Growth accelerated in 2016, with more suburban markets leading the way

Census data released last week showed yet another acceleration of regional population growth. King County maintained a high growth rate, added another 35,700 residents in the year ended July 1, 2016. But neighboring counties saw higher growth rates.

Pierce added 18,600 residents, more than twice the average of the preceding five years. Snohomish added 17,500 residents, vs an average 10,900 per year between 2010 and 2015. Constraints on development in King County may be diverting new residential growth into the suburban cities of Snohomish, Pierce, and beyond.

Outlying counties also grew. Thurston County added 6,000 residents and Kitsap 4,300. Both were significantly higher than most recent years.

Measured as growth rates, King County grew 1.7% in 2016 (same as 2015); Snohomish grew 2.3% (vs. 1.6%); Pierce 2.2% (vs. 1.5%); Thurston 2.2% (vs. 1.3%.) Kitsap expanded 1.6%, well above recent norms though lower than a spike in growth in 2015.

Where did the growth come from? The Census breaks down the sources of population change. Natural increase (births – deaths) is predictably stable and contributed 28% of last years growth. Net international migration declined slightly and accounts for 25% of growth in 2016.

Domestic migration rates shifted dramatically toward suburban counties in 2016

47% of growth is domestic migration which grew spectacularly in 2016, everywhere except King County. The Census defines domestic migration as moves between US counties, and has not reported whether the increases in Snohomish and Pierce represent moves from King County or from elsewhere. Even if from elsewhere, many of these new residents may have preferred to live in King County. Both Snohomish and Pierce added more residents via domestic migration than King in 2016, and both more than doubled the pace of domestic net migration over the previous year. Thurston almost tripled.

There’s a clue in driver license data. New driver licenses issued to out-of-state drivers are a measure of gross migration from other states, whereas the Census measures net flows from other counties. The driver license data indicates a continued increase in gross migration to King from other states, but stable migrations from other states to neighboring counties. Follow the math, and it suggests migration from King to adjoining suburban counties. The shift toward suburban growth is local displacement of former King County residents.

It’s hazardous to read too much into one year of data. We also lack the city-level data for a finer analysis at this time. We’ll report on that next month. But the trend of the last few years – that King County would grow at a faster pace than its neighbors – decisively reversed in 2016.

We’ve reported before about the centralization of growth around Seattle and some of the central Eastside cities. High home prices and rents suggest no slowing in demand for housing in close-in communities. But the numbers hint demand for housing in King County has run up against outdated growth targets and other barriers to accelerating construction of more homes. Housing prices and rents are increasing regionwide, with large increases reported in once-peripheral markets like Issaquah and Marysville.

Growth has not slowed in King County. Central cities like Seattle and Bellevue have been rocketing through outdated growth targets for several years. But cities face no penalty for not increasing capacity as long as they are “meeting GMA requirements”, i.e. planning for a growth forecast that predated the boom. Zoned supports as many housing units as the GMA requires, but fewer than the market needs to supply. Easing barriers to market rate housing is politically fraught. The process of adjusting growth targets upwards is likely to work slowly through another comprehensive planning cycle.

Even though the region’s worst traffic is on long commutes from the far north and south, concerns about local traffic congestion can defeat efforts to create more housing in centrally located suburban inner suburbs. Will we look back at 2016 as the year exurban sprawl returned?

Several more charts after the jump:

A slight decrease in net migration from overseas in 2016
A predictably boring chart of births – deaths. Boring is good.
DOL data indicates domestic migration from other states is increasing in King County

62 Replies to “2016: Did growth outpace our willingness to build homes?”

  1. I know over a dozen former Seattle friends who all left King county in 2015. I left in 2014 to an adjacent county. If you’re in your mid 30s I would bet you have a similar experience. Not much housing turnover, few family homes being built in King county. Maybe I’ll return when I’m 55.

    1. I’m in my 30’s with a child in King Co. and ready to move out. No condos for sale, few homes for sale (none of which are affordable), almost all new apt. units are one bedroom, and when you find a 2+ bedroom the risk of major rent increases and/or tear downs make it too risky – if you want to stay in the same area to keep your kid in the same school with his/her friends.

    2. Moved from Seattle to Bothell but still in King County. I have friends who moved into Snohomish mostly because they couldn’t find a home to raise kids in King that they could afford.

