What's up with rent prices in Seattle?
Remember this guy who tried to run for governor in New York on a single platform?
I've been thinking about him a lot lately. Jimmy McMillan may have upstaged his opponents by ranting about rental rates in New York City, but I'd suggest the same message should be delivered to Seattle landlords.
Yes, the rent is too damn high in Jet City. Or maybe it's just Capitol Hill, the "hippest" area in Seattle right now. I want to live there because I'm ready for a taste of the urban life. I don't want to be a homeowner (yet) and I'm attempting a car-free lifestyle with close access to work, bus lines and food.
But I've come up against a few reality bumps that have made me realize: I'm not in Austin, Texas, anymore. Or Boise. Or Portland. As it turns out, a $900 to $1,200 "vintage" or "charming" apartment here often translates to tiny studio with drawers and doors that no longer close properly from layers of paint, 20-year-old appliances and a musty smell that doesn't mix well with the neighbor's cat. Utilities and parking cost extra, too.
According to the Bureau of Labor statistics in this Seattle Times news report on August inflation trends, rent in Seattle has risen by 5.7 percent compared to a year earlier. Rentjungle.com reports the average apartment rent within 10 miles of the city is $1,517; it's $1,558 over at rentbits.com.
At that rate, compared to what I paid in Austin ($800 for a well-kept, historic one-bedroom apartment), we're talking about extra rent that equates to 12 iPads or 12 car payments a year. The bottom line is it's hard for me to wrap my head around the price difference. At least for now.
And what about quality of life? Like trying new restaurants with friends, going to concerts and shows, yoga classes, and gearing up for the many outdoor activities in our area? Hobbies add up. Something's gotta give.
I can't fault landlords for knowing that certain hotspots can demand a lot. And in the post-housing bubble era, it's not as easy to get a home loan without a sizable down payment (which is the way it should be). I'm not interested in either. Unfortunately, Seattle is clearly not a renters' market right now.
So what's a girl to do?
According to rentbits.com, rates went down big time in November 2011. So maybe I'll be patient and hope for the same trend this year. Or maybe I'll get a roommate. Thanks to a really generous acquaintance/landlord, I'm staying put in a Capitol Hill condo a while longer at a rate that allows me to focus on the new job and enjoy living in this city.
But my rant is about something bigger, too.
If a young, gainfully employed professional like me is struggling to find the right housing, what about the folks out there who are making less and trying to support a family in Seattle? Sure, I've seen some affordable housing options (for which I don't qualify). But who is living in the city nowadays? I just had a discussion with my editor about this -- is Seattle becoming another New York City or San Francisco? Where the affluent can afford to stay while individuals and families who are struggling to get ahead have no choice but to move further out? Or crowd into smaller spaces? Or both?
Just something to think about.
Eventually, I'll probably quit whining and just accept that Seattle's cost of living is inherently more expensive than any place I've ever lived. And even if I paid less for housing in other cities, I was never really settled.
It's good to remember I'm back in the Pacific Northwest. And there's no place like home.
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
Postman On Politics