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One-third of Seattle-area households are burdened by housing costs

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New Harvard data shows that many are struggling

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It’s easy to balk at the cost of an apartment in Seattle. But can residents afford to pay? The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies’s State of the Nation’s Housing report, released each year, gives some sense of who can afford to live in the Seattle area—and who’s struggling.

The main takeaway: As of 2016 rates of cost-burden in the Seattle metropolitan area, which includes Tacoma and Bellevue, remain higher than national rates across all income levels. More than a third of households at all income levels below $75,000 struggle to pay rent; the highest rates of burden are, unsurprisingly, for households making under $15,000 a year, with 87.7 percent burdened in some way (i.e. paying more than 30 percent of income on rent) and 77.3 percent spending more than half their income on rent. But a high rate of burden extends to households making between $45,000 and $74,999 per year, with nearly 40 percent still struggling.

And ultimately, it’s renter households that are hit the hardest, with fewer pathways to homeownership for those who don’t already own a home. Nearly half of renter households, 45.9 percent, had some kind of cost burden—a slight increase from the previous year.

Of course, this data’s from 2016, before rent started to stabilize a bit, but also before the skyrocketing rent of 2017.

Cost burden by household income, Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area

Household income Not Burdened Moderately Burdened Severely Burdened Total Burdened
Household income Not Burdened Moderately Burdened Severely Burdened Total Burdened
Under 15,000 12.3% 10.4% 77.3% 87.7%
$15,000–29,999 19.0% 28.1% 52.8% 81.0%
$30,000–44,999 37.6% 40.1% 22.3% 62.4%
$45,000–74,999 60.6% 33.8% 5.6% 39.4%
$75,000 and Over 91.9% 7.4% 0.6% 8.1%
All incomes 66.6% 18.6% 14.8% 33.4%
Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies

Cost burdens for Seattle-area renters and owners

Burden level Owners Renters
Burden level Owners Renters
Moderately burdened 14.9% 23.9%
Severely burdened 10.0% 22.0%
Total burdened 24.9% 45.9%
Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies

Homeownership affordability for Seattle-area households

Household type Share of recent homes sales with affordable payments
Household type Share of recent homes sales with affordable payments
Lower-income 5.3%
Median-income 35.8%
Higher-income 70.2%
Lower-income renter 2.8%
Median-income renter 10.8%
Higher-income renter 45.0%
Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies

This article has been updated to clarify that data is for households.