It’s a figure that’s frequently presented by advocates fighting for more protections for those who rent their homes: Nearly half of all Seattleites are renters, a share that’s much higher than a decade ago.
As the number of renters slowly increases nationally—and in many other cities—Seattle is no exception. Between 2006 and 2016, according to census data analysis by rental services site Rentcafé, renter share increased by 13.6 percent, while ownership share decreased by 10.1 percent.
In specific numbers: Seattle gained more than 100,000 new renters in that ten-year period. Meanwhile, as the population of Seattle has continued to grow at a staggering rate, the city’s rate of homeownership hasn’t kept pace. 308,000 people lived in homeowner households in 2006, compared to around 350,000 people in 2016.
Those shifts are similar to those experienced in Minneapolis, which became a renter-majority city during that period, and Portland, Oregon, which still has a higher owner share than we do.
Seattle rests at almost an even divide as of 2016, with 48.5 percent renting. And with 12,000 new homes entering the Seattle market in 2017—and none of them being condos—we seem poised to be a renter-majority city sooner rather than later.
Rentcafé attributes the nationwide decline in homeownership to the idea “[losing] much of the charm that once made it a structural element of the American Dream” after the recession and housing crash.
In Seattle, many factors could be driving people to rent more. Home values are consistently on the rise, with the metropolitan area seeing double-digit gains in the past year—making coming up with a downpayment increasingly out of reach. Lower-cost housing options are few and far between, with single-family homes increasingly becoming million-dollar listings and fewer cheaper options, like those aforementioned condos, becoming available.
Homeownership is increasingly out of reach for Seattle’s youngest adults, with only 29 percent of millennials owning a home in the metropolitan area.
This article has been updated to correct a factual error. The number of people living in a homeowner household increased—not decreased—just not by much.