Did you know that only 33% of the total housing stock in Seattle is available for the 41% of residents who make less than $30,800 per year? This means that about 21% of And renting households are so severely cost-burdened that they may become homeless at any given time in the Seattle area. Today, we’ll be looking at whether building more housing options is a feasible policy solution to the housing affordability crisis facing the state of Washington. 

By the numbers

Between 1995 and 2017, the number of new housing units authorized in the state of Washington increased by 148%. Unlike California and New York, the number of low-income units constructed in Washington increased by over 295%. 

Despite this marked increase in low-income construction over the past few years, the demand for housing largely continues to chew up the existent supply, leaving many Washington residents struggling to procure housing within their financial means.

Interestingly, the share of housing specifically earmarked for low-income Washington residents has increased between 1995 and 2017-- jumping from 17% to 27% of the total number of new housing units authorized. 

While this jump certainly proves promising, a 10% increase in the share of new housing options explicitly constructed for low-income residents is far too modest to address the housing affordability crisis facing Washington in any meaningful way.

Despite both an absolute and relative increase in the number of low-income units constructed, Washington remains one of the least affordable states to live in. In fact, since 2010 alone, rent prices in the Seattle area have increased by 33%

Building more houses, either low-income or otherwise, remains an unviable policy solution to the housing affordability crisis in Washington given only 1 in 5 new houses in the Seattle area is affordable for the nearly 2 in 5 Seattleites who are low-income.