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FYI Guy

Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

June 17, 2014 at 12:46 PM

A lot of Seattle renters live alone — but maybe not for much longer

 

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

In our famously introverted city — home of the notorious “Seattle freeze” — the following statistic may not come as much of a shock:

The majority of Seattle apartments — 51 percent according to the most recent census data — are occupied by a person living alone.

This is unusual. Among the 100 largest U.S. cities, only Atlanta has a higher percentage.

Seattle homeowners enjoy their alone time, too. Of owner-occupied homes, 31 percent have a single resident. This is a higher percentage than that of many other cities, but it doesn’t even crack the Top 20.

When it comes to solo living in Seattle, it’s the renters — roughly half of the city’s population — who really stand out.

In some parts of town, the trend is much more pronounced. Singletons populate three out of four apartments throughout most of Seattle’s downtown neighborhoods. And more than 60 percent of rental units have a solo tenant in Capitol Hill’s Pike/Pine, Eastlake, First Hill and Georgetown.

Living alone isn’t for everyone, to be sure — but who can deny that it has its benefits? No roommates leaving dirty dishes in the sink or practicing guitar when you’re trying to watch TV. No partner forcing you to share precious closet space. You can indulge the quirks of solo living — from cooking in the middle of the night to traipsing around naked.

But that freedom comes at a cost — literally. With no one to split the rent and utilities, living alone in Seattle is something of a luxury. Average rent in Seattle is now $1,480, having increased 21 percent in the past five years, according to real-estate research firm Apartment Insights.

The rise of micro-units are helping more Seattleites enjoy solo apartment life (Photo: Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

The rise of micro-units is helping more Seattleites enjoy solo apartment life (Photo: Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

So it is not surprising that among the cities with the highest percentage of solo renters, nearly all are significantly cheaper than Seattle: Atlanta, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. The exception is Washington, D.C., another high-rent city like Seattle.

Will skyrocketing rents bring down the number of apartment dwellers who can afford to go it alone in Seattle? The data already show a downtick from 2009, when 56 percent of rental units here had a single resident. But perhaps the recent proliferation of affordable micro-apartments will stem the tide and allow more Seattleites to experience solo living, even if it is in a teeny space.

We’ll keep an eye out for any new data, so stay tuned.

Comments | More in Demographics | Topics: real estate, Renters, singles

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