Demand for Seattle Rentals Still Outstripping Supply

There’s a great in-depth article on local rent increases in today’s Seattle Times: Soaring rents force lifestyle changes

For renters and homeowners, market forces are permanently altering the familiar face of many neighborhoods. While wealthy newcomers are helping to revitalize neighborhood business districts, the reality is that many renters, saddled by stagnant wages, are being forced to reexamine lifestyle choices and, in some cases, move out of Seattle altogether.

Low housing inventory, a growing population of young tech-company workers and changing attitudes about when to buy a home are all contributing to rent increases throughout the Seattle metro area.

Translation: Some developers of rental units are cashing in on the fact that “the dream of home ownership” is no longer the default aspiration of many Americans.

The article also includes a nifty interactive rental cost map, but given that they’re using Zillow as the source of their data, I’d take the exact numbers with a rather large grain of salt.

What’s fueling rent increases most is development itself, said Jonathan Grant, the Tenant Union’s executive director. If almost all new units cater to wealthier tenants, he said, increasing supply is no path to getting rents to go down or even level off.

“The reality is that these units are high-cost, and often these were taken out of affordable-housing stock,” Grant said. “That’s why you see this theory of supply and demand being turned on its head.”

Sorry Mr. Grant, but that makes no sense. You can price rental units in your new development as high as you want but you simply won’t have any renters if the demand isn’t there. Supply and demand has not been “turned on its head.” It’s working exactly as one would expect: new development supply simply isn’t keeping up with increased demand.

Earlier this summer, The Seattle Times asked readers how they were coping with rising rents, and dozens responded.

Some told us they’re reconsidering whether they’ll ever be able to save enough money to buy a house if they want to stay in the Seattle area.

Homebuying may never be in the future for some who stay in the Seattle area because they’ll never be able to save enough for it.

Here we go again with the overblown concerns about being priced out forever. Yes, there will be some periods during which some people who could have afforded to buy a home under ideal circumstances will no longer be able to, but for the most part, if you can’t afford to buy a home in the city or neighborhood of your choosing, it’s probably because you simply aren’t making enough money. The rental market is not conspiring against you.

Pro tip: In places where rents are expensive, homes are expensive too.

What I would love to see in a follow-up story is more exploration of what’s driving the strong demand for high-priced rental units. If I were to venture a guess, I’d say it probably has at least something to do with this:

About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.


  1. 1
    ugggh says:

    Um, sorry to break the news but even Microsoft does not have that many employees in the Seattle area. Boeing is still the biggest and does not even have approaching 100,000 anymore (about 70,000 at best and getting less every year).

    Numbers might be a bit old but not that far off.

    Sure you didn’t mean worldwide? Rent/house prices not affected as much.

    Housing prices, either rent or purchase, will affect whether employers can attract good employees. Not that many folks at any of the above companies are in the comfortable six figures (and most Amazonians are now warehouse folk and not in Seattle), contrary to popular belief.

  2. 2
    Erik says:

    RE: ugggh @ 1
    I also thought it was interesting that Tim left Washington State’s largest employer out of the equation.

  3. 3

    Not everybody in Seattle works for Microsoft, Amazon, and Google.
    Somebody’s got to sell these people their lattes and microbrews. It really wasn’t all that long ago that you could rent a cheap apartment on Capitol Hill, in Fremont, or in Ballard. Not hardly anymore, with a few rare exceptions.
    A lot of the older apartment buildings, or areas that had cheaper apartments, they’ve been torn down and replaced with much more expensive housing, because renting to people with more money is more profitable.
    And there must be a demand for this nicer housing, as they’re hiring at Amazon like crazy.
    But it’s not like the shipping clerks and the bus drivers and the baristas don’t have a need also. They very much do. It’s just that there’s more money in catering to richer folk, that’s all.
    Even if the City of Seattle enacts a 15 dollar an hour minimum wage, the folks earning that are still going to have to live in Kent.

  4. 4
    The Tim says:

    RE: ugggh @ 1 & Erik @ 2 – It is obvious that local employers are hiring large numbers of highly-paid workers, otherwise where would the demand for $2,200 a month apartment rentals be coming from? The Microsoft / Amazon / Google chart is just one example.