    3. Am leaving Seattle after 37 years here. Was laid off and can no longer afford my rent. And there’s nowhere to go.

      Since I no longer recognize the city and find it increasingly inhumane due to developers wholly running the game, am relieved to be getting out. I am grateful I was able to live the best years of my life when Seattle was truly livable.

  2. Yet Seattle is skipping the “high-rise” option for their Uptown rezone and instead will only let in an additional 503 people over the next 20 years (compared to the baseline of not upzoning). Compare that to the 1000 people moving to our region each week, and consider how central a residential neighborhood Lower Queen Anne is, and you begin to see the problem.

    Clearly neighborhoods aren’t going to make real room for people, and we’ll keep our apartments and condos fenced in to little areas making up 13% of our land area (and that includes lowrise zones i.e. townhouses). We need a city-wide upzone now.

    1. yup. The small 1BR LQA condo that I rented out in 2010 with a view of Elliott Bay (including a garage space and w/d in unit for $1100 a month!) now has a view of the back of two apartment buildings. (I now own a place in Ballard near the proposed light rail stop– but I knew going in that no one in Ballard would have a view).

    2. its sad that the upzone in downtown is so small. 40ft on 400ft is not enough and most of the close in neighborhoods are only going to 7 or 8 stories. Capitol Hill (where I live) should be pursuing something equivalent to the U District (300+ ft) and Downtown should be moving towards at least 500ft (if not unlimited).

      I understand that this will create more expensive housing, but since we have pegged affordable housing as a rate to building, this will create more affordable housing as well. The bigger the tower, the more affordable units they create.

      1. The Uptown EIS assumes that increasing the buildable capacity beyond mid-rise heights will only result in modest increases in actual growth. The preferred alternative will increase the growth estimate by 370 units and 503 people by 2035, as you say, compared to the no action baseline of 3,000 units, while increasing the full buildout capacity by about 3,100 units compared to the baseline of 8,600 units. The high-rise alternative would have added only slightly more units to the no action alternative (745 instead of 370) in terms of forecasted growth and a further 6,000 or so in buildout capacity. So the problem seems to be the paltry growth forecasts more than the matter of selecting the correct alternative, if you desire maximal increase in units.

  3. My suggested GMA revision:

    1. In a county whose population exceeds 500,000, the largest city in that county most have a zoning code that allows enough housing for four times the expected population growth.
    2. In a county whose population exceeds 1,000,000, the second largest city in that county most have a zoning code that allows enough housing for two times the expected population growth.
    3. In a county whose population exceeds 200,000 but is less than 500,000, the largest city in that county most have a zoning code that allows enough housing for two times the expected population growth.

    As I see it, clause 1 covers Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, and will soon cover Vancouver and Spokane (since their counties are close to 500,000).
    Clause 2 only covers Bellevue, but will probably hit Lakewood in the next 20 years.
    Clause 3 covers various smaller cities in the state, including Spokane, Vancouver, Yakima and Bellingham.

    This would significantly reduce suburban growth by forcing primary cities to have enough housing.

      1. Except that having this law in place would push the NIMBYs to oppose any such annexations.

        Meanwhile, Bellevue’s double-zoning would lead to a building boom.

      2. Bellevue is currently having a building boom, with downtown population to more than double over the next few years.

        Kent is certainly growing and should be treating like a real city, not a sleepy suburb, but Bellevue should remain the 2nd largest city in King.

    1. My proposal? Permanently ban height limits and FAR limits and unit count limits and anything else which prevents building “up”. The problem will solve itself within 6 months.

  4. “The shift toward suburban growth is local displacement of former King County residents.”

    This matches my anecdotal experience perfectly. I know multiple families who have moved from King County to Snohomish and Pierce counties. None of them wanted to, but housing prices forced the issue. The prices are at least partly driven by demand from the high number of people moving from outside.

    It absolutely baffles me when people think that stopping or “pausing” housing development will somehow improve this situation. It may prevent destruction of specific units of housing, but it can’t prevent wealthy newcomers from competing to take over those units of housing.

    1. “It absolutely baffles me when people think that stopping or “pausing” housing development will somehow improve this situation. ”

      Yet Seattle times uses Brier Dudley, and his superficial logic, to make this claim to the masses and sell newspapers.

