The Challenge

Income, Costs, Prices and Options


Housing Affordability is a question of whether a family’s available resources are sufficient to meet their housing needs given the price of available housing.  This is a problem for many families because people’s need for housing is universal but our economic system doesn’t provide everyone with the same resources. Also, there often is a mismatch between privately owned units priced below the market average, and the incomes of those who rent them such that the lowest income people don’t always have the lowest priced units.

Housing Affordability is just one part of holistic affordability. Holistic affordability is about a family’s ability to afford all of these things with the resources they have available. At the end of the day, the money a family pays for housing, healthcare, food, transportation, and other expenses all comes out of the same family budget. . While Housing Now is focused on housing affordability first and foremost, we support efforts to address affordability in these other areas. For more information on efforts to model holistic affordability, check out our work on the Family Housing Cost Model

In order to solve our housing affordability problems we need to understand what constitutes “housing affordability”, and why our cities often struggle to achieve it.  We need to educate ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our elected officials and our policy makers. This education is time consuming and costs money. We need your support today.

Seattle is experiencing an affordability crisis right now due to a variety of factors. Ranking these factors is hard, but here they are in no particular order.

  • Shift in overall demand back towards cities, particularly by younger people

  • Income inequality producing a small number of people who can pay a lot for housing and many people who can’t afford very much

  • High tech boom contributing to localized demand for housing.

  • Lull in multi-family construction during low demand years produces shortage of older buildings

  • Zoning rules reducing availability of buildable land, driving up cost and channeling new multi-family housing towards cannibalizing existing multi-family housing

  • Growing population at the global, national, and regional level

  • Smaller household sizes and more households being formed due to boomer retirement and millennials coming of age

  • Lack of mass transit investment to spread out demand and reduce transportation costs from owning a car in more areas.

  • The tendency of markets to price housing with access to the most amenities (or most central) highest, forcing demographic sorting in our communities

These and other factors have contributed to an affordability crisis which has had severe impacts on many people in our community. These impacts include: people going without food/medicine/other needs, people living in crowded or conditions, longer commutes, and many people losing access to stable housing.

People living with unstable housing is a major challenge. Not only is it a huge human tragedy, but it also makes it hard to solve other problems. In order to address our homelessness crisis, Housing Now strongly supports the “Housing First” strategy.

We have a lot of work to do. The latest one night count of unsheltered people shows a 19% increase. We’re leaving people behind. People who are without shelter are more likely to suffer health problems. They are also more likely to be the victims of crimes.  Studies have shown that it’s more expensive to society for someone to be homeless than it is to provide housing. Our city should make sure everyone has a home because it’s the right thing to do, but we should also know that it’s the smart thing to do.

We believe that publicly financed housing is an important component to solving  the affordability problem. For more information see “The Solution: Publicly Financed Housing”

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