    If you think the local job market or is somehow getting worse or that local wages are on the decline, how do you explain dramatic rent increases and the rapid absorption of expensive rental inventory?

  5. 5
    Erik says:

    RE: The Tim @ 4
    In 2010, the average salary of a software developer was $101,930. The average salary of an aerospace engineer was $95,080. I thought there were way more Aerospace Engineers than there are Software Developers.

    I guess I was just questioning where the demand is coming from. I think when Boeing starts laying off aerospace engineers, rent prices will decrease since there are so many Aersospace Engineers. Boeing is working the 787-10 right now, which only means a slight layoff. If Boeing does not do a 777X rewing, I see rents dropping dramatically. I guess I see aerospace as the main driver and not software so much. Maybe my view is skewed?

  6. 6
    bittyboy says:

    I work in South Lake Union and live in Eastlake. The demand is here. The market /is/ conspiring against you if you can’t compete for high-rent apartments that are at 98% capacity, but only in the sense that this is exactly how a free market is supposed to work. I’ve also heard of waitors and bartenders at good establishments down here making more than entry-level techies… /due to all of the new spending by techies./ But I don’t have all that data. YMMV

  7. 7
    drshort says:

    RE: Erik @ 5

    I’ve hardly met a Boeing worker that lives in the city. They appear to be a cohort that is attracted to the ‘burbs. And there are a lot of other employers with plenty of $100k+ jobs: Expedia, Zillow, Russell, Liberty Mutual, Vulcan, Concur,, gaming companies, UW, the biotechs, a few hospitals, Metro bus drivers…

  8. 8
    whatsmyname says:

    Yikes, I think I’ll keep owning for a while. That way I can put a bunch money in the bank every month so that when I get my dream rental, I won’t be broke.

  9. 9
    doug says:

    Dramatic increases in rent and rapid absorption of rentals is from the massive increase in population growth to the Seattle area from as usual California and some other totally depressed metropolitan areas. We are also seein a lot of H1B visa and people from other countries coming here. MSFT GOOG are way way overvalued but not near as much as AMZN.

    Amazon is the most overvalued company that has ever been on the SP500 it has a PE that is in the stratosphere. I believe AMZN is only being held on life support because wall street is running a pump up the real estate scam on unsuspecting seattle investors and real estate buyers.

    Look to Vulcan and Paul Allen they have already sold all of there lake union investments

  10. 10
    Erik says:

    RE: drshort @ 7
    Doc, we are talking about high paying jobs, so we can cut out metro bus drivers I would imagine. I bet half the jobs at UW aren’t high paying jobs either, but I could be wrong. Expedia employees live in Bellevue I imagine because it’s nice there. When new engineers come to boeing, they are told to live in Seattle or Kirkland because those are the nice areas in commuting distance to everett. We want to keep talent and they will possibly get depressed in everett, so we tell them not to live there.

    Do you work at Boeing? I do. Many younger Boeing employees live in the city. When I worked in Tukwila at Boeing, most lived in the City. The older guys lived south. I use to live in downtown seattle when i worked at boeing, but now I live in kirkland. I plan to move back downtown when I make some more money off my remodel. Seattle is the most popular place to live for an aerospace engineer under 40. My guess is you are referring to people over 40.

  11. 11
    Erik says:

    RE: bittyboy @ 6
    Sounds nice. I love Eastlake. I use to live by the Zoo. I was on yale though.

    Really interesting area because you can find decent rental prices there, but the cost to own is really high. It’s weird. My apartment was like $900/mo. To buy it probably been about $400k. Here in Juanita, where i live now, it is opposite. Rent would probably be about $3000/mo on a $400k property.

  12. 12
    DrShort says:

    RE: Erik @ 10

    You’d be shocked how many metro drivers make close to or over $100k. Not enough to be impacting rents, but a surprisingly high number.

  13. 13
    Astro Kermit says:

    RE: Boeing vs Amazon

    Scan job postings on Linkedin to gauge the demand of aerospace engineers vs software.

