November 15, 1999
How affordable is housing in King County?
King County's Office of Regional Policy and Planning has released an annual publication on housing affordability and home ownership.
Entitled "Affordable Housing: An Annual Bulletin Tracking Housing Costs in King County," the publication shows that the home ownership rate in King County is 59% of all households--a rate that is lower than most urban counties in the U.S.
It also concludes that any household making less than $60,000 will have difficulty buying a first home in King County. An income of nearly $30,000 is needed just to rent the average-priced two bedroom apartment in the County.
"These numbers show that even a 'starter home' is beyond the means of a median-income family in King County," King County Executive Rons Sims said. "It is very difficult for our teachers and police officers to find housing. Service and retail workers making $10 or $12 an hour cannot afford an average priced rental. Having housing that our residents can afford is essential to keeping our economy strong."
The bulletin provides an overview of who can afford market-rate housing, both rental and ownership, in King County. Highlights of the annual bulletin include:
Buying a home
- From 1990 to 1998, the price of a median single family home rose 53.5%.
- First-time home-buyers earning about 80% of median income could afford only about 8.5% of the single-family homes for sale in King County this past spring. A starter home priced in the lowest 25% of home sales would cost that household about $300 more a month than they could afford. Any household making less than $60,000 ($29 per hour for one full-time worker) will have difficulty buying a first home.
- In 1998, low interest rates and rising income made home purchase more affordable than in either 1980 or 1990, but still much more expensive than in 1970. In 1999, with higher interest rates, households can afford less house during the past few years.
- Average rent for a two-bedroom, one-bath unit rose from $708 in 1998 to $732 in mid-1999. An apartment with two bedrooms and two baths averaged about $890 a month. The King County average for all types of apartments was $747, requiring an income of about $30,000 per year or $14.50 per hour.
- The lowest income groups--under 50% of median income, and especially, under 30% of median income--will have difficulty finding any market-rate housing that they can afford in King County. Less than 0.1% of rental housing is affordable to those below 30% of median income.
- In 1998, the median rent for a single-family home was $1,200. A household of three persons at 80% of median income could not afford this rent. Generally speaking, moderate income families of three or more people, who need more than a two-bedroom unit, will not be able to find rentals with 3 or more bedrooms (either single family or apartments) that they can afford. Nor are most condominiums sized or priced for this group.
For more information on housing costs in King County, contact Rose Curran at (206) 205-0715. This bulletin is also posted on the King County Executive's website at http://www.metrokc.gov/exec/.
- Home ownership in King County is low in comparison with other large metropolitan regions. With 59% of households owing a home, the King County rate remains approximately the same as in 1990. During the same period, the ownership rate throughout the U.S. rose from 64% to 66%.
- In terms of both home ownership opportunities and affordable rentals, the existing housing stock in the south end of the County is considerably more affordable than in the north end, in the Eastside, or in Seattle.
- Assisting and attracting people to housing solutions that are less land-use intensive, closer to urban job centers, and closer to public transportation can help to make housing more affordable without extending the "urban sprawl" type of solution.