Can you afford Seattle's price tag?: Today So Far
Whether it's housing, food, or gas, higher prices are straining the Seattle region, and beyond.
This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for June 8, 2022.
Things are getting pricey around here. Let's start with gas prices.
Despite our region's fervor for alternative fuels and public transportation, the old-fashioned car remains the go-to option for getting around. But gas prices have reached all-time highs. The national average for a gallon of gas is $4.95 right now, according to AAA. In Washington, it's $5.49 (a year ago, it was $3.60). The sudden added cost for families and commuters is becoming a significant political issue as the midterms approach later this year.
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Democrat Kim Schrier represents Washington's 8th Congressional District, which covers much of King County where the average price of gas is $5.65 right now. She is sponsoring two gas-related bills. One will suspend the federal gas tax for the rest of 2022. That would cut prices by about 18 cents a gallon. The second bill would spur an investigation into gas companies for any price gouging. That second bill has prompted some criticism for being nothing more than political theatrics.
Before high gas prices became an issue, the 8th Congressional District was slated to go either way in the upcoming November midterms — Schrier could hold the district for Democrats, or a Republican could take over.
Reagan Dunn is one such Republican. KUOW Reporter David Hyde points out that Dunn is echoing GOP rhetoric from decades ago when high gas prices contributed to Ronald Reagan's win over President Jimmy Carter. It should be noted, however, that unlike years ago, the United States is currently the world's biggest producer of fossil fuels. That hasn't helped at the pump, however. And according to one expert KUOW spoke with, gas companies are wary of dropping prices too fast because of the risks to profits and shareholders.
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Meanwhile, people in the 8th District, and everywhere else in Washington, have to get from point A to B. Read the full story here.
There's good news and bad news about the cost of housing in the Seattle area. The good news is that prices seem to be leveling off and more housing supply has opened up. The bad news is that this is still the Seattle area and those prices are leveling off higher than most home hunters can afford. The typical home value in Seattle is about $985,000, according to Zillow.
"The biggest negative impact comes to first-time buyers," Matthew Gardner, chief economist for Windermere, told Seattle Now. "We have, in our area, about 600,000 Millennials. They are getting older and they do want to buy homes. And all they've seen is mortgage rates skyrocket, which obviously impacts them significantly, and they've also seen rental rates jump, again by double digits. For many of them, they are thinking, 'Do I pay my rent, or do I save up for a down payment?' And if even I can do a down payment, the cost of financing is up..."
What is a homebuyer to do? Well, I hear rent in Lakewood is decent. Then again, you might eat up those savings commuting with high gas prices. Hear Gardner's full conversation with Seattle Now here.
Rising costs have also struck our food. Inflation has kept grocery receipts going higher. One potential outcome of this is an increased strain on local food banks.
Seattle Times Reporter Daniel Beekman tells Seattle Now that weekly food-stamp applications spiked in 2020 across Washington state, went down a bit in 2021, and are back up again as prices rise.
"I talk to people in various different situations who felt a need to visit a food bank," Beekman said. "People who were out of work for one reason or another. People who are retired and had long and successful careers, but are struggling now because they are on fixed incomes with housing prices the way they are in Seattle, with gas and ... grocery prices, it can be a struggle for a lot of people."
Hear Beekman's full conversation with Seattle Now here.
AS SEEN ON KUOW
Cesar Osorio owns Jay's Flooring in Marysville, Washington. He says his costs, and prices, keep rising, but customers continue to pay and he's busier than ever. Part of this has been a move from urban to more rural areas around Washington. The ability to work from home has opened up opportunities for people to find more living space out of cities and suburbs. And that means they want to have a decent home office. That's where Osorio comes in. Read the full story here. (Joshua McNichols / KUOW)
DID YOU KNOW?
This is not really a factoid, but something I found interesting recently. What makes a good lake?
For me, it's fishing and isolation. But for others it's speeding as fast as you can in a motorboat. And for some it's the community. According to Boatline, the city of Chelan ranks as the third best lake town in the USA, out of 17 top towns (Why 17? Good question). Chelan scores high because of its "quaint Main Street charm" and many surrounding wineries.
Not considering the nearby towns, I would have to rank my top Washington lakes as: Lake Cushman; Lake Crescent; and Baker Lake. What are yours?
ALSO ON OUR MINDS
Montgomery County, Md., police arrested an armed man outside Justice Brett Kavanaugh's house at 1:50 a.m. "The man was armed and made threats against Justice Kavanaugh," the U.S. Supreme Court said in a statement.