    Software Developers/Engineers Job Postings:
    • United States Total: 8200
    • Seattle: 870
    • San Francisco: 1400
    • NYC: 750
    • UK: 620

    Aerospace Engineering Job Postings:
    • United States Total: 940
    • Seattle: 50
    • San Francisco: 100

    To compare actual Linkedin Profiles, here is a summary:

    Software Developers/Engineers:
    • United States:1,295,600
    • San Francisco Bay Area: 179,500
    • United Kingdom: 169,000
    • Greater Seattle Area: 62,100

    Aerospace Engineers:
    • United States: 161,500
    • United Kingdom: 30,500
    • Canada: 12,800
    • Greater Los Angeles Area: 12,400
    • Greater Seattle Area: 8,100

    Boeing just doesn’t stack up to Microsoft/Google/Amazon. And also factor all the little software boutique shops founded by ex-employees. We have an influx of engineering talent coming from the University of Washington.

    What we are experiencing is a gentrification of a new type: 150k+ salaried developers pushing out median income wage earners. Not saying this is right or wrong, just reporting what the data has so far.

    FYI: Amazon in Seattle is hiring at the rate of 130-200 people a week these days. This is clearly not sustainable but we’ll see. I did not anticipate the magnitude of Amazon’s potential nearly 20 years ago.

  14. 14
    mojo says:

    RE: bittyboy @ 6

    I used to live in Eastlake – they bumped my rent up 28% over the course of 3 years and I ended up moving out.

    In terms of absorption of high-priced units in Seattle proper, I do agree that the biotechs play a big part…seems to be a solid core of them in the Eastlake area (Gilead, Dendreon, Zymogenetics, etc.). There’s also quite a few large and growing tech companies around Elliott (F5, Real Networks, etc.) that may be influencing prices in the areas around downtown.

  15. 15
    David Losh says:

    RE: Astro Kermit @ 13RE: doug @ 9

    That is great data about jobs, but don’t forget about Starbucks. I’ve talked to people from around the country who have been brought here to set up food, and beverage ideas to increase sales, marketability.

    I love Amazon as a retail game changer. If I can figure out how to use the system they have to collect payments for our services we will start doing that. They have a financial division that calculates taxes, service fees, and every other calculation you could ask for.

    I signed up for the merchant account, waited, filled in the employer account data, waited, and now that it should all be in place it just sits there. It’s supposed to be a PayPal alternative, like Google has.

    In terms of delivering goods they are really smart. They figure every detail, and increase the customer experience.

    I just like the way the company is run.

  16. 16
    Peter Witting says:

    RE: Erik @ 10
    “Doc, we are talking about high paying jobs, so we can cut out metro bus drivers I would imagine.”

    Erik, driving a bus for metro is a VERY high-paying job, with a generous pension to boot.

  17. 17
    Erik says:

    RE: Astro Kermit @ 13
    Thanks for the info. I should have gone into software.

  18. 18
    Astro Kermit says:

    RE: David @ 15

    I do agree – Starbucks provides more economic diversity to the area but employment wise. Having said that, the magnitude of their growth isn’t comparable to Amazon’s.

    I been carefully following SBUX’s local growth as well. Locally about 15k employees at corporate. They are definitely growing but you will see it more with their retail expansions into other cities rather than growth within corporate like Amazon.

    Their retail growth is accelerating since their hit several years back. Stocks are at their all time high. Mellody Hobson (George Lucas’s wife) just purchased $10M worth of shares the other day.

    Coffee sales are gradually climbing and they are gradually breaking into new territories (Asia) and markets (Teavanna and Evolution fresh stores, offerings from their acquired La Boulange). They are also expanding in the digital space – they have a major investment with the Square credit card reader.

    They sold off some real estate 6 year back in Pioneer Square and a second SODO location and since then centralized all HQ staff at their main SODO headquarters. It’s worth paying attention when we get word of them looking at attaining more commercial property. I been tracking their local commercial real estate activity to anticipate expansion.

  19. 19

    By DrShort @ 12:

    RE: Erik @ 10

    You’d be shocked how many metro drivers make close to or over $100k. Not enough to be impacting rents, but a surprisingly high number.

