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Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

July 3, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Renting vs. buying in Seattle’s crazy housing market

Reading my colleague Sharon Chan’s latest June 30 column made me feel less guilty about not being a homeowner yet. But then I walked into work the other day and saw a a front-page headline in the newspaper pop out at me:

Front page of The Seattle Times on July 2, 2013.

Front page of The Seattle Times on July 2, 2013.

Yikes. Really? According to that July 1 news report by Seattle Times reporter Colin Campbell, the average monthly rent in Seattle rose over the last three months to $1,190. In Capitol Hill, rates went up 8.2 percent to $1,395. Downtown leases rose 3.1 percent to an average of $1,707 per month. I appreciate the growth in employment from companies like Amazon and Microsoft, but it’s hard to see the consequences of those high-paying jobs on the local housing market. Young people, starving artists and low-income families are being pushed out of the city’s core into areas where they can find more affordable options.

I’ve rented since I moved away from home at 18. My career as a journalist means I haven’t lived in any one place for longer than about two years. Impermanence suits me. A good chunk of my take-home pay is spent on experiences (i.e. concerts/food/travel/outdoor adventures) instead of a mortgage payment. As much as I love leading an active lifestyle, I know it’s equally important to save and invest in retirement. Buying a place of my own is definitely on the to-do list. Luckily I pay reasonable rent and live with a great roommate, which is allowing me to reach my financial goals faster and afford to live in the heart of Capitol Hill.

That’s how I handle high rent and city living. How do others do it? Especially families? I really wonder. Join us on a live chat at noon Tuesday to discuss whether it’s better to rent or buy.

Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata saw Campbell’s story and released a statement Tuesday calling for new requirements that private developers include affordable housing in new projects. Licata, the chair of the Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee, brings up some good points:
“The increase in new employees translates into a greater demand for housing, which translates into higher prices.  Until we embrace this reality, we will be a dog chasing our tail.  The City needs to require that developers provide 10% of their new housing for those earning less than $45,000.

“Earlier this year, with the passage of Resolution 31444, the City Council begun this conversation by identifying consultants to examine best practices nationally and work with a stakeholder group to develop recommendations to the Council.  But that report is not due until 2014, and we need to begin tackling this problem immediately.  I hope this fall citizens consider our future as a City while taking into account where our leaders stand on this issue of affordable housing.”

The August primary is just a few weeks away. Seattle’s city council and mayoral candidates should certainly make this issue a priority and present their views to the public. Allowing micro-apartments to come up around town is one solution. There has to be more.

Comments | Topics: housing, nick licata, rent


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