Affordable housing crisis spreads to Snohomish County
The affordable housing crisis is spreading to communities far outside the city -- places where fewer and fewer people can now afford to live.
In one case, it is a matter of life and death.
David and Julie Hayes have lived a wonderful life together. Married 20 years, they have a loving family and hearts filled with happy memories.
But 2 1/2 years ago David found out he has Stage 4 renal cell carcinoma.
It was a diagnosis that changed everything.
"We were making $75,000 a year at one point," said Julie. "Cancer enters your life and everything goes kaput."
The couple moved to Everett from the Tri-Cities to be closer to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. They found a modest 2-bedroom apartment they could afford for them and their son. It takes every penny of David's disability check.
Then came news the building had new owners who were renovating it and raising the rents by $200 per month.
With Julie caring for her husband full-time, that would be tough.
Making matters worse, the landlord demanded a co-signer with a monthly income four times the rent -- about $5,200.
That would be impossible.
The couple pondered the possibility of being out on the street.
"It has been agonizing," said David. "It has made me sicker."
"The anxiety is so bad, sometimes you break down and can't even breathe," added Julie.
Across Snohomish County, 22,000 people are paying more than half of their income for housing. That's nearly 10-percent of the population.
In Everett, rents have jumped by nearly 25-percent over the past three years alone, while wages have stayed flat.
Mark Smith of the Housing Consortium of Everett and Snohomish County calls it a crisis.
He says more affordable housing needs to be built, but that takes money. A small property tax increase may be needed.
Without it, Smith says, we will see more people like the Hayes family on our streets.
"Somebody with cancer, who does all the right things and is going to lose their home -- there ought to be a place for them where they can live through their recovery or live out their lives with a reasonable degree of comfort."
The Hayes family convinced the landlord to forego the co-signer, but the rent is still going up $200, and they will have to pay utilities as well.
They simply don't have the money but have faith they will somehow find it, as they try to focus on keeping David alive instead of finding a place to live.
The family is looking for a two-bedroom home that includes utilities for about $1,100 per month. If you can help them, email Julie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org. Friends have also set up a Go Fund Me for David and Julie for people who would like to make a donation.