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Millennials love dense, green, progressive Seattle, but worry about getting priced out

Affordability and equity are top priorities to Puget Sound millennials

A woman in a denim jacket looks across the water to the Downtown skyline Piyoros C/Shutterstock

Seattle is second only to Brooklyn in millennial population, and a survey by local nonprofit Forterra points at some reasons why—and why not everyone thinks they can stick around.

The sustainability organization, looking to a new generation of potential activists, ran an in-depth survey to Puget Sound millennials, defined for their purposes as adults ages 20 to 35. 300 millennials responded to their phone survey, but they had to make 43,527 calls to make it happen—868 responded to a less-scientific, opt-in web survey.

While it would make sense that young adults would come to Seattle for job opportunities in the burgeoning tech sector, Puget Sound millennials ranked nature, scenery, and outdoor access as their top reason for living here. They take advantage of what we have, too: 81 percent said they visit a green space close to home at least once a week.

A diverse and progressive community was a close second. Only 9 percent said they’d come here for job opportunities.

14 percent of area millennials identified as LGBTQ—18 percent on a supplemental web survey—higher than area averages. It may imply that one reason young people flock here is to find an accepting community.

It would seem, for the most part, that the area’s young adults love it here: 88 percent said they’d like to stay in the region.

But when asked if they could afford to stay, 45 percent said no—despite 37 percent living up to the stereotype and living with their parents. (That number drops to 13 percent for the oldest block of millennials ages 30 to 35.)

Affordable housing is the top concern among respondents—12 percent marked it at the top of their local issues. 63 percent supported some form of rent control.

“Gentrification is real,” said Carlos Nieto in an interview with Forterra. “It’s harder to live in the city as a person of color, as a poor person.”

Asked to rank features of new housing, affordability topped the list, with not displacing current residents second. The neighborhood-group kinds of concerns—fitting with the neighborhood and being beautiful—ranked last.

It’s not important to respondents to have a big house, either. 69 percent of homegrown millennials said size doesn’t matter, which jumps to 82 percent among people new to the region. The number falls when respondents are parents or farther away from urban centers, although still more than half said a big house isn’t important.

Living near the city center is sometimes a concern—around half of respondents would rather be a renter in a central location than a remote owner, although that number falls for parents, too.

When asked to rank traits that are important to them in a place to live, they prioritized near parks, near quality schools, a short commute, easy access to “wild places,” and closeby public transportation.

Contrary, again, to reputation, “near bars, cafes, clubs, and galleries” ranked third last. Living “away from it all” and having a large house were the two lowest priorities.

With “affordable” and “near parks” as top concerns for a place to live, it doesn’t seem like the millennials surveyed have any outlandish demands about a place to live; they want to put down roots, but are craving the chance to do so.