If my headline sounds familiar to you, that's because federal, state, and local governments are still not acting quickly enough to address the country's housing affordability crisis. In fact, things have gotten just a touch worse in this corner of the country.
According to an annual report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) published last week, no one making the minimum wage in Washington can afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent anywhere in the state. That means two-bedroom apartments, ideal for things like raising a kid as a single parent, are affordable for low wage workers in exactly zero places. Nowhere. Not even in Lewiston. Lewiston? Lewiston.
The same is true for every state in the country, according to the report, but Washington ranks as the 7th most expensive state for two-bedroom apartments. Last year we ranked 8th on that list.
In order to afford a two-bedroom place, Washington workers would need to earn $27.78 per hour and work 40 hours per week. (The definition of "affordability" is paying no more than 30% of your paycheck in rent.) So if you're in a two-bedroom and not making $58,000 a year, chances are most of your money goes straight from your boss to your landlord.
The rent is too damn high even for Washingtonians who make the state's average wage, which NLIHC puts at $20.06 per hour. That's a bit higher than the state's current minimum wage of $12 per hour, but it still means the average worker has to hold down just under 1.5 jobs in order to afford a two-bedroom spot.
Unsurprisingly, the rents are worse in the Seattle-Bellevue metropolitan area. Minimum wage earners in Seattle would need to work 91 hours per week to afford a studio, 100 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom, and 122 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom.
The wage for the average renter in the area is a bit higher than the state's average—$25.61 per hour—but even if you make that you're still kinda screwed. A worker earning that much would need to put 43 hours on the clock to afford a studio, 47 hours for a one-bedroom, and 57 hours for a two-bedroom.
Those hourly numbers are a little weird, so let me put it like this. In order to afford a studio apartment in Seattle, you need to make over $56,000 per year.
At last count, over one third of Seattle area residents pay more than 30% of their paycheck to their landlords, and 22% pay more than half of their paychecks to their landlords.
Being rent burdened also gets worse with age. A report from Abodo published in 2017 found that 41% of the local rent burdened population are Millennials, 41.4% are Gen-Xers, and 49.3% are Baby Boomers.
In December of last year, the Regional Affordable Housing Task Force concluded that King County needed to build 244,000 units of affordable housing in 20 years or else we become San Francisco. The report also says 156,000 (64%) of those units needed to be built yesterday.
To help meet that goal, the Seattle City Council approved a plan to upzone 6% of the lots reserved for single-family housing while also requiring developers to build affordable units or pay a fee so the city can build more affordable units. The city says the plan will create 6,000 affordable units over the course of 10 years.
In July the council will also vote on Councilmember Mike O'Brien's bill to ease restrictions on backyard cottages and basement apartments, which would create 2,500 more units over the next 10 years, according to the Seattle Times, though all of that housing won't necessarily be affordable.