    2. Yes, the Dudley article talks about owning a house is the key to personal affordability (being able to stay there in the future) and it’s what people want. But he fails to notice that that option is available only to existing homeowners. The hordes of new homeowners he imagines buying Seattle houses and gaining stability won’t, because there aren’t empty houses for them to buy — other people are living in them, and they stopped moving in 2008 and haven’t started again. So his rhetoric says he’s arguing for the ordinary guy to have a change for stability and wealth accumulation, but his proposal is a de facto extraordinary privilege for existing homeowners — only they will have the stability and wealth accumulation. That’s not “everybody”; it’s a minority of people and will get relatively smaller as the population increases.

      It’s like the bad kind of rent control in the 1970s, where only existing buildings were subject to it: now in 2017 it gives an extraordinary privilege to a dwinding percent of residents who already live in those old buildings, and it does nothing to solve the greater problem of housing scarcity and rising rents and home prices now.

      1. It isn’t even that great for existing homeowners unless you have and want a very static lifestyle. I was lucky enough to buy a house in 2013, just before everything went insane, but I never intended to stay there forever. Now it looks like I’m stuck here, regardless of how my life may change over the years to come, because I couldn’t afford a house here anymore, even if there were any available to buy!

        On top of that, the value of living close to the city center is diminishing, as our collective failure to allow proportional development is steadily driving away the creative community which drew me here in the first place. I got in just in time, but what about my friends who didn’t? What about my younger sister – what is she supposed to do if she ever wants to buy a place, move to Issaquah or Lynnwood? I’ll never see her, all the way out there.

        We need to upzone the entire city, *now*. Single-family zoning makes no sense within city limits. Every neighborhood, everywhere, needs to allow duplexes, triplexes, quads; everywhere walking distance of a neighborhood center needs to allow rowhouses and townhouses. On top of that we need to relax the division between residential and commercial zones, so we can bring back neighborhood corner shops, and allow small businesses to find homes throughout the city.

        If we can’t do that, we’re going to continue choking ourselves to death on our imaginary real estate appreciation profits, and we’ll end up with a shiny, wealthy city that has absolutely no soul.

      2. We need to upzone the entire city, *now*. Single-family zoning makes no sense within city limits. Every neighborhood, everywhere, needs to allow duplexes, triplexes, quads; everywhere walking distance of a neighborhood center needs to allow rowhouses and townhouses. On top of that we need to relax the division between residential and commercial zones, so we can bring back neighborhood corner shops, and allow small businesses to find homes throughout the city.

        Can you please run for city council? This whole paragraph is exactly correct.

      3. @Mars Saxman: We’ll become Vancouver, BC by what your saying. I don’t disagree with that. I’ve been to Vancouver a few times and it’s the definition of a city of glass that is hollow or see through.

      4. “We need to upzone the entire city, *now*. Single-family zoning makes no sense within city limits.”

        +1! Remaining a mostly single-family city is no longer tenable. This isn’t the 1920s with 200,000 people or the 1950s with 500,000 people. The region has long surpassed that; we crossed the threshold in the 1990s. The appropriate model for what Seattle is now is Chicago, Boston, or Paris: mostly row houses and multifamily with some scattered single family in the interior and perhaps on the shoreline periphery.

        Upzoning the whole city does not mean everything will become multifamily towers. The housing demand is less than that. Upzoning will merely give every homeowner freedom to develop if they want to. That will lead to some number of towers scattered throughout town, and some number of row houses and ADUs. They will mostly be near the planned transit corridors because that’s what buyers/renters want. A few dozen towers will saturate demand for large expensive buildings. Then the remaining developers will have to build smaller, cheaper, locally-financed things because that will be the only market left (and the only kind of financing small developers can get, and a niche that large Wall Street developers aren’t interested in). This will lead to, as I said, mostly multifamily and row houses in inner areas like Wallingford. However, many remote neighborhoods will remain mostly single-family for decades because demand is not large enough to blanket the city.

    3. As a suburbanite in Marysville, watching the small patches of forest that I trespassed in as a kid get chopped down for strip malls and apartments is very sad. The few people I’ve talked to who have moved in used to live further south, either Seattle or southern Snohomish County, and get priced out of their market.

