Families and individuals living in Seattle are experiencing the highest level of rent increases in the nation. Seattle’s rents have soared 9.7 percent from a year ago. This is nearly four times the national average, according to a recent Zillow report. The typical monthly rent in the Seattle metro area now surpasses $2,000 for the first time. This is $620 more than the U.S. average.
Even with an increase in Seattle’s minimum wage, how can working families afford such high rents? Over half of Asian renters, 55 percent, earn no more than 50 percent of the area median income—or less than $45,150 annually for a family of four. Sixty-six percent of black renters earn no more than 50 percent of the area median income. We know that people of color are hardest hit by rent increases as 48 percent of renters of color living in Seattle are cost burdened, or paying more than 30 percent of their income for rent.
Seattle is not alone in rents that are increasingly unaffordable. Our neighbor, Portland, has the next largest growth in rents at 9 percent. Across the country, over half of poor renters are paying 50 percent of their income for rent. And over 25 percent are paying over 70 percent of their income for rent!
The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) and other nonprofit housing organizations are working hard to build more affordable housing so that Seattle residents are not forced to leave the city because of skyrocketing rents. LIHI completed 61 apartments for low-income seniors at Ernestine Anderson Place at 2010 S. Jackson Street in 2014. In 2015, 50 apartments for seniors at Cheryl Chow Court in Ballard and 57 affordable apartments at August Wilson Place in Bellevue were completed. In Seattle’s University District, 49 apartments were recently constructed at The Marion West at 5019 Roosevelt Way NE. Lease-up is now underway.
Construction is progressing well on Abbey Lincoln Court, located next door to Ernestine Anderson Place at 2020 S. Jackson Street. When finished in October, the building will include 68 affordable and energy efficient apartments for families with children, couples, and singles. The property is located across the street from Washington Middle School, Franz Bakery and next door to Blanche Lavizzo Park, a children’s playground.
Abbey Lincoln Court is named in honor of famed jazz vocalist, songwriter, and civil rights activist Abbey Lincoln. She passed away in 2010. The building includes studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, including townhouses and live-work space.
In Little Saigon, LIHI has begun the process of developing approximately 80 units of affordable housing for families and individuals at 1253 S. Jackson Street (the site of the old Washington Alarm Building) just west of Rainier Avenue S. The First Hill Streetcar stop is located in front of the property. The design for the storefront area includes shared community space for community gatherings, events, exhibits and programs that serve residents of Little Saigon, the ID, and the larger community. Office space for LIHI will be located in back of the community space and parking will be located below. LIHI looks forward to future meetings in Little Saigon and the ID to discuss the design, program, and housing needs in the community.
Michele Wang of Runberg Architecture Group is the architect. A contractor has not been selected yet. LIHI is seeking funding from the Seattle Office of Housing and King County. Construction is planned for February 2018, with completion in late winter 2019. See rendering.
Founded in 1991, LIHI is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The LIHI Gala is set for October 21 at the Four Seasons Hotel. LIHI owns and/or manages over 1,800 housing units at 50 sites in six counties throughout the Puget Sound region.
The quarterly IDEA Space open house happens Thursday, August 11 at the Nisei Vets Hall from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Projects happening in the Little Saigon neighborhood will be highlighted, including the new affordable housing proposed for Little Saigon at 1253 S. Jackson Street by LIHI. Light refreshments will be provided.
Sharon Lee is executive director of Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI).