Can microhousing stop extinction of the great Capitol Hill 20-something?

In the wake of last week’s City Council microhousing forum, the Seattle Times is looking at the aPodment phenomenon. Their data-centered writer makes the case that microhousing might be the only way to “stem the tide” of a demographic shift on the Hill that shows, according to the uber consumer data collector Experian, the extinction of 20-somethings living on the Hill:

(Source: Experian via the Seattle Times)

(Source: Experian via the Seattle Times)

Against this landscape of rapid gentrification on Capitol Hill, micro-apartments are helping keep people in the neighborhood who would otherwise be pushed out.  Certainly some of the concerns of property owners who oppose these developments are valid and need to be addressed.  But ultimately Seattle has to decide, as a city, if it wants to maintain diversity — in both age and income — in its urban core.

On Capitol Hill, that diversity is vanishing. Micro-housing is one of the only things helping to stem the tide.

Now we just need to do the math on how many microhousing buildings we need on Capitol Hill to better balance things out.

UPDATE: Here’s where we’ve laid the 20-something bait:


Meanwhile, almost certainly, the phases of Capitol Hill Residency (CHR) still apply:

  • CHR 1.0: Basic apartment, west of Broadway

  • CHR 2.0: Nicer apartment, between Broadway and 15th, possible co-hab

  • CHR 3.0a: Similar nice apartment, east of 15th, can’t afford to buy but want something “quiet”

  • CHR 3.0b: Condo or small house, east of 15th, first home purchase and want something “quiet”

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23 thoughts on “Can microhousing stop extinction of the great Capitol Hill 20-something?

  1. Age is only one of many diversity aspects. It shouldn’t be used as the only criterion.
    But since it was brought up here: where is a study/analysis that show to what extend this particular aspect may be addressed by microhousing?
    Pros and cons of the “big picture” need to be addressed.
    Finally, in my opinion, it should be CH decision and not City of Seattle. I haven’t seen any authoritative report that 18-24 year old are moving entirely out of Seattle when they move out of CH (therefore conclusion that Seattle looses narrowly defined diversity might not be true). This is NOT to say that I don’t care about this group. I just want the facts on all aspects to be on the table before decisions are made.

  2. Interesting that the decrease in 20-somethings is almost exactly the same as the increase in children. Perhaps we ‘re seeing the effects of a silent epidemic of Benjamin Button-like reverse aging. Something to think about.

  3. One more thing:
    How authoritative is Experian’s data?? What interest does it have in providing this type of data??
    Has anyone looked into it before making the case??

  4. Oh god. This is terribly selfish, but one of the things I love the most about living here is that I never encounter screaming children…anywhere. If this is changing – I’m doomed.

  5. The Experian numbers are even more mind-blowing when you consider that nationally the high school graduating class of 2008/09 was 28% larger than the graduating class of 1996/97. source:

    Given the sheer increase in population in the 18-24 year cohort, it would be stunning if a neighborhood such as Capitol Hill didn’t manage to grow the percentage of population within that cohort…but to actually shrink. Incredible.

  6. At $850 a month for the so-called apodment, it’s no wonder they can’t afford to live here at that age. That’s a pretty healthy chunk of change.

    There’s an interesting piece I read earlier today about the apodment. They’re essentially the apartment that fraud built. They build them without reporting full kitchens so they can cram them in without design review or parking but then build the buildings large with lots of bedrooms so they get a tax exemption. It’s got nothing to do with providing affordable housing.

    Maybe the 18-24 crowd is shacking up and not reporting themselves as really living on the hill? At that age, kids do tend to move a lot and don’t necessarily change their addresses with DOL or anybody in authority.

  7. Agreed. I’m living this hell after spending $XXX,XXX.XX Money on my house. Not predictable and/or researchable prior to my house purchase. One of the factors.