      By 2040, Marysville may not have undeveloped space left (outside of protected areas), with the proposed manufacturing district over current farm fields, and lots of new roads planned for new residential areas. At the very least, the city wants to build something small and walkable near the railroad crossing, hoping to bank on a possible Sounder extension or even Link (a bit crazy, but some are proposing it).

  5. Several stories here about families moving from Seattle to the suburbs to find affordable housing. And judging from the comments, these are families like mine that are too “rich” for Seattle’s subsidized (HALA, etc.) housing but also too poor for market-rate housing. These folks are the missing middle that will be gone from Seattle in another generation. The City’s housing agenda overlooks this middle class.

    1. Divorced dad with two minor kids who used to live in the burbs.

      One part of the calculation that most families don’t consider when buying a home out in the burbs is the fact that in Seattle there are lots of places you can live car-free with kids, especially now that we have Car2Go, ReachNow, ZipCar and Pronto^H^H^H^H^H. Move out to the burbs and need 2 cars and that is an extra $1500+ per month.

      I couldn’t afford my Seattle mortgage if I had a car. I still can’t really afford it without a car but at least I can make a valiant attempt.

      1. I find living with one car in suburbia (as a family) quite easy. Trick is choosing somewhere with direct access to transit. It’s not hard.

      2. For families like mine, with children and close relatives spread from Burien to Marysville, and an elderly parent in need of close attention, the idea of living without an automobile is preposterous, regardless of home location. Steven L is right. In the burbs, you have to pay closer attention to find transit options, but they are there. Sound Transit’s 512 is an excellent express connection between SW Snohomish County and downtown Seattle. It’s an all-day route with 15-minute headways even in the middle of the day. And those midday buses can get quite full.

    2. Same as other affluent US cities. There’s a middle in Seattle today, but that will change within a generation when kids sell their parents old homes.

      HALA makes market housing pay for low income housing. It’s a recipe for polarization and a loss of middle class households.

      Not a reason not to do it, but we should be clear who this plan is helping and who it is hurting.

    3. This is why I’ve changed my mind of MHA. It helps a pretty narrow range of people at the expense of everyone else. Everyone is impacted by rising housing prices, not just people in specific income brackets.

      More extensive upzones, and re-legalizing micro housing would help everyone…

      That said, I’m hopeful that overall the upzones will have greater benefit than the cost of the MHA. The sightline guy doesn’t seem to think so though.

      Usually I’m happy to live in a liberal city, but it does seems like the free market approach works much better for housing.

    4. “these are families like mine that are too “rich” for Seattle’s subsidized (HALA, etc.) housing but also too poor for market-rate housing.”

      That’s what I’ve been saying for a long time to deaf ears. There’s a huge gap between people who are eligible for “affordable” housing ($20,000 for a family of 4 I think) and those who can afford market-rate housing ($65,000). That gap is where all working-class and lower middle-class jobs are.

      “HALA makes market housing pay for low income housing. It’s a recipe for polarization and a loss of middle class households.”

      The middle-class households would be lost the same without HALA, but there would be no more affordable housing, so the net result would be only the rich.

      HALA should have had a much more widespread upzone. The provisions for abolishing single-family zones and allowing duplexes/triplexes should have been kept. But it was a compromise, and we have to accept whatever can pass the city council because we can’t get more, and there will always be opportunities later in future council terms. A stunted upzone is better than no upzone.

      1. HALA committee “out thought themselves” to some extent, but Murray the eternal politician dismissed their most important suggestions. It’s much to do about nothing.

      2. That’s why zoning is so incredibly important – we can afford to subsidize housing for the poor (though we don’t do so sufficiently yet), but currently, it’s the broad middle that’s struggling to afford housing. You can’t subsidize 40% of the population’s biggest single expense, but you can build enough to bring prices down for everybody.

      3. EHS, you are mistaken. We can’t build our way out of unaffordable middle-class housing. When housing prices begin to decline, builders stop building new housing. What happened most lately during the Great Recession.

      4. RDPence, you’re completely 100% totally wrong, to the point where I would use the phrase “full of it”.

        Builders will build as long as they can do so profitably. That means, *if there is no zoning*, they’ll build until there’s a 5 to 10% vacancy rate on apartments. Then they’ll stop.

