That upward curve above shows the ascent of the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment on Capitol Hill in the 16-year period covered by a simple but fascinating neighborhood by neighborhood analysis from KUOW utilizing housing data from analysis firm Dupre+Scott and Seattle’s Office of Housing.
We’ve pulled out some of the key numbers from the report about Central Seattle neighborhoods but it’s worth visiting KUOW for a look at changes across the city.
While Capitol Hill’s average rent in the study climbed 38% since 1998, other areas of the city have fared much worse on the affordability front. Ballard, for example, saw a 75% jump in the same period. “Only the Belltown/Downtown/South Lake Union area has a higher average rent,” KUOW reports. KUOW does note, however, that Capitol Hill’s increase is accelerating as it turned in a whopping 12% jump from 2013 to 2014. This May utilizing a much smaller set of data, CHS reported that the median one-bedroom ad listing in Craigslist had climbed to $1,795 per month.
In Central Seattle, some of the most fascinating comparisons in the KUOW report come in the apartment unit count where the Central District saw an explosion of nearly 300%. The Capitol Hill dataset also reflects our explosive growth — but the Hill and Eastlake only turned in a 90% increase in apartment units in the period. Meanwhile, First Hill was one of the most constricted areas for new housing in Seattle with only 33% unit growth in the period. Combined, CHS shows an 80% increase across the First Hill, Capitol Hill, and the Central District since 1998.
There are more coming, of course. 600+ new units are expected to be completed around the Hill in 2015 and more than 700 are forecasted to be ready in both 2016 and 2017. The forecasted total of around 5,500 units would represent a 57% increase from 2014 and a 192% bump from 1998. At that 20-year pace, the neighborhood would have more than 7,000 units by 2035. At the 5-year pace, we’d be looking at 8,500 units by 2035. City 20-year plan analysts say the area could see as many as 6,000 to 8,000 new units during the period.
The KUOW analysis comes as renter rights have become a significant campaign issue with every seat on the City Council up for grabs this election year. Incumbent candidate Kshama Sawant has made rent control based on a rallying cry of her campaign.
How would it work?
In a rent control program, the percent increase in rent would be determined by economic analysis that would include variables such as cost of living, mortgage expenses, prevailing interest rates, borrowing costs, and maintenance costs. Because of this model, rent control would still enable unit owners to keep pace with inflation and maintain housing. What it would prevent is the astronomical rate of returns to big real estate companies (something that small owners rarely receive anyway).
Meanwhile, the affordability committee convened by Mayor Ed Murray seems unlikely to pursue such a bold approach. The Seattle Times reports that the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory is leaning to solutions like linkage fees in which developers would “choose to pay the fees or build a certain number of affordable-housing units as part of a project.”