Seattle's condo conundrum: A historically low supply

Seattle, amid all its growth, is experiencing a historic shortage of condos, as developers choose to build apartments rather than market-ready living spaces.

One reason for the shortage is an unusually stringent state condo law that makes it easier for condo owners to sue developers for construction defects.

Loading ...

"This is really an affordable housing issue," said Kerry Bucklin, condo attorney with Bucklin/Evens in Seattle. "We need more housing. And in order to have more housing, we need to stop suing developers over ticky-tack complaints."

Bucklin is urging state lawmakers to clarify the law in the next legislative session.

There are only four tower developments currently slated to include condos in the downtown core.

Before 1999, King County had an average of around 2,000 condos on the market for buyers to purchase. Today, it's lower than 350 -- a record low.

Dean Jones with Realogics Sotheby's International Realty says clarifying the law is one of several steps that can be taken."The only solution I see to this affordability crisis on market-rate housing is reduce the headwinds that developers face in getting permitted products," he said.

One foreign developer sees the void of condos and is ready to take a risk on Seattle. Dali Development from Taiwan has plans to construct the KODA tower at 5th Avenue and Main Street in Seattle's International District. It's slated to have 17 floors and 202 units, and will soon hit the market with condos between 400-1,124 square feet for up to $1 million.

"A lot of developers are looking to diversity their portfolio, and Seattle is the place to be," said Kevin Hsieh with Dali Development.

"Also, Amazon is huge in Asia right now, so it's become the most attractive place on the West Coast when it comes to growth and potential. Seattle is the city of the future right now," said Hsieh.