Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Latest Data Shows Seattle Lost 785 Rental Properties since 2018

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News , COVID-19 Resource Center ,

Seattle's population grew by about 50,000 people between July 2018 and May 2021, but the city saw a net loss of 785 rental properties according to Seattle’s Rental Property Registration database. While the City added 10,864 units to the rental registry, the total units lost between 2 and 50 units equals 6,429. The result is a net gain of only 4,455 rental housing units in three years.

 

So, what’s going on?

Between 2018 and 2021, the city enacted a number of anti-housing policies that reduced housing creation and drove rental homes off the market. These policies are now having a measurable impact on Seattle’s available rental supply. They include:

  • First in time: which increases property owner risk by forcing them to rent to the first qualified applicant.
  • Winter eviction ban: which forces property owners to provide housing for free without any assistance.
  • School year eviction ban: which forces property owners to provide housing for free without any assistance.
  • De facto rent control: which caps rental rates at 10% under penalty of paying tenant moving fees.
  • Long-term COVID related eviction protections: such as extended defenses to eviction beyond the eviction moratorium, and other contract infringement ordinances.

These anti-housing polices increase housing costs for renters and reduce the availability of rental housing. They are having the opposite effect of the City Council’s stated intentions, but the results were entirely predictable.

We are now even further away from Councilmember Mosqueda’s goal of the 4,500 new housing units per year to meet the 25-year goal of 112,000 new rental units.

 

Rental Housing Registrations Continue to Drop

At the end of 2020, a total of 28,833 properties representing 156,172 rental units were registered with the city. Total registrations decreased by 14.4 percent from 2019 (loss of 4,858 registrations with the program). The city’s Rental Registration report applauds the fact that the total number of units stayed relatively stable with only a 0.65 percent decrease. 

It is anticipated even more rental homes will disappear from the market in the next round of Rental Registration reporting. That’s because 80 percent of single-family units’ registration expires this year and next. Additionally, Seattle’s onerous regulations have put significant pressure on housing providers, making it even more difficult for them to offer housing options in Seattle. 

 

Job Growth Outpaces Housing Creation

Job growth in Seattle has significantly outpaced housing creation too, exasperating the issue and forcing more than 34,000 low-wage workers to commute long distances according to a recent study commissioned by the city of Seattle. By 2030, it is anticipated that there will be about 35,000 net new jobs in lower wage occupations.

The study also revealed that there is a shortage of 21,000 market rental units that are both affordable and available to households at 80% of area median income or below. If something doesn’t change, Seattle’s developers will have no other option but to continue creating housing for higher income households, pricing out more lower income households and forcing them to rent outside of the city.

 

An Immediate Halt to New Laws

Seattle City Council needs to place an immediate hold on all new rental housing ordinances until the full picture of their damage to the rental housing market can be assessed. We will know more about how many homes we lost, including essential single-family homes that Seattle desperately needs, when the Rental Registration data is updated in 2023.[1]

 
July 2018
 
 
May 2021

 

 

Size Class

Properties

Units

 

Properties

Units

Units Added/(Lost)

Single Unit

21,174

21,174

 

21,363

21,363

189

2 to 4 Units

5,145

13,529

 

4,598

12,007

(1,522)

5 to 20 Units

3,239

30,951

 

2,802

27,249

(3,702)

21 to 50 Units

877

27,503

 

836

26,298

(1,205)

51 to 99 Units

286

20,112

 

296

20,886

754

100 to 200 Units

155

21,291

 

174

24,423

3,132

200+ Units

71

19,869

 

93

26,658

6,789

TOTAL

30,947

154,429

 

30,162

158,884

 

[1] Previously rental property owners were required to register once every five years. This changed in 2019, increasing the frequency of registrations to once every two years.