December 6, 2022

By Airik Myers, The Seattle Medium

Many young adults in Seattle are finding out that hard truth that living in the city is becoming increasingly unaffordable, so many of them have decided to rent rather than buy a home. This is true even among young adults who earn enough money to buy a home. According to data from Yardi RentCafe, the share of applications coming from renters of the Millennial generation with individual incomes of over 50K, reached a five-year high of 43% in 2021. This is an unexpected rise in people ready to rent from a generation of that were looking to buy before the pandemic.

With an extremely competitive market and the rising cost to rent and buy in the area, the response by many young adults has been to move to outlying cities in the area that remain within a reasonable travel distance to the city of Seattle.  As a result, Kent has become the hotbed for those that are adopting the “lifestyle renting”. In fact, the share of lifestyle renters in Kent has risen up to 47% in 2021. But this isn’t necessarily due to low wages. In data collected from Yardi RentCafe, Millennial applicants in Kent earn $5,280 more than 2020’s prospective renters, with incomes of $42,720. This means that even with a higher average earning than last year’s renters, those who rent are still choosing to rent due to the crazy housing market.

NiRae Petty, Advocacy and Community Engagement Program Manager for the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, says that she moved to Kent because it was difficult to find something she could afford in Seattle.

“I grew up in the CD, then when I moved back home from college, both of my parents had moved to the Des Moines and Kent area,” Petty said. “We’ve moved from the CD out to South King County due to gentrification, so I definitely have firsthand experience.”

When looking to move out and live independently, Petty says that Kent was a viable option because of its proximity to Seattle and its affordability. However, living in Kent also came with its problems.

“It’s been rough living in Kent,” Petty proclaimed. “The first apartment had a rat infestation that they [the building management] were not trying to deal with. The next apartments had a lot of shootings and at least two people were killed.”

Although Kent is a cheaper place to live than Seattle, Petty says her lifestyle isn’t much different. Besides not having to pay a significant portion of her income towards rent, she said the cost of renting was still pretty high. The positive, though, was the demographics of the area more closely resembled the neighborhood where she grew up in Seattle.

“There’s a lot of my friends that grew up in Seattle that actually ended up living in the same apartment as me in Kent,” Petty continued. “Not only is it more affordable, but there’s also a lot more people that look like us down here.”

Another city that has seen an increase in renters is Everett. The city saw a 28% increase in the share of Millennial applicants that earn over 50 thousand dollars. Currently, over a third of the renters in Everett are high earners in the Millennial age range.

Even older age groups are being affected by the raising of costs. The Gen Y percentage of renters in Seattle has dropped 4% from last year. But that hasn’t made as much of a difference as with the younger demographic, as Seattle still has the 13th highest share of Millennial renting applicants in the country at 70%.

According to Doug Ressler, Manager Business Intelligence at Yardi Matrix, part of the increase is a result of suburban apartments adding more amenities that accommodate working from home. These apartments also have several amenities, such as green spaces, that are very attractive for families. The influx of young renters is expected to continue as more apartment are being built to accommodate the noticeable rise in young families and the rising prices of North King County apartments.               

“We see a strong rental market for the next two years. New supply will begin to enter markets in 2022 which will slow the unusual robust rental growth for both lifestyle renters and renters by necessity,” Ressler said. “Going forward, rent growth seems likely to level off, both because of seasonality and because the extraordinary gains should revert to the mean.”

With Seattle’s Expensive Apartment Prices, Young Renters Are Looking North And South For Solutions