I had high hopes. Why shouldn’t I be able to find a decent two-bedroom apartment in Seattle for $1,500 a month? After a couple months of scouring the Internet, a couple of dozen or so unanswered emails and a few crowded “open houses,” the truth sunk in — the only way I was going to find an affordable rental in this city is to get lucky.
And this scenario doesn’t apply solely to me.
Demand for apartments in Seattle is rising almost as fast as new, pricier developments are going up, forcing more people to look to the suburbs for affordable housing. Statistics from Zillow’s online real-estate database show the median rent for a Seattle studio apartment has shot up $434 in Wallingford, $419 in Capitol Hill and $306 in Ballard in the last two years. Ouch.
A report in the Seattle Times also doesn’t give much hope to renters. Many new higher-dollar developments are filling up, with people willing to pay more than $2,000 a month. Take the Lyric in Capitol Hill, which opened in November. Everyone who lives here knows November is not the ideal time of year to move — who wants to haul a bunch of soggy boxes from one apartment to another? But within four months, every apartment in the building — all 234 units — were leased to renters paying $2,200 a month. Surprised? You should be — even the developers were surprised at how quickly the building filled up.
So if rents are going up, why is the demand still so high? The Times attributes the phenomenon to low housing inventory, a growing population of young, tech workers and people’s changing attitudes about when to buy a home.
In the end, though, I did get lucky. After much frustration, I finally found a home that doesn’t eat up too much of my paycheck. Others are taking a different road and, in some cases, are opting to move out of Seattle altogether. Only time will tell how the changing rental market will change the face of our city. For now, I’m happy to still call Seattle home.