        Yeah, when housing prices decline, profit margins for developers drop. But when your profit margin drops from 100% to 50%, you keep on building. When it drops from 50% to 30%, you keep on building. When it drops from 30% to 10%, you keep on building. When it drops from 10% to 5%, OK, then you probably stop buliding.

      5. Different developers have different scales of cost-effective. The large developers with Wall Street financing are only interested in large expensive towers and breadboxes. They have both the most financing and power, and demanding shareholders that want the high profits that only $500K condos or $2300 rents can provide. They need large chunks of land in the best places to provide the downtown/central location their clients demand. When those best large lots are full, those developers are gone. Then comes smaller local developers, ma and pa homeowner, and nonprofits, that can only afford to build a duplex or small 4-8 unit apartment self-financed or with local financing. Their budgets are lower, their expenses are lower, and their rents are lower. But currently they’re not allowed to build because single-family zoning says no way. The only places they could build are the hot lots in the urban villages, and there they’re competing with the larger developers for the same parcels so they’re completely outbid. But if the entire city were upzoned, or even just the areas between urban villages (such as my pet Chicago-like north Seattle from Ballard to the U-District and the Ship Canal to 55th or 65th or wherever), then the large developers would saturate their market, the small developers would come in around them, and the tiny developers around them — and still there would be lots of single-family houses remaining, because Seattle city is not going to turn 4 million population anytime soon. This is the way to get the right amount of housing so that everybody can get the type they want at a reasonable price.

  6. Maybe it’s time for an unholy alliance between urbanists and the NIMBYists who actually live in the suburbs to dramatically increase PSRC’s growth targets for Seattle. Possible talking points in Marysville, Puyallup, Fife, Burien, etc.:

    We have a bunch of homeless people because Seattle isn’t building enough housing.

    People who would rather live in Seattle are coming here because they can’t afford to live there, and they’re driving up housing prices here too.

    I’m sure plenty more can be formulated along those lines.

    1. Eric, I think “homeless” doesn’t accurately describe the condition of large percentage of the people to whom that term is usually applied. Truth is that they are “the long-term untreated mentally ill.”

      Fifty years ago, rather than bring US mental hospitals to the level of the civilized world, large numbers of these hospitals were shut down, and their patients literally thrown out on the streets.

      Intention was to provide these patients with more humane treatment- starting with care and medicine brought to them in the homes they were also supposed to get.
      Put that program back on track, and one very visible problem solved.

      But I think that many of us who had to leave Seattle are in a position to create for ourselves and each other the kind of city life we really like best: turning stagnant places active.

      Three years is pretty early on into the process. But I think it’s time that we The Great Relocated start designing our own communities, rather than simply accept ugly boring way of life currently being mass-produced and sold to us.

      Our very numbers give us exactly the power we never had in Seattle: a great deal of local and county government will soon be ours for the electing. Bringing with it the ability to zone for density, small industry, transit orientation and transit itself.

      And best of all, the ability to carefully zone so that none of the people who bought the Seattle we built will be able to stand to live in our new one. Sandblasting bricks will be against all our building codes. And everything that looks industrial will have to produce something besides overpriced single mollusk dinners.

      But we’ll carefully and quietly be watching the stats for our greatest proof of victory. When majority of kids run away in our direction.


      1. It was actually 20-30 years ago. The process of dumping the mentally ill on the street started under Reagan and was finished in the mid-1990s.

  7. “47% of growth is domestic migration which grew spectacularly in 2016, everywhere except King County” – chart suggests this should be “everywhere except Kitsap County”.

    1. I see where you’re going. But Kitsap is small and therefore volatile. It’s way up on 2014 or 2013.

      The King County net domestic migration numbers (10K, 11K, 12K, 7K, 6K, 9K) look flat to falling relative to the 2016 takeoff in other counties. And certainly less than the 5K increase in gross out-of-state US migration to King County shown in the DOL data in 2016.

    2. I’m leaving Washington state first chance I get, and this inability to build housing is one of the reasons. I’m saving for a house in Dallas. I know several people that moved there and love it. Texas is providing jobs for everyone and housing for everyone. Dallas and Houston are both starting to have some good pockets if density and expanding transit systems. Love seattle, but I’m done paying sky high prices for a a city with one decent high capacity transit line, not one comfortable method to get around, and neighborhoods where everything closes at ten.