    Last I checked, it was about a total of about 18. It takes six years to get to the top of the pay scale as a Metro driver. The gross pay for a full time driver, after reaching the top of the pay scale, is about 60,000 dollars. The median pay for Metro drivers is about 45,000. Nobody gets hired off the street as a full time driver. They usually spend several years as a part timer, which only guarantees 2 1/2 hours per day. In order to reach 100,000, it involves working a lot of overtime, or being at the Metro base ready to be sent out on an assignment. So for a Metro driver to earn 100k per year, they are either driving a bus or on Metro property waiting for an assignment 13 hours per day. It is also not something that is sustainable for more than a few years, because driving a bus is a killer on the body. Nobody makes 100,000 per year driving a bus for 20 years. Either they retire, or they get injured. Shoulder, back, knee and carpal tunnel injuries are way more common among bus drivers than among the general public. Plus the fact that you have to deal with things like stressful traffic and people who do things like assault you or pull out guns….no thanks.

  20. 20
    David B. says:

    RE: Astro Kermit @ 13 – “FYI: Amazon in Seattle is hiring at the rate of 130-200 people a week these days. This is clearly not sustainable but we’ll see. I did not anticipate the magnitude of Amazon’s potential nearly 20 years ago.”

    One thing to realize about Amazon is that they are not known for treating their employees well. That’s true whether you write code for them or you work in their warehouse. The end result is that Amazon employees burn out quickly. Much of that hiring, in other words, is turnover-related and not expansion-related (though Amazon is indeed expanding).

  21. 21
  22. 22
    Astro Kermit says:

    RE: David B. @ 20

    Hi David – How it is turnover related? If another company is hiring ex-Amazon employees I can see that being turnover related. But if they are recruiting people from out of state into the region, that is indeed expansion related. Please clarify if I misunderstood your statement.

    If people are unhappy with their jobs at Amazon, they can vote with their feet and leave right? I have lots of friends who would love to have a job with Amazon right now. Demanding culture is better than no job.

  23. 23
    ugggh says:

    Also remember that Amazon is not a profitable company. They have only posted slivers of profit a couple of random quarters. They are not really a tech company anymore, either. Their forte is getting the stock market and shareholders to believe that they will expand forever and ever into more markets. When that music stops (or the shareholders finally want some dividends) the grand music may stop. Not saying they will go away but the shine may well be gone.

  24. 24
    KKyle says:

    Nice post Tim.

    I’m always surprised to see how prevalent the “Supply/Demand isn’t a real thing because…” argument is. The tenants union folks mean well, but they haven’t connected some key pieces of the puzzle.

    First off: The situation in which cheap units are destroyed in favor of expensive units is a rare one (so far.) Most of the buildings I know of are built on top former 1 story buildings.

    Second off: There is demand for expensive units, there is demand for cheaper units too — but attempts to build cheaper units are met with roadblocks (Parking Requirements/Long Design Review Process/Apodments = Bad!) — for now, the cheap units will simply be the old units. Lets hope that the demand for expensive units is satisfied by the current building boom so that some less expensive units will still exist.

    Third: The idea that there is an exodus to the suburbs is 100% BS. The bigger trend is more people to the city. The Times article simultaneously says that people are moving to the suburbs, talks about all the building in Seattle, and says the suburbs aren’t cheap anyways (huh?) At least they pointed out transportation costs.

    Forth: Because we are so violently opposed to the things that would make un-subsidized housing more affordable (see above), we’re probably going to see a big push for bad ideas like rent control.

  25. 25
    David B. says:

    RE: Astro Kermit @ 22 – “If people are unhappy with their jobs at Amazon, they can vote with their feet and leave right?”

    Yes. And my point is that they are doing just that.

  26. 26
    David B. says:

    RE: Astro Kermit @ 22 – “But if they are recruiting people from out of state into the region, that is indeed expansion related.”

    Are you seriously attempting to argue that it’s impossible for a business to fill a turnover-related vacancy by hiring someone from out of state?

