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47 percent of Seattle-area renters were cost-burdened in 2016

More than 20 percent spend more than half their income on rent


Nearly half of all renters were cost-burdened in 2016, according to a new report by rental-listing site Apartment List (AL). 46.8 percent of renters in the Seattle metropolitan area, which includes Tacoma, Bellevue, and Everett, paid more than 30 percent of their income on rent, a nationally accepted standard for rent affordability.

21.7 percent of renters were severely cost-burdened, spending more than half of their income on rent.

Those numbers are pretty high, but it’s actually a little similar to the national average of 49.7 percent. It’s also a little lower than in previous years—we saw the highest cost burden in the past decade in 2010, with more than 50 percent.

King County specifically is doing a little better, but still not fantastic: 44.8 percent of renters are cost-burdened, with 20.7 percent severely. In Pierce County, where housing costs are lower overall but rising quickly, more than half of renters are cost-burdened.

Our dynamic is similar to other tech hubs like San Francisco and Austin, where incomes are skyrocketing along with rent. But there’s a likely reason our percentage has gone down, though, and it’s not because people who were cost-burdened in 2010 stuck around and made more money.

Many people are moving here—and to San Francisco, Austin, and Portland—who can afford rent. But that doesn’t help people who were here before. The report notes, “the steep rent increases in these metros have likely pushed the poorest renters out of the market.”

Still, in a metro that’s more than 40 percent renters, that means that somewhere in the ballpark of one in five Seattle-area renters is cost-burdened by housing—not including those struggling to pay a mortgage. (That’s comparing data from 2015 to data from 2016, but it’s still likely hundreds of thousands in the metro.)

Overall, AL ranks the Seattle metro 29th for affordability among 100 major metros analyzed.

Some nearby metros are doing a little better—but some have it a little worse. In the Bremerton and Silverdale area, for example, 42.8 percent of renters are cost-burdened. But to the north in the Bellingham area, a whopping 54 percent are cost-burdened, with nearly a third severely cost-burdened.

This report was released on the same day as the city of Seattle announced their full mandatory housing affordability rezone plan, which they project will create 6,000 homes over the next ten years.