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Housing construction is lagging behind job growth, report says

Seattle ranked tenth in the country for undersupply

Three rows of floor to ceiling windows on the outside of a beige building with intermittent balconies. Thomas Hawk/Flickr

A new report from Apartment List (AL) shows that the Seattle metropolitan area’s job growth is far outpacing new housing units. Jobs grew more than twice as fast as housing from 2010 and 2015, with more than two jobs for every new unit of housing permitted.

Zoom out to ten years and things don’t look half bad, with the metro just barely outpacing its housing growth between 2005 and 2015. One and a third jobs came online for every one new unit of housing permitted. That’s not so bad—a nearly one-to-one ratio.

But the ten-year data is brought down by housing growth during the bubble and recession. Between 2005 and 2010, we were building a full unit of housing for every third of a job.

AL’s data came from U.S. Census data on building permits and Bureau of Labor Statistics data on employment.

As the area continues to grow—the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council found a 2.9 percent increase in number of jobs in 2016—a lack of new places to live can increase supply burden in the city, which can lead to increased rental costs and commute times.

With this data covering the entire metropolitan area from Tacoma to Everett, those increased commute times seem even more daunting.

As Patrick Sisson at Curbed national explains:

Construction of new units nationally hit a low point after the Great Recession, with the number of permits issued hitting a record low in May of 2009. While the industry has recovered, it still isn’t keeping pace with economic growth. The construction labor shortage—the number of companies building homes dropped by half between 2007 and 2012—has only exacerbated the problem.

We don’t have the worst of it though. We rank tenth on AL’s list of supply-burdened areas. San Jose, for example, grew by five and a half jobs for every new unit of housing permitted between 2010 and 2015. San Francisco added nearly seven jobs for every new unit during that same time period.