      1. Hank, Texas has some beautiful countryside as well. Just do remember that law enforcement outside the Big 5 cities (Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin) is medieval.

      2. Be careful about being stuck in traffic- it’s often worse then Seattle! (Plus Texas will have an economic reckoning when all those low density suburbs and lack of funding in some areas for education become obviously fiscally unsustainable in the future).

      3. And Dallas’ DART does not go to many walkable neighborhoods, and not many walkable neighborhoods exist (I counted 1), and even downtown is spread out because of cheap parking everywhere.

  8. If only there was a 19th century German philosopher who predicted what would happen when industry-driven urbanization created a market of housing commodification…

  9. What’s the military factor in Pierce County growth rates? That is to say, Is JBLM adding personnel and civilian contractors or is there a net draw down? DT Tacoma is still a ghost town mid-day compared to Seattle.

    1. It’s significant. Base realignment has really benefitted JBLM. However, a lot of folks are moving south from King County to places like Bonney Lake, Puyallup’s South Hill, and the North End of Tacoma.

      It’s hard to tell which is a bigger driver of growth though because the JBLM folks (actual military personnel) are constantly rotating through to and from other posts. But estimate that there are nearly many thousands of them, potentially up to 100k if you include families.

      1. PS – I would guess the JBLM population growth has likely hit its peak and is probably going to hold stable at that ~100k number for several years, perhaps quite a way into thr forseeable future.

        Also keep in mind JBLM has driven a ton of growth in Lacey and Yelm in Thurston County, even Olympia. It’s not just confined to Pierce.

    2. A lot of the greenfield development is in east Pierce, with the 157-405 corridor unable to handle the growth in traffic as people try to get to jobs in either Seattle or East King. But I’m sure JBLM is a component.

    3. It would be informative to put some actual numbers or percentages on the Military (in county) growth vs commuters. All of the growth in Auburn is King County. I’m not really clear on where the county line is along I-5.but Federal Way is still King County and North Tacoma has been “built out” for years. I was surprised to learn that Gig Harbor is actually in Pierce County. There has been a ton of growth on that side of the Narrows. Surely those folks aren’t driving all the way to Seattle???

      The effect of the military extends to all the retail and service demand in the private sector that is created by the base. Another significant driver of growth is the number of military retirees that settle in the area to have access to services; especially Madigan.

      Anyway, if most of the growth is directed toward JBLM and the spin off jobs it creates; Tacoma Mall retail area, Puyallup South Hill, Roy Y then making light rail to Seattle the number uno big ticket investment might not provide much value to Pierce County if it’s main purpose is to relieve housing pressure in King County.

      1. Its main purpose according to Tacoma’s mayor and the Pierce subarea is to attract companies to locate in downtown Tacoma, and workers and shoppers in south King County to come to Tacoma, and as a train to the airport which employers cite as a significant factor in their willingness to locate in Tacoma. The fact that it also serves commuters to Seattle is a secondary bonus. That’s why they’re so calm about Link increasing the travel time from Tacoma to Seattle: it’s a secondary issue for them.

        The reasons for Snohomish’s Paine Field deviation and Everett extension are parallel to this. It’s not so much to get Everettites to Seattle conveniently but to boost Everett’s economy and bring jobs to Everett so that Snohomish County residents can work within the county rather than commuting to King County. Something like 70% of Snoho residents work in King County, and a lot of Snoho workers come from outside the county, so the county and cities are trying to do all they can to make it so that people can both live and work within the county. As the train goes from Everett to Seattle, it also goes from Lynnwood to Everett and Mountlake Terrace to Paine Field.

        Note that the travel time is not parallel, however. Seattle-Lynnwood and Seattle-Everett will be in the mid-range of ST Express: faster than peak hours but slower than Sunday morning. Seattle-Tacoma and Seattle-FW will always be slower, 10-20 minutes as I recall.

  10. Middle income households have a rough time in affluent major cities. But remember that while poor people are theoretically eligible for directly subsidized housing, most of them don’t have it. I believe the figure nationally is about 1/3 of income eligible households are actually getting some kind of reduced cost unit/rent subsidy. Unfortunately, it’s easy to see that number going down under the Trump administration.

