Amazon's hard-driven expansion is the primary cause of Seattle's startling rate of growth. Seattleites are well aware that plenty of good and bad will accompany that. For those cashing in on the South Lake Union behemoth, the pay Amazon jobs offer makes a rock-star lifestyle nothing more than a matter of preference. For those outside of that, who do not already own property, the influx of wealth is almost a certain eviction notice.
Seattle sits uncomfortably as one of the single most expensive places in the United States to live, so much so that King County declared a state of emergency in 2015 over homelessness. That same year, roughly 3,000 children enrolled in public schools were officially listed as homeless. At the end of 2017, the number of homeless students rose to over 3,600, a 55 percent increase since 2012.
Of course, this situation isn’t 100 percent a result of Amazon’s rapid growth. Amazon is simply the point of the spear driving high-paying job growth in the area by bringing in some of the top talent from around the world. That, coupled with housing construction that’s lagging behind demand, is creating one of the most competitive housing markets in the United States.
Seattle — before known for perpetual rain, grunge, and coffee — became synonymous with “Amazon” when the tech giant blindsided it with 45,000 jobs. Since 2010, Amazon alone has pumped roughly 38 billion dollars into Seattle’s economy, creating many of the area’s highest paying jobs. This was the first domino in a chain that continues to affect areas well outside of King County.
Such job growth has brought increasing numbers of newcomers to Seattle, skyrocketing housing demand amidst stagnant supply. With underdeveloped housing over the past decade, Seattle simply does not have enough housing units available for everyone who lives here. Properties both for rent and for sale are all going to the highest bidder, making for one of the most cutthroat housing markets in the United States.
A Silver Lining
None of this is an attack on Amazon — lagging housing development is equally responsible for creating the perfect storm Seattle is currently weathering. Conversely to the damage done, the money pumped into Seattle’s economy has helped new businesses establish themselves and thrive, creating more opportunities for residents.
Back to Housing
This silver lining does not address Seattle’s perpetual urban sprawl, however. If Seattle and its surrounding areas are going to accommodate everyone who works there, building up with condos rather than building out with ranchers and townhouses is the only viable option. Because this would mean leveling many already existing homes, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. That limits the amount of new housing construction that can take place while the city continues to grow in population.
It’s a difficult situation that makes for extremely profitable sales and hyper-competitive buys. Seattle has been the hottest housing market in the country for 18 months now, and there is nothing suggesting it will slow down. For anyone brave enough to walk onto the bidding floor with only 44 homes available for resale in an area of 80,000+ residents, you’ll want a guiding hand.