Housing is an essential element of Puget Sound infrastructure
Even in the midst of a growing and diverse employment market, regional leaders need to act on crucial housing issues to maintain current economic momentum. That is the message from a panel of housing experts gathered at the 22nd annual Housing Issues Briefing presented by Seattle King County REALTORS®.
“Affordable housing is infrastructure,” said Peter Orser, acting Director of the Runstad Center at the University of Washington. Orser explained that providing housing for workers was just as essential as education and transportation in maintaining the economic prosperity for the region, which has expanded and diversified since the Boeing Company bust of the early 1970’s. “We’re no longer dependent on one sector for our success,” he said.
Orser’s remarks were echoed by REALTOR® Housing Specialist Sam Pace, who pointed out that households earning median income have difficulty qualifying for the purchase of a median priced home. This growing affordability gap is due in large part to a scarce supply of homes near employment centers. Pace pointed out that King County has had less than two months supply of available homes for purchase for three years running, an unprecedented period for such low inventory.
Mollie Carmichael of the John Burns Company noted that pent up demand for homes in the Seattle market continues to push prices higher and many families who wish to purchase homes are forced into the rental market, forcing rental prices higher. The end result is that more workers and those of more modest means seek housing outside of King County.
Panel members agreed that there must be continuing dialogue with cities about accommodating more growth through planning and innovative design. Michelle Connor, an Executive Vice President with land conservancy non-profit Forterra, said finding the balance between preserving rural and resource land and providing adequate housing can be difficult. Cities must be willing to accept more density and that requires agreement from many constituencies. “Realtors are a key partner in that dialogue,” she said.