2020 planning gets help from Challenge Seattle

“Middle income folks can’t afford to live in our communities. And that’s a problem,” said Mamie Marcuss at a recent Seattle King County REALTORS® meeting.

Marcuss is the Director of Programs for Challenge Seattle, a private sector initiative led by many of the Seattle region’s CEOs working to address critical issues, including mobility and transportation, education, and economic development.

Marcuss made her remarks to the 2020 Planning Committee of Seattle King County REALTORS®, which sets goals and strategy on housing issues. A recent poll of REALTORS® in King County identified lack of affordable housing choices as the top concern in the current real estate market.

Home price growth has outpaced income growth. Graph provided by Mamie Marcuss of Challenge Seattle.

“The firefighters and teachers and other hardworking people who are being affected by the affordability crisis, those are our clients and friends,” said Georgia Stevens, 2020 Seattle King County REALTORS® President and Chair of the Planning Committee.

A major part of Challenge Seattle’s work includes finding new ways to bring the private and public sectors together to address housing affordability, particularly in the “missing middle” market segment. Like REALTORS® and many members of the community, companies are concerned about the housing affordability crisis. Our region can’t continue to enjoy the benefits of strong job growth and a booming economy if employers can’t bring and keep people here because it’s too expensive to live.

The bulk of King County’s growth can be attributed to high-income households. From 2010-2017, just 12% of the households added to the region were middle-income households. Graph provided by Mamie Marcuss of Challenge Seattle.

You know from working with clients that the problem is that there are very few middle-market housing options available for people in the middle-income segment. Marcuss pointed out that the cost of land, construction and financing makes housing very expensive to produce, and as a result those costs are passed on to renters and buyers. Much of the current housing being built is too expensive for many buyers to afford.

“There’s no silver bullet to fix this,” said Marcuss, but there are ways to bring the costs of construction down to encourage creation of more affordable units. Challenge Seattle’s housing report released earlier this year details solutions that collectively could knock hundreds of dollars off average monthly rental costs of newly constructed units. REALTORS® have been advocating for many of these solutions for years, and earlier this year were instrumental in passing legislation to reform the state’s condominium liability laws, which hampered condo construction across the state.

Marcuss acknowledged that change is hard, but a future in which we fail to address housing affordability means that hardworking people in our communities will continue to suffer the realities of living farther and farther from where they work just to have a home they can afford. That affects quality of life across the entire region.

Talk to your clients about housing affordability and what we can do to make our communities work for everyone.