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Seattle will build affordable housing through wait-lists and lotteries

Demand is far higher than supply


Seattle’s affordable housing crisis is linked to Seattle’s extraordinary real estate market. In both cases, demand is far higher than supply. For buyers, that means the possibility of bidding wars. For renters, particularly ones that are making 80 percent or less of Seattle’s mean income, that can mean entering one of Seattle Housing Authority’s lotteries.

According to a recent article in the Seattle Weekly;

“Murray’s administration aims to increase the number of new housing units in the city to 50,000 within 10 years, with 20,000 of these units set aside for affordable housing.“

Those 20,000 units will be appreciated; but for the Abbey Lincoln complex there were only 68 units for 300 applicants. There could’ve been more applicants, but increasing the advertising wouldn’t change the number of units available. Frequently, the way they handle the number of applicants is to hold a lottery of those who are eligible. The lottery may not have a million dollar payout, but the odds are a lot better than Washington’s Lotto, and the benefits of not being homeless and being close to work or school can be tremendous.

Ten years is a long time to wait. Look back four years and remember what real estate was like then. According to Zillow, the median house price in Seattle was $590K in November, 2016. In November 2012, it was $399K, and that was after a major jump the month before. Meanwhile, a place that rents for $2,400 now rented for $1,700 then. Both are up 40 percent. That’s fine if your wages are up 41 percent, and they are for some, but not for all. Extrapolation is a bad guess, but if this pace continues for a few more years, affordability won’t get easier.

Chasing affordability may be the price we get to pay for an expanding local economy, increased world-wide visibility, and options constrained by geography. At this rate, winning the lottery or Lotto may become more popular paths to housing.