What Seattleites Have To Say About Affordable Housing

May 29, 2014

Houseboats on Lake Union.
Houseboats on Lake Union.
Credit Flickr Photo/PJMixer (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Affordable housing means spending 30 percent or less of household income on housing, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But in the Seattle area, approximately 60 percent of people responding to a KUOW survey reported thay they spend more than 30 percent of their annual household incomes on housing. The KUOW survey, which we posted online, is part of our ongoing "Game of Homes" series. We asked listeners: Have you found affordable housing in Seattle? And if so, how?

We received more than 1,600 responses from zip codes around the Puget Sound area. Here’s what we learned:

If you feel you've found affordable housing, which of these strategies best describes yours?
If you feel you've found affordable housing, which of these strategies best describes yours?
Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott

Affordable Is An Issue For Most Neighborhoods

About 20 percent of respondents said they did not view their housing as “affordable.”

Our most active zip code was 98103, which includes the Fremont, Green Lake and Phinney Ridge neighborhoods. Of the 158 people who replied from that zip code, roughly two-thirds said they spent more than the federal affordable housing standard of 30 percent.

Approximately 50 percent of all respondents said they pay between 30 and 50 percent of their household income on housing. Fourteen percent reported spending more than 50 percent.

Want Affordable? Get Creative

Twenty percent of respondents said they share housing with at least one other person, which could include family, friends or a roommate found on Craigslist. From West Seattle, a listener wrote: "I live with my boyfriend in a small place. We would not be able to afford this place on our own, so we moved in with each other after two months of dating to save on living costs."

At least one respondent gave up owning a car to live in Seattle. And four people told us that they moved onto boats to keep housing affordable.

It’s All Perspective. And timing.

Several people told us they settled for a less-than-desirable neighborhood or dwelling. Nearly 20 percent said they just accepted the higher cost of living.

At least 34 people wrote they could afford housing in Seattle because, “I got lucky!”

A sample of others said patience (or, in one commenters words, “doggedness”) helped them find their space.

See what percentage of income some of your neighbors are spending on housing:

How Some Seattleites Are Making Housing Affordable

"Aggressive culling of Craigslist/Zillow postings. It was a brutal ritual we performed for four summers." - Fremont

"Bought 35 years ago and it's paid for. Might not be able to afford it now if I were buying it at today's prices." - Roanoke Park

"Converted the living room into a bedroom." - Central District

"Decided to go car less." - West Edge

"Ended up buying an old house and turning it into a triplex. The rental income helps us pay the mortgage. We couldn't have afforded a single family." - Ravenna

"Gave up and moved in with my folks." - Madrona

"Got lucky! Found a great place, but had to be cutthroat and aggressive to get it." - Northgate

"I don't have affordable housing. I live in the house I lived in before my divorce, and though it's a stretch at 24 percent (ouch), it is important to my daughter that we stay here, so I've accepted the higher cost. But I am thinking of renting out my basement." - West Seattle

"I live in a boarding house with six to seven roommates." - Bryant

"I live in my church." - Roosevelt

"My house is falling off a cliff." - Mount Baker

"I saved to be able to put a decent amount of money down. But saving meant delaying, or perhaps forgoing, grad school and traveling, which I would love to do." - Hillman City

"We live with a friend and need to add an undocumented roommate to lower the cost to make it affordable." - Ballard

"Work as a landscaper to reduce rent." - Capitol Hill

Credit Flickr Photo/Will Merydith (CC-BY-NC-ND)

[View the story "How To Find Affordable Housing In Seattle" on Storify]

Correction 6/2/14: An earlier version of the pie chart in this piece incorrectly labeled those who responded "Got government help" as 17 percent instead of 1 percent.