  27. 27

    RE: Peter Witting @ 16
    VERY highly paid?
    Bill Gates is very highly paid. Jeff Bezos is very highly paid. Felix Hernandez is very highly paid. The median bus driver pay is about 45,000 dollars per year. The base salary without overtime is about 60,000, not enough to buy a house in Seattle. Less than 1% make 100,000.
    To collect the full pension, you must be 65 years old and have worked thirty years. Because of how hard the job is on the body, many don’t last thirty years, and there have been quite a few who died before they retired.
    Whenever I read about highly paid Metro bus drivers are, it’s usually coming from someone who makes twice that much, and wouldn’t last a day driving a bus, or is someone who can’t hold a job at a fast food place, and wouldn’t last a day driving a bus.

  28. 28
    Blake says:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 27
    Thaks Ira… as someone who rides the bus almost everyday, I often wonder about their job hours and stres levels. And I hate to hear people spout off about bus drivers being over paid! I also know many teachers and that is a very difficult job and no, they are not over paid! Do YOU want to be a teacher? Go ahead and step up… we need more teachers.

  29. 29
    drshort says:

    RE: Blake @ 28

    People talk about metro drivers being over paid not because their job is easy, but because they make so much more than similar positions in the private sector and in other municipalities. The difference is the political power their union holds against those who set their wage.

    I’m sure it’s a difficult job, but so are a lot of jobs that pay minimum wage. And they certainly don’t have a monopoly on jobs that are stressful or dangerous.

  30. 30

    RE: drshort @ 29
    How does the bus driver’s union hold power over those who set their wages?
    They are not allowed to strike, and have had to go to binding arbitration on a few occasions.
    Although I was not a bus driver, I was a member of that union for 20 years. Very few of the employees felt that the ” all powerful” union was doing a good job of looking out for their best interests. We didn’t feel they held sway over our employees. We continued to pay higher and higher health care costs, and wage hikes always trailed inflation. Seattle has a very high cost of living, and that’s why bus driver wages are high. Metro drivers make more than they do in Portland but less than what they make in San Francisco or San Jose.
    There needs to be middle class. Not everyone is going to be able to do network security for a living.
    Singling out government employees for making too much money, when they’re hardly able to live a middle class lifestyle just seems like it’s a misplaced target.
    Do you honestly think it would be good if we busted the union, and subcontracted to a private outfit that paid half the wages that Metro does, and didn’t provide benefits? Who would be served? Would it be worth it, saving that nickel on your bus fare?

  31. 31
    redmondjp says:

    RE: drshort @ 29 – The same wage discrepancy is true for other blue-collar positions between government and private industry. A City of Redmond dump truck driver makes between $80-90K per year, while the same job at a local construction company probably pays half the salary with lesser benefits and much less job security. IIRC there are four separate unions which represent various groups of City of Redmond employees.

    The funny thing is, why are public school teachers so underpaid when compared to the city truck driver mentioned above? They are both represented by unions. Truck driver position requires GED or HS diploma, gets $80K per year (with no college loans to pay off). Teacher requires master’s degree (eventually), gets $50-60K after 10-15 years of experience (at which time hopefully college loans are fully paid off).

    How are our local teachers even supposed to be able to live around here on their wages? Maybe if one has a spouse who works in the tech industry, but otherwise?

  32. 32

    RE: redmondjp @ 31
    But that’s another target altogether, the “all powerful” teacher’s union.

  33. 33
    wreckingbull says:

    It seems commercial drivers are always the whipping boys. I can only speak to OTR trucking, but I can say it is damn hard work without much pay. Having to keep a level of hyper-vigilance for 11 hours takes its toll. How about scaling a 12-foot load to tarp it on a rainy night. There is a reason that turnover is so high. From all my experience riding Metro, and of course the worst route, the 5, I have respect for Metro drivers too. I don’t think I could do it.

  34. 34
    k2000k says:

    The major tech and S&P 500 companies do have some effect, though not as large as some would think. I know individuals who work for Starbucks, Amazon and the like and they are not pulling down those massive salaries that would justify a 2k+ apartment; in fact I know a person who almost qualifies for LIHTC apartments. That isn’t to say all, or even most of those jobs, aren’t well paying but there are a lot of jobs at those kinds of companies that don’t pay much different than most white collar paper pushing jobs. The one caveat to my statement is that I am a millenial and the individuals I know at those companies are all under 30 so they are being paid accordingly.

