There weren’t a lot of surprises in the city’s Housing Inventory, revealed today in front of the Housing, Human Services and Health Committee: more and more people who work in Seattle can’t afford to live here, apartment-condo conversions have increased in recent years, and rents are going up— $962/month as of last fall, compared to $800/month six years ago.
Still, Office of Housing Director Adrienne Quinn told the committee the revelation that people earning 80 percent of the median income can’t afford to live in Seattle and are leaving was an “ah-ha.”
Council president Nick Licata’s ah-ha moment came when the presentation turned to demolitions.
According to the study, 77 percent of demolitions between 2001 and 2005 were single-family residences. And for each one of the 350 units (on average) being replaced every year, 2.5 new units were created. So homes are coming down and multi-family buildings or townhouses are going up.
“As Seattle’s economy grows, the market responds by providing units. The number of affordable units shrinking is the downside of a growing economy. But there’s this link with the trend of demolitions. With this going on, are we also eliminating units that were on the market and affordable?” Licata wondered.
The study also shows that the Southeast neighborhoods are the most popular place for renters who can choose where to spend their Section 8 vouchers. Council members Richard McIver and Sally Clark were troubled by this and took exception with the Housing Authority's explanation that Southeast Seattle is popular for subsidized tenants because it’s cheap.
“It’s less expensive because you’re depressing the market with so much Section 8,” McIver volunteered.
“Are we continuing a self-fulfilling prophecy in Southeast?” Clark ventured.
The question now is what to do with all this information. The 186-page report also includes six pages of recommendations from local advocacy groups.
Council members promised the inventory won’t just sit around and gather dust.
Said Rasmussen: “That’s the next step. Where do we go from here.”