Why Seattle is Better Than San Francisco at Fighting Back in the Affordable Housing Wars-


You do not know expensive rent until you visit San Francisco.  $3000 a month for rent for a one bedroom that would go for $450 in Cleveland is common place.  They are in a pinch and there is almost zero chance of them getting out of it.  Seattle has seen housing prices boom in the last 3-5 years and a deep rooted fear has taken hold that this is the inevitable path for Seattle.  I am a believer in what the city of Seattle is doing.  Seattle is far from perfect but the city and its leaders are trying at the minimum.  Lets take a look at these two high tech cities.

San Francisco: Staying Unique but Unaffordable

A great article in the business insider which you can find here.  The bottom line is redevelopment in the 1950s displaced a large amount of African Americans.  Keen not to let that happen again, a lot of rules and regulations were put into place that slowed development or made it difficult.  This was good to keep the character of San Fran but the zoning killed the needed housing.  Another absolute killer is not accepting high rises and higher building allowances in neighborhoods.  The only way to beat back the issue in San Fran is to build and build upwards!

There are a lot of issues we could point to like air b&b or problems with rent controls and the lack of vacancies.  I believe that lack of building is the biggest issue affecting affordable housing in San Fran.

Seattle- Build Baby Build:

Since moving to Seattle, I experienced several rent hikes.  New apartments are going for $2400-$5000 a month (1 bedroom).  Older apartments are fetching $1700 or more a month for a one bedroom.  The rent increase have been insane and I believe everyone is getting worried.  The difference is that everyone is talking about it and the city with its partners have taken action.

Seattle is one big construction zone right now.  Massive high rises with luxury apartments,7 story buildings with apartments, affordable housing projects and non-profit building.  There are 68 major building projects taking place right now.  On top of that, over 67,000 apartment units are in the process of being built right now!  Over 11,000 units will be finished or have been finished in 2017 alone.  Seattle is the 8th most expensive rental market in the USA but with new apartment construction booming, it has a chance of keeping it from getting to San Fran levels.


The city of Seattle also launched a city wide program to focus on affordable housing.  A new rule makes developers either develop some affordable stock or add money to a pool to create affordable stock.  There are a lot of ongoing neighborhood discussions where citizens are asked to come in and be part of the subject.

San Francisco has a similar program to Seattle where developers have to pay a fee or create affordable units. 

San Francisco’s Inclusionary Housing Program requires new residential projects of 10 or more units to pay an Affordable Housing Fee, or meet the inclusionary requirement by providing a percentage of the units at “below market rate” (BMR) units as a price that is affordable to low or middle income households, either “on-site” within the project, or “off-site” at another location in the City.


San Francisco is a very liberal city that cares for all of its citizens.  Having enough supply is a challenge they will have to deal with over the coming years.  Seattle will never become cheap but there is a possibility they can stay ahead of the curve.  Do you live in Seattle or San Francisco?  Do you have thoughts about how your city is doing?  Email us at info@housing-futures.org



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s