she’s making do: “We both have jobs and busy lives. Neither of us are home much, so it’s not that bad.”

While a studio share may be an extreme example, roommate living arrangements are becoming increasingly common as folks try to cope with Seattle’s soaring rents.  There are now about 47,000 households shared by two or more unrelated people in Seattle — a jump of more than 2,300 in the past three years, according to market data firm Experian.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Overall, 16 percent of Seattle households are shared — third highest among the 75 largest U.S. cities, and just slightly behind San Francisco and Boston.

So just how much money can you save by living with a roommate?

The apartment rental site Lovely analyzed 85,000 Seattle listings and found that sharing a two-bedroom apartment with one roommate will save you 30 percent over living alone in a one-bedroom.  And more roommates pencil out to even greater savings.

But most of Seattle’s shared households are split between just two people.  Eastlake, Fremont and Capitol Hill are the city’s top neighborhoods for this living arrangement.  More than one in five Eastlake households are shared by two unrelated people, about 60 percent higher than the city average.

For households with three or more roommates, the University District is by far the city’s top neighborhood — no surprise.  Splitting a house with a bunch of folks has always been a mainstay of college life, after all.  In the U District, 14 percent of all households are shared by three or more unrelated people.  That’s nearly five times the city average.  Adjacent Ravenna and Roosevelt are Seattle’s other top multi-roommate neighborhoods.

The University District also has the fifth-highest percentage of two-person shared households in the city, making it the overall top roommate neighborhood in Seattle.

But can you guess which neighborhood has seen the fastest growth in roommate households?

In 2000, just 14 percent of homes in this neighborhood were shared by two or more unrelated people; today, it’s at 22 percent.

Answer: Georgetown.

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Join SeattleTimes.com Thursday at 1 p.m. for a live chat about tenant rights and how to avoid squabbles with landlords over housing-cost increases, deposit losses and other problems. We’ve invited Executive Director of the Tenants Unions of Washington State, Jonathan Grant, and legal counsel for the Rental Housing Association, Chris Benis, to the discussion.

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