Affordability Forum highlights consequences of King County’s limited housing supply

King County’s growing job market continues to fuel a population boom that has not been factored into city and county housing plans. Today, nearly three people move to the area for every housing unit that is built. This imbalance in the housing market is largely responsible for escalating prices and bidding wars for local homes.

“It’s a big, ugly, complex problem to solve,” said Peter Orser. “The recent recession eviscerated the home building industry. We’ve been recovering and inching our way back. But you can’t just turn on a dime and build 1,000 homes.”

The Seattle King County REALTORS® has held an annual housing briefing for the past twenty three years. The program is designed to engage industry professionals and local policy makers and elected officials in a dialogue about the best ways to meet consumer demand for housing. This year’s forum, held at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, was attended by over 100 guests and featured a discussion panel including Peter Orser, Board member of the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies, Gabriel Grant of Spectrum Development Solutions, Patricia Akiyama of the Master Builders Association and Tom Parsons of the Holland Partner Group, a development company.

Gabriel Grant talked about the affordability problems in the housing market, where high-wage workers are able to find housing options and very low-income households can apply for subsidies.  “But there is a big missing middle” in the housing market, where middle income people are getting squeezed out, he said.  “The options are less and less for these people.  We need incentives to produce what they can afford.”

In materials presented by the REALTOR® Association (view/download below), the direct relationship between lack of inventory and rising prices is clear, making Seattle the most inflated housing market in the country this year. For the first five months of 2017, King County has averaged less than a month’s supply of homes, a historically unprecedented shortage.

Patricia Akiyama pointed out the need for policy changes. “You can’t wait for the market to hit another downturn. To do so is perilous. It just forces people to move away to find an affordable market,” she said.

Attendees, many from suburban cities, were left with the question, “If the housing market is left to follow its present course, will my kids be able to afford a home in the community where they grew up?”