    That being said I have another observation. I have been able to see the pre-leasing for the NOLO, I do not work for Pillar, and I can tell you that the majority of individuals who have stepped into the leasing office are 35+ and a good deal of those individuals would be described as empty nesters.

    In a way it makes sense given the macro-socioeconomic trends of Seattle and America at large, it’s no secret that fewer individuals, who would traditionally be retiring, are actually retiring now and that our workforce is becoming grey and top heavy. Couple this with the growing empty nester population and you have a recipe for individuals who are perfect for luxury apartments. They want to downsize, be close to the action and have disposable income to burn.

    Ultimately it’s just one piece of the pie but I would agree with Tim’s ultimate assesment that the rising rents are being driven by economic forces and not crowding out of affordable housing. In many ways the rental market today looks very similar to the housing market a few years ago. Either way I don’t think these rent levels can continue. The new developments can justify the price tag they have but many other apartments, such as the one I rent, are charging rents far beyound their value

  35. 35
    Blake says:

    RE: redmondjp @ 31
    Re: “A City of Redmond dump truck driver makes between $80-90K per year”…

    “A” dump truck driver makes $80k…?? one or two… how many? Is that a guy who puts in a lot of overtime? What is the average? How do you know this… sources? links?

  36. 36
    MarkinSeattle says:

    A couple of points. First, the reason that developers charge so much for new apartments is because they need to in order to cover the costs of building those apartments. When you can charge very much more, everyone else jumps in and creates an oversupply that pushes down those margins. That is simple economics. Despite those costs, the people who build the projects rarely make enough to be able to live in the apartments they are building. That isn’t because developers or builders are making a ton of money, quite simply, that is the economics of building. The irony is that right now, apartment buildings are being built at an artificially cheap level due to the insanely cheap loans available right now, which translates into lower costs to build and an artificially lower rental/break even point. That means a surplus of apartments. In other words, if it wasn’t for really low interest rates, we wouldn’t see as many apartments being built and the rental rates would be going up even faster.

    The basic economics of apartment rents are simple. The apartments are built that can charge more, which slows the rate of rental growth for older apartments. The bottom line is that the only way to keep housing in Seattle affordable is to build ever more units, the more we do that slows that or increase costs (which in turn would slow the apartment construction growth), the less affordable it will be down the road as rental rates increase dramatically.

    As for growth, despite all of the apartments being built right now, the attic unit that we rent out in our house in the U District had 5 times as many applicants over a weekend this year than it did last year (50 versus 12), and last year there was plenty of demand. The bottom line is that there are a lot of people moving to Seattle and getting high paying jobs.

    As for the middle class, you can’t look at it in the context of an individual’s salary. You have to look at it in the context of a family unit’s salary, since that is the reality of most peoples’ living arrangements. If one person is a teacher and the other a construction worker, combined they may make $120k per year, which in turn means that they can afford $3k per month in rent/mortgage (which is a $400k-500k house). That combination is not uncommon, which is why there are so many $400k houses in Seattle.

  37. 37
    KKyle says:

    RE: k2000k @ 34

    In order for a $2k apartment to be affordable using 30% of gross, you would need to make around $75k. An overwhelming percentage of Amazon corporate workers make more than that and we aren’t even counting DINKs etc. When I rented out my house in Ballard last year, 90% of the respondents (in one day, I had to pull the listing) were double income professionals who where new to town to work for Amazon or F5.

    I pointed out that this was happening (a new Seattle boom) on this blog about a year ago and people thought I was out of my mind.

  38. 38
    redmondjp says:

    RE: Blake @ 35 – Blake – all public employee salaries are available, if one cares to look. This site is useful as the owner has done a LOT of legwork to acquire the data:

    The City of Redmond data is from 2003 and is available here:

    I’m a bit off in my recollections – it appears that most of the drivers in 2003 were making $60-64K annually (the Redmond data shows monthly salaries before benefits). But that was ten years ago so I’m sure that it has gone up since then. Same argument applies however.

    Check out the site and see what your public servants are making. You might be surprised. And remember to factor in overtime which is not typically shown.

