(The following was originally published as a Guest Editorial by Socialist Alternative Washington State House candidate Jess Spear in The Stranger.)
Rents are skyrocketing across the city. It’s not just the perception of frustrated Capitol Hill renters—Seattle ranked number one in the country in rising rentslast year. In spite of a construction boom in high-end apartments, this past quarter saw a continuation of the trend. We’re told it’s because there still aren’t enough units. The demand is high, the supply is low, ergo the price will rise—just simple economics.
Yet the biggest increase in rents was seen in Ballard, where the supply doubled over the last six years and the vacancy rate is highest in the city. The “if you build it, they will come (and rent will fall)” ethic is lining the pockets of wealthy developers, but hasn’t helped the priced-out majority of Seattle area renters.
Affordability is not just a function of supply. It’s a function of the kind of supply that’s available. Market forces will tend to invest in high-end housing first, as this type of housing is the most profitable for developers. Research shows that new construction of expensive apartments doesn’t generate affordable housing, and some experts think it may even be pushing rents higher. That’s because developers are replacing and renovating affordable units, with the new units renting for $2,200/month.