Seattle’s Residents Can’t Afford to Wait

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Written by Denise Miller, Firesteel Advocacy Manager

When I first moved to Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood 10 years ago, I shared a sweet, freshly renovated three-bedroom house with roommates. Our total monthly rent was about $1,500. Now a new studio at Angeline Apartments, two blocks away from that house, rents for around $1,700.

I am currently fortunate to live in a Columbia City home that my family owns, and I don’t have to worry about landlords jacking up my rent. Many of my friends are not so lucky. A nurse practitioner friend of mine recently got notice that rent on her Columbia City apartment is going up. She is moving south, away from her clinic and her neighborhood community.

Another friend with an advanced degree in social work couldn’t afford the rent hikes that her landlord imposed; she recently moved most of her belongings into storage, and is assembling a patchwork of housesitting gigs and couchsurfing stints until she finds a place she can afford. She is also considering leaving the state.

As you see in the video above, soaring rent prices can cause even bigger problems for families and people with low incomes. In my neighborhood, a landlord recently raised rent dramatically in an apartment building that is infested with pests and mold. (Watch the video we made about that building’s unsafe conditions.) Single mother Sahro Farah’s rent went up from $550 to $1,150 a month. All around our once-affordable neighborhood, housing prices have skyrocketed, but incomes haven’t changed much.

As Seattle grows, we must create housing for people of all incomes. If we do not plan for affordability alongside growth, we’ll have worsening traffic problems, inequality and homelessness.

Every day we wait to take action, we are losing opportunities to create affordable homes for hardworking Seattleites—health care workers, daycare teachers, janitors—who are being pushed out.

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