Seattle’s extreme growth has arguably been the biggest story of the last five years, and is inarguably linked to the affordability crisis.
The rise in rents and home values we’ve been dealing with since 2013 is what a typical city sees over the course of more than a decade, if not two decades.
And unless your boss has given you a 36 percent raise over the last five years, you have likely been affected by the rapid cost of living increase in some way too.
Yes, the changes have been going on in Seattle for more than five years. For this series, I chose to look at recent history, where the increases have been most pronounced.
And yes, this doesn’t only affect Seattle. The affordability crisis has been bleeding out to all surrounding counties in Western Washington. For simplicity, I limited this series to the people and the data within Seattle.
As an anchor and reporter, I cover the changes this city is going through in one way or another every single day. We typically cover the macro issues: the red hot real estate market or the homelessness emergency. For this series, I wanted to look at the big issues through a much, much narrower lens. I wanted to see our changing city through the eyes of one person or one family trying to make ends meet and stay in the city they love.
I sought out long-time Seattleites who would place themselves in the middle class. Singles and families with solid jobs, who were also giving back to this city in their own way. I found out they’re struggling, making sacrifices to stay in the city they grew up in, and now questioning whether it’s all worth it.
As both a reporter and as a Seattleite, this series was eye-opening.
For one, I assumed the concerns would be solely financial. It’s so much more than that. Each person I profiled independently expressed concerns about the character and values of this city changing: that we are losing the history, the architecture, the arts, even the kindness that made Seattle great. By losing an old bowling alley, we lose one of the last neighborhood places where seniors can socialize. By losing a locally-owned grocery store, we lose an affordable place to get groceries with specialty items that catered to the community.
Second, I learned that even Seattleites who seem to have everything on paper are hurting. Owning a house, having controlled rent, working in tech – none of those things was enough to give these Seattleites enough financial security in this rapidly changing city right now.
And finally, I learned that perspective is everything. Some of the people I profiled felt profoundly grateful to still be living in this city and were more optimistic about the future. Others cherished their memories of the past, and that clouded their view of changes they’re seeing now.
What I hope people take away from this series is a bit of compassion and a greater sense of community. These economic forces of change are so much greater than any one person, or any one public policy could ever tackle. What does seem to be working for the people I’ve met through these stories is cultivating a network of friends and family members. That’s what’s kept them afloat during tough times. That’s how they’ve found affordable housing in a pinch, free childcare, and free meals. That network of support is what’s kept them from being priced out in Seattle.
I’d love to hear your story too. Email me at PricedOut@king5.com.