Ask any long-time Seattle resident, and they can tell you about the many ways the city has changed over the last ten years. Surely some of the most salient changes will be about who has moved in, who has moved away, and what it takes to afford to live here. These migration patterns are linked to the fact that renting is becoming an increasingly common way-of-life in Seattle. But like the city itself, renting has changed dramatically from what it was a decade ago. Below, we dive into five of the most important ways that renting is evolving in The Emerald City.
1. Today, more households rent than own
The past decade has precipitated a shift in the way American families pay for their housing. Across the country, homeownership has dropped to its lowest point in 50 years, and the switch from owning to renting has been particularly dramatic in Seattle, where population and cost of living have increased steadily. The city added over 57,000 households from 2008 to 2017, and 72% of them rent. Today, Seattle’s renter population (172,905 households) exceeds its homeowner population (156,766 households), a gap that could continue to grow as the affordability crisis puts homeownership out of reach for low-income families.
2. Today, there are more than 3x as many renters earning six-figure incomes
Apartment List recently examined the nation-wide surge in high-income renters, a phenomenon driven by new demand for urban living and new construction of dense, renter-friendly, multi-family housing. Seattle is top-10 in the nation when it comes to high-income renter growth; the number of renters with six-figure salaries more than tripled from 10,176 in 2008 to 33,180 in 2017, representing 226 percent growth. Lower-income renters are also on the rise, but at substantially slower rates of growth.
3. Today, children are the fastest-growing segment of the renter population
Seattle’s renter population is growing across all age groups, but none faster than children under the age of 18. While they still comprise a minority of the total renter bloc (12%), the number has grown 73% since 2008, as Seattle witnesses a new generation of families raising their kids in rental properties. For many, this is a result of homeownership becoming increasingly unattainable for those wishing to buy in the city. And if the trend continues, it may put added pressure on some of the city’s social services, especially the public school district that is already bracing for budget deficits in the coming years.
4. Today, many renters favor commuting via sustainable transit, or not at all
As many American cities invest in the safety and efficiency of their streets, Seattle is leading the way when it comes to getting people out of cars into more sustainable forms of transit. Especially among renters, who tend to live in denser neighborhoods with closer proximity to job centers, we see a dramatic shift in how Seattleites get to work. Over the past decade, the number of renters commuting by public transit has grown 76%, while the number commuting by bike or by foot has grown 41%. And with the region’s many technology jobs and flexible working arrangements, the number of renters working from home – and forgoing a commute altogether – has grown 58%. Together, this means that in 2017 the number of renters who commute without a car (109,307) surpassed the number who drive to work (105,801).
5. Today, over 20,000 married couples rent their homes and live with roommates
The typical story of the American family was once a simple one: first you get married, then you buy a house, then you have kids and raise them in a yard circled by a white picket fence. Today, that story has changed. Being ready for marriage is no longer synonymous with being ready to buy a home, and many couples – by choice or by necessity – are sacrificing a bit of privacy to live in their preferred city or neighborhood. In Seattle, there are 21,453 married couples who not only rent their homes, but also live with a non-family roommate. This non-conventional living arrangement is nearly twice as common in 2017 as it was in 2008.