  8. Isn’t that college age? I think I read a statistic not long ago that claims a great many “adult” children are back living with Mom and Dad because of the economy and student debt. So, those who aren’t in student dorms (and were, therefore, possibly not counted) may be living at “home” with their folks on CapHill where their parents may be claiming them as a tax deduction and/or covering their health insurance (hence, the Experian stats). Possible explanation anyway.

  9. I think this is a case where the percentages could be misleading, and it would be helpful to look at the absolute numbers. The 0 to 5 population on south Capitol Hill has always been tiny, and although a 26 percent increase sounds like a lot, in absolute terms it is probably only a handful of children. Similarly with the 18 to 24 crowd; I’ve been here about 20 years and never really thought of Capitol Hill as having a large a college-age demographic, but more of a mid-20s to early 30s working your first real job out of college population. I’d be interested to see what changes in the 25 to 34 cohort look like, and expect that group has continued to grow. Still, I do worry about rapid development pricing out some of the diversity/energy that helps keep our neighborhood vibrant.

  10. Maybe if they stop tearing down all the homes & buildings that the “20 somethings ” can afford instead of continual building of massive condo construction that “normal” people that don’t work at Amazon or Microsoft could never afford more people would move to & stay on the hill?

  11. Within 5 years it’s going to be a breeders hood with bland chain stores on every block. Mark my word. Oh it already is…

    • Hey, ej, anybody else considering a drive-by comment breeders — that’s enough. The point is here for others to digest, process, react to, agree with, reject, etc. Don’t revel in it unless your mission is purely disruption here. If that’s the case, you’ll want to find another venue.

  12. Touch of Gray: This is Gene Balk, the guy who wrote the blog post. Just thought I’d respond to your comment. It’s a good question.

    The geography I used here was the Hill south of Roy St. down to Madison. The 18-24 age group is actually one of the larger age groups. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but ballpark figure: in 2010 it was around 3,500 out of a total population of 20,000, so about 17% of total. It’s projected to drop by close to 1,000 people. I’d say that is a significant change in the demographics of the neighborhood. Citywide that age group is showing a very slight decline, basically flat, so huge difference between the Hill and the city as a whole.

    You are correct, though, about babies being a smaller number–I think under 400, projected to hit 500. I don’t think that’s completely misleading to include. If you compare to Belltown, for example, another area with few babies, that age group is only projected to grow by 1% there. But I actually included babies in this because technically they are the fastest growing group. I was mainly trying to make the point that the early middle-age folks are growing very fast–but since they are slightly behind the babies in percent change, in order to be accurate I included both age groups.

  13. Hi Gene, if you are reading this, do you know if anyone has studied the apodments to find out if their residents are, in fact, younger than average for the neighborhood? I know some have predicted they will appeal to young 20 somethings, I’m wondering if any studies have been done to show how they are actually being used. Thank you

  14. @Curious – At last week’s City Council Brownbag, Dirk Mulhair from Calhoun (the developer who trademarked the name apodments) claimed that the average age of the tenants in his buildings is 33. Hardly a scientific study, but some indication that these projects appeal to more than just young 20 somethings. Additionally, the front page article in Wednesday’s Seattle Times profiled 67-year-old Judy Green, who lives in an apodment in the U District.

  15. As always thanks for the informative article, jseattle. I just turned 30 last month. Maybe I won’t be pushed out from gentrification after all….Hooray! No more fighting the anti-apodment NIMBYs for this guy! Also, I concur with somecaphillguy; children? Yuck!

  16. Curious: Nah, all we know about the pod dwellers is what the developers have told us. When I was trying to find folks who lives in these units for our reporter at the Times to contact, most seemed in their 20s, but I really have no idea what the average age is. I am pretty sure the woman in Times article who is 67 is exceptional–I don’t think too many people that age would want to climb a ladder to get into bed!

  17. Pingback: Faced with redevelopment of longtime home, Edie’s making 2-block Capitol Hill move | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  18. “Bland chain stores on every corner”…..??

    That is just plain inaccurate. Have a look around Capitol Hill and you will see many small, local businesses.