The last few years have proven fortuitous for Seattle, as the city has undergone sustained growth with new development projects. The Downtown Seattle Association recently reported that there are a total of 66 major projects currently under construction, a figure that is expected to stay relatively stable in the near future. From South Lake Union to SoDo, it isn’t hard to see that the city is expanding. Cranes are in view in nearly every direction you turn and it is hard not to wonder what is being built. The answer? Mostly, apartments.
Current zoning restrictions in various parts of Seattle are under discussion, as Seattle’s City Council has just begun what promises to be a debate on whether to upzone neighborhoods that have historically been reserved for single-family homes. Seattle Times has been keeping a close eye on the topic in a series of recent articles.
Following the release of the latest S&P Case Shiller Home Price Index, the Seattle Times once again proclaimed the decline of residential home prices in the Seattle metropolitan area. Contrary to headlines, however, trendlines give way to a more nuanced story. Some are using the Case Shiller Index to reinforce misleading growth reports, so let’s have a look at the data used to calculate the Index and compare it to results gathered from sales data in the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS).
Earlier this week, S&P Dow Jones released the August 2018 monthly results of their CoreLogic Case Shiller Home Price Index. Until two months prior, the Index had shown Seattle leading the nation in residential (single-family) home prices for 21 months. That run was brought to an end by a surge of prices in Las Vegas; and while prices in Seattle have continued to advance, the pace has slackened in the weeks since.
A recent Seattle Times housing column tackled a topic that is an important key to understanding our local housing market: zoning. As the article outlines, though 69 percent of Seattle’s residential plots of land contain single-family homes (which is about average compared to the nation’s 50 largest cities) it “generally devotes a lot more of its housing to single-family homes,” which is putting more pressure on a city struggling with affordability amidst rising demand.
Though the winter months have historically given way to slowdowns within the Puget Sound real estate market, there was no sign of a slowdown in February 2018, as home prices in Seattle and on the Eastside reached new benchmark values. As Seattle Times reports, “Seattle’s median single-family-home price hit $777,000 in February, $20,000 more than the previous all-time high set just a month prior,” while on the Eastside, “the median cost of a house was $950,000, or $12,000 more than the peak price from two months ago.” According to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data, home prices in every Puget Sound county increased by at least 15%, with many setting record high values.
As Seattle has grown over the past decade, it isn’t much of a surprise that the city is now in the midst of a transportation crisis, as new residents to the Puget Sound region and growing employment in the downtown core have led to worsening traffic and climbing commute times. In order to help ease growth management, the Downtown Seattle Association, Sound Transit, City of Seattle, and King County are working together through the formation of One Center City, a partnership to craft a two-decade long plan that will transform “how we move through, connect to, and experience Seattle’s Center City neighborhoods.”