    Towers are fine in their place. But personally I wouldn’t want to live in a city of only towers, that too would be a housing monoculture like the single family only places (albeit one that provides more housing). You don’t necessarily need towers everywhere to get density. Paris has a 7 story citywide height limit and density of over 60,000 people per square mile, just like Manhattan.

    1. Luckily, we don’t need towers everywhere, just a lot of extra apartment buildings, duplexes, and a few dozen towers.

      1. Yeah, it turns out that rowhouses or 4-story apartment buildings can have REALLY HIGH density. Go to 6 or 8 and you can have massively high density.

    2. It’s an all-of-the-above solution, with towers in particular nodes (U District, Bellevue, Lynnwood?) and midrise elsewhere.

      If you’re a champion of Paris-esque development, much of the action is outside of Seattle, with cities like Kent, Redmond, Fife, Shoreline, and Issaquah all trying to create entirely new 4~8 story neighborhoods around future light rail station.

  11. May have missed it, but I’m not seeing anyone asking why so many people want to move into Seattle in so few years. Specifically: Are people really immigrating- or are they escaping?

    If it’s the second one, anything we can do to make life good enough in the places they left that nobody is forced to live here? Again. What bad thing happened so suddenly?

    Also. Isn’t it true that a very small number of people are making a very large amount of money off there dynamics. And not all of them from building, selling, and renting out homes.

    Many are simply speculating. Meaning gambling. And based on good precedent, betting mainly that taxpayers will cover their losses- like we did in 2008.

    Since this is the case, suppose we start assessing these people enough taxes to pay the cost of what their activities are costing all of us, including the thousands of people displaced from our homes.

    Starting with some very fast transit-building to remedy the demolition of thirty years of land use planning in three years. For speculators who don’t like it? Hope they let the door whack them all the way to Texas on their way out.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Most people are coming for money, because the influx of people rises and falls with the number of high-paying tech jobs. In the 2000 and 2008 recessions a lot of people left, and at least in the latter one there were vacancy signs on practically every building in the Summit area.

      There have long been people coming to flee an oppressive religious or social environment back east; e.g., because they’re gay or not conservative Christians. I’ve met several people who came from Florida or Georgia for these reasons; it’s as if they’re going to the furthest point in the contiguous US. Then there’s people coming because they think Seattle is cool or a good place to start a band. However, I think all these people are not very numerous compared to the ones coming for a job. At least I haven’t met more than a steady trickle who fit this description.

      Then there’s people fleeing California’s high housing prices and taxes. They’re setting all over Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Texas, and other parts of the country, not particularly Pugetopolis. What doesn’t get noticed is that while a large number come from California to Washington, an almost equal number go the other way and cancel them out.

      1. It’s always jobs.

        The guy might come to Seattle to start a band, but if they can’t find work, either they or someone else will leave.

        Non-working populations such as retirees and bohemians are not a significant enough portion of a big-city population to have any significant affect on the growth rates.

      2. @Donde – I think a decent amount of the growth in downtown Seattle is drive by retirees as people downsize from homes to condos, but that’s mostly migration within the region. At a regional level, it’s very much the economy.

      3. It’s tech jobs specifically. And California, the other center of tech jobs, has an even *worse* housing situation than Seattle.

        If we somehow manage to get tech industries to move into, say, Buffalo NY, then Buffalo will boom like you cannot imagine. But that’s unlikely.

  12. I’m really curious where in pierce and snohomosh this growth is most concentrated. My guess would be the exurbs, as if it was in more central locations, it would presumably follow the same pattern in King, and we wouldn’t see the gap in growth.

    However, I’d argue that population growth in pierce and snohomish counties isn’t necessarily bad from an urbanist’s perspective; Tacoma and Everett have urban cores that would be great to see a revival in. Similarly, growth in already-filled places like Lynnwood would come from increasing density, most likely near the future light rail.

    I’d love to see, then, the housing type breakdown of this new growth. There’s certainly a component of it that is apartment growth in the old town centers, though again, I don’t suspect that’s the dominant story. If it were, we’d see higher growth in king county, that has both Seattle’s obvious boom and plenty of old town centers to revitalize (Redmond, Bothell, Renton, Des Moines, Kent, Issaquah, etc.

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