Seattle vs. San Francisco: The Housing Market

It’s not just our football teams going head-to-head! Seattle and San Francisco are finding themselves in a similar Housing Crisis boat. While Seattle isn’t quite as expensive as San Fran, there are similarities between the two cities in the areas of growth and housing demands, and many Seattlelites fear we are not far from reaching San Francisco’s astronomically high housing prices. So how do the two cities compare when it comes to the housing market? Let’s take a look

Pricing

  • Seattle:
    • Median home price: $481,300
    • Median rent price: $1,765/month
  • San Francisco:
    • Median home price: Just over $1 million
    • Median rent price: $3,995/month

Community Resistance

  • Seattle: Many communities are vehemently opposed to the building of large houses on small lots as well as micro-housing apartments, some even forming neighborhood conservation districts.
  • San Francisco: Just like Seattle and many other U.S. cities, San Francisco also has residents who resist new development, hoping to preserve the city they love.

Permitting Process

  • Seattle: Roger Valdez, who represents builders through Smart Growth Seattle states about obtaining a building permit, “It’s a challenge. It’s difficult. But it’s not as difficult as San Francisco.”
  • San Francisco: Approving a building permit in the coastal communities of California takes an average of seven months.

 

Affordable Housing Options

  • Seattle: A person who makes under $46,000 a year would qualify for a rental unit that is below current market rates. Seattle has “incentive zoning” in areas of the city where a developer can choose either to include affordable housing units or pay a fee in exchange for clearance to build higher than the typical limit.

 

  • San Francisco: There is a program in place called “inclusionary housing,” where developers must make 12-15% of the building affordable housing units, or pay a fee. The city also has a housing trust fund used to build these units.

Rent Control

  • Seattle: There is a statewide ban on rent control.
  • San Francisco: Rent increases are capped for residents living in buildings built in 1979 or earlier.

Both cities lack the land for expansion, so density is the only viable solution. Seattle has built twice as fast as San Francisco in the last 20 years, so our city may be slated to handle the growth while also keeping the housing prices from creeping towards San Francisco’s rates. Only time will tell!

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