  39. 39
    Astro Kermit says:

    By ugggh @ 23:

    Also remember that Amazon is not a profitable company. They have only posted slivers of profit a couple of random quarters. They are not really a tech company anymore, either. Their forte is getting the stock market and shareholders to believe that they will expand forever and ever into more markets. When that music stops (or the shareholders finally want some dividends) the grand music may stop. Not saying they will go away but the shine may well be gone.

    RE: ugggh @ 23

    Uggghhh… Amazon is highly profitable. Jeff Bezos’s intentional strategy is to fold their profits into expansion (additional DCs and expanding data centers).

    They are very much a tech company. Take a glance inside their software development division. Think about everything that it takes to run their site including the back end and their foray into tablets, mobile and video games. At their new DCs everything is now automated with robots. They got some amazing “tech” related stuff to announce over the next couple years.

  40. 40
    mike says:

    RE: Astro Kermit @ 39 – It’s also one of the reasons Microsoft’s profitability under Ballmer isn’t necessarily a sign of strength going forward.

  41. 41
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Astro Kermit @ 39 – Don’t forget $3 billion/year from cloud services revenue!!!

  42. 42
    k2000k says:

    RE: KKyle @ 37

    I know a bunch of individuals working for Amazon and their salaries are less than 40 grand a year. The employeed software engineer will make more than 75 grand sure, not the temp programmer, contract, office empoyees or techs. That is another item that I don’t think people are necessarily aware of. I have a friend who is now an engineer, and earning over 60 grand a year, for a company were he started out as a tech after graduating from college. He was paid hourly and including overtime made about the low forties, the kicker was that he was doing a lot of work that full on engineers were doing.

    I am sure that those who work for MSFT, Amazon and Google who are over 40+ are earning the incomes required to afford those kind of apartments; which I alluded to in my comment. From my experience with my peers, who do work for many of those companies, I do not think that those who are under the age of 30 are.

  43. 43
    LM says:

    Interesting post, and some good comments.

    It’s amazing that in a post about skyrocketing rents, people are calling out Metro bus drivers, dump truck drivers, and teachers-married-to-construction workers. I don’t like to use words like ‘delusional’ but those comments are….fictional.

    The reality is that the rent increases are being driven by the tech industry. Period.

    I get the impression that people who talk about outsized union power and fat-cat bus drivers want to demonize someone for this crazy rental market. The reality is that bus drivers et al are just barely surviving in this economy. And tech workers aren’t bad people, either – they’re just driven here by market forces. There isn’t a villain in this story – there’s just a cautionary tale in the process of being written. What kind of city do we want this to be? What groups should be able to live here? What do we sacrifice if we allow a completely unregulated market to define the city this becomes? *Those* are the questions we should be debating.

    A Teacher*
    (*Who will not be able to rent in Seattle this time next year)

  44. 44
    Permatemp says:

    With the fact that a ton of tech workers are, in fact, contractors who may not make six figures (the upside is we have at tendency to work less than 80 hours a week unlike our FTE bretheren) and closer to 70-80k, we may not be all that comfortable shelling out 2 grand a month for a place either.

  45. 45
    David Losh says:

    RE: Permatemp @ 44

    The tech workers we come across don’t have a choice but to rent. They won’t buy, because they are temporary so they rent, many times close to the work they have, because they are new here in Seattle.

    As time goes by, and the workers get used to our bus system, and move a little further out.

    Rents are bad all over, but in time it should even out. The bottom line is we need more apartments, or we need the price of housing to come down.

  46. 46
    KKyle says:

    RE: k2000k @ 42

    Sure – there are jobs at Amazon that pay less than $70k, my point is that there are more jobs that pay over that and enough of them to seriously impact the market. Keep in mind, we’re talking about new housing stock which rents at a much higher price.

    Your friends who make $40k would likely look to either older apartments or group living situations to bring their individual rents down rather than trying to afford $3/sq foot. In my case, I ended up renting my three bedroom house to three roommates who all saw big decreases in their monthly rent from when they were living solo.

    My renters were competing with individuals who wanted to rent my house alone — and if we had kept with the Seattle development patterns of old (supress density), they would have lost out because there would not be enough stock for both them and the new high paid workers.

