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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Affordable housing becoming harder to find in King County

Summary

Finding and keeping affordable housing is becoming more difficult for the King County residents with the fewest economic options, such as low income households. Many of them are also paying more than they can afford to keep a roof over their head, according to the new King County Benchmarks Affordable Housing Bulletin released this week. Updated with two years of new data, the bulletin is part of the county's 11th annual report on progress in implementing countywide planning policies.

Story

Finding and keeping affordable housing is becoming more difficult for the King County residents with the fewest economic options, such as low income households. Many of them are also paying more than they can afford to keep a roof over their head, according to the new King County Benchmarks Affordable Housing Bulletin released this week. Updated with two years of new data, the bulletin is part of the county's 11th annual report on progress in implementing countywide planning policies.

In compiling the report, county staff analyzed the cost of home sales and rents in relation to household income. They found that despite the sluggish housing market, rents have continued to rise.

However, there is also progress towards helping more residents find stable, affordable housing. According to the county’s Department of Community and Human Services, King County and most of the cities within its borders will spend approximately $82 million in 2009 from an array of federal state and local sources on housing-related activities serving low-income and homeless residents. This includes permanent housing and supportive services in permanent housing, such as shelter, transitional housing, and homelessness prevention services.

Still, as in previous years, there is not enough affordable rental housing available to meet the needs of all low income households, which are particularly hard hit when the economy dips. Specifically, fewer than 10 percent of the market-rate rentals in the county are affordable to those earning 40 percent of median income.

In addition, four out of five King County households earning less than 50 percent of median household income are paying more than they can afford for housing, a trend that may continue if King County's unemployment rate continues to climb. This statistic is based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's finding that 30 percent of gross income is the maximum that all but wealthy households can pay in housing costs without creating an excessive housing cost burden. Therefore, housing that requires more than 30% of income is considered to be "unaffordable.

Others are falling through over-burdened community safety nets. According to some estimates, at least 25,000 people in King County experienced at least one episode of homelessness in 2008, including many families with children.

Even for those not on the margins, the percentage of market-rate rentals that are affordable at 80% of median income has decreased, from 93 percent in 2006 down to 85 percent in 2008. This decline was most pronounced in east King County, where almost 90 percent of market-rate rentals were affordable to a household earning 80 percent of the county median income in 2006. But in 2008, that number had dropped to fewer than 75 percent of market rate rentals being affordable.

Similarly, rental affordability for households earning half of median income decreased countywide. While 46 percent of market-rate rentals were affordable to these households in 2006, fewer than 36 percent remained affordable in 2008 (see Indicators 21 and 29, PDFs). In fact, between 2006 and 2008, the average rent for a two-bedroom, one-bath unit in King County increased more than 15 perceent, from $849 to $980 per month.

The entire bulletin is available here.



King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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