November 14, 2017

Seattle’s remarkable growth creates challenges—and also opportunity

The latest Atlantic Media/Allstate Regional Renewal poll reveals that residents believe local leaders are working together towards a shared goal

A new Renewal Project Poll finds that many Seattle residents are concerned about the region’s tremendous growth. Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images

Over the past decade, Seattle has consistently ranked among the fastest-growing big cities in the country. This growth has been spurred by the burgeoning tech industry, and the corporate and philanthropic giants that call Seattle home, including Amazon, Microsoft, and The Gates Foundation. By some estimates, more than 220 new residents have moved in every day of the past year. When it comes to growth, “Seattle is a city on steroids,” writes Gene Balk, a columnist at The Seattle Times.

However, with that growth come substantial downsides—and Seattle’s residents are feeling the pressure.

In October, Seattle marked a full year of having the biggest increases in housing prices in the country. In the span of one year, single-family home prices increased by 13.2 percent. The next runner up: Las Vegas, at a comparatively paltry 8.6 percent increase. The strain is proving difficult for Seattle residents. “Where do I have to be in my career in the Seattle market to be able to afford something?” Colin Perez, a 30-year-old Seattle tech worker told The Seattle Times. “I’m 30 now; if I wait until I’m 40, is it even going to be affordable? You can’t catch up.”

This sentiment is widespread among Seattleites. According to the latest Atlantic Media/Allstate Regional Renewal poll, 50 percent of respondents said that the city’s population growth has had a negative effect on the region. In addition, almost one-third of residents polled said that quality of life in their community had gotten worse since they first moved.

Graphic courtesy of FTI Consulting which also conducted the poll

“There is a housing affordability crisis in our city,” said Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess at a recent press conference announcing a new housing initiative. “This is the flip side of the amazing growth we’ve experienced that has brought thousands of good, family-wage jobs to our city and cutting edge, innovative companies. But for too many, it’s becoming too difficult to live in our city thanks to the cost of housing.”

Seattleites clearly agree. Sixty-four percent of residents polled said that the state of affordable housing options is either mostly terrible or somewhat terrible. One particularly concerning poll result shows that almost half of the region’s residents “find it difficult to save and invest, whether for retirement or other purposes.”

Despite this, there are notes of confidence in the poll results. More than two-thirds of respondents think the region is moving in a positive direction, and 75 percent believe that staying in the area will be most beneficial for their career and family. And while the tech boom has led to dramatic population growth, it’s also contributing to renewal and growth in the region as well: 77 percent of residents believe that local companies are engaged in addressing the region’s needs.

“Seattle area residents are extremely positive about the region’s long-term trajectory and the growing economic opportunity it provides,” said Atlantic senior editor Ronald Brownstein.

Four hundred adults in the Puget Sound region participated in this poll, which was conducted from Sept. 20 to 24 of this year.

See the full results of the Seattle Atlantic Media/Allstate Regional Renewal poll here.

Mikhail Klimentov

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor for The Renewal Project.