  47. 47
    KKyle says:

    RE: LM @ 43

    We are pretty far from a deregulated environment, but change is hard for people to accept. 70% of the residential zoned land in Seattle is zoned for single family homes – yet people in Seattle talk about apartment buildings as if they are the work of the devil. The net result of this is that the wrong people inform the decisions of buildings — the people who just don’t want the building to exist at all or who are most concerned about preserving their “free” parking.

    The city I would like to see has dense walkable neighborhoods connected by high speed transit. This vision is only affordable if we stop forcing the neighborhoods with density to work within the car based rules of suburban development. Affordable housing isn’t just about housing — its about the total cost of transportation and housing. I harp a bit on the parking thing, but its just one piece of the puzzle. Here is an excellent article by Alan During about how parking impacts rents:

  48. 48
    whatsmyname says:

    RE: KKyle @ 46RE: KKyle @ 47
    Seattle doesn’t have the population to become generally dense. The city is trying to channel density into actual dense areas, not suppress it. And the city doesn’t love cars. They would be more than happy to mandate car free development, if only the users would be car free – which they won’t.

    The “free” parking wasn’t free. It cost land, money, and convenience (location); and it was adequate for the density. Your high density builder has the same “free” parking for a few cars just like his neighbors. But if he grabs the parking for 40 cars; everyone is diminished, and the neighborhood fails to work for most of it’s inhabitants. Classic tragedy of the commons.

  49. 49
    KKyle says:

    RE: whatsmyname @ 48

    You assume that the new users will have cars and that they will park those cars on the street. There is plenty of parking for sale in every single neighborhood that has been upzoned for those willing to pay for it. Street parking in upzoned neighborhoods will be scarce, this is not a tragedy. Street parking is scarce to non-existent in the most desirable neighborhoods (by $/sq foot) in the world.

    My central point is two fold:
    1. The commons is just that, common. If people wish to pay for parking, let them. If they wish to fight for “free” spaces, let them.
    2. Forcing renters to pay for the most expensive parking possible is terrible public policy and forces rents up needlessly. Let the market decide.

  50. 50
    whatsmyname says:

    By KKyle @ 49:

    RE: whatsmyname @ 48

    You assume that the new users will have cars and that they will park those cars on the street.

    I assume that most of them will. And I am correct. They and others will also have visitors with cars.

    is plenty of parking for sale in every single neighborhood that has been upzoned for those willing to pay for it. Street parking in upzoned neighborhoods will be scarce, this is not a tragedy. Street parking is scarce to non-existent in the most desirable neighborhoods (by $/sq foot) in the world.

    Ballard is not New York. Fremont is not Paris.

    central point is two fold:
    1. The commons is just that, common. If people wish to pay for parking, let them. If they wish to fight for “free” spaces, let them.
    2. Forcing renters to pay for the most expensive parking possible is terrible public policy and forces rents up needlessly. Let the market decide.

    Are you really unfamiliar with the notion “tragedy of the commons”? Your notion perfectly illustrates the problem of parasitism. It shouldn’t be a mystery why the City wants to avoid that. If you want the benefits of density, you can pay for it. It doesn’t matter whether you are owner or renter.

  51. 51
    Jackson1 says:

    Would love feedback after trying to track down info on the web search words to answer this question: how well can a couple, transplants from Indianapolis, live on $75K in Seattle (one income, the other still searching).

    In Indianapolis, we lived very well. during the transition to Seattle, we expected sticker shock. We expected high rents and we knew our auto insurance would skyrocket and it did. We’d checked the info on Seattle having very high numbers of accidents compared to the rest of the country.

    Now we need info from people familiar with the area. The reason we moved? Better potential for job growth, hopefully. One of us is in tech and got a promotion for transferring to Seattle. Already in an established position in the company. So, a calculated but not risk free decision.

    Input? How modestly do we have to live? Currently living in a friend’s house free. Very temporary as we scope out the area. Advice welcome.

Leave a Reply

Use your email address to sign up with Gravatar for a custom avatar.
Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Please read the rules before posting a comment.