Seattle Council Elections, District 7: Watching The Skyline -- And Rent -- Climb Skyward
From Louis Edelman’s apartment in Seattle’s Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, you can see the Space Needle. Seattle’s iconic landmark is just a few blocks away. But it’s not the only thing popping out of the skyline. Construction cranes dot the landscape, too, as they build office towers and apartments in South Lake Union.
Edelman, who has lived in the 100 block of Roy Street for 10 years. He tends bar down the street and lives in an older apartment building, which he affectionately calls “the bartender projects.”
“A lot of service industry people live in this building," Edelman says. "It’s one of the most affordable buildings in the area.”
From his window, he can see the front door of his workplace, just a 45-second commute on foot. And he can see newer, modern housing climb skyward. Edelman worries it’s only a matter of time before his rent starts doing the same thing.
Edelman pays $1,400 a month for a two-bedroom place. He likes his apartment manager and his building. And while he’s never met the owner, the rent has gone up just $150 dollars a month in the 10 years he’s lived here.
“But I do live under the fear that at some point I’m going to get that notice on the door that’s going to raise it to a level I really can’t afford,” he said.
Just a few blocks down the hill are two brand new buildings where one-bedroom apartments start between $1,700 and $1,900 a month. Granted, those buildings might have more amenities.
But the neighborhood is definitely changing, says CC Conklin.
Two buildings in Lower Queen Anne – the Mercer Street Apartments and the Val Anne – have been in Conklin’s family for about 25 years. Two weeks ago, she advertised a one-bedroom apartment for rent on Craigslist for $975 per month. In four hours, she got more than 100 replies.
“We’ve never had that type of response before,” she said. “Maybe half that over two or three days.”
She says that tells her either she priced the apartment too low, or the neighborhood is really popular. The answer is probably both.
Data from Apartment Insights Washington show that in King and Snohomish counties, rents went up 5 percent last quarter. That’s the largest quarterly jump in 10 years. It’s also jumping annually. Average rents rose 9.7 percent in the last 12 months.
“Business is good,” she said. “It’s always been good.”
As costs and taxes go up, Conklin tries to be judicious about her rent increases. But she worries about what will happen to tenants in the neighborhood – the long-term ones she’s known over the last couple decades, and the folks who come and go. It’s something she says the city council member from this district will have to worry about, too.
“I would like to see her go to bat with the department of housing,” Conklin said. “I think this is actually a citywide issue.”
Meanwhile Edelman, the neighborhood bartender, says he hopes the district’s city council member reaches out to people like him.
“Have a conversation about what our needs are,” he said. “Give us security as far as protecting our homes, and being able to maintain a lifestyle of more than poverty.”
Additional District 7 facts:
-- District 7 has the second-highest rate of residents with incomes higher than $250,000. (Citywide, 5 percent of city residents have an income that high or higher.)
-- Historically, it has been one of the city's more conservative regions with levies for buses, schools and public projects generally faring worse than the city as a whole.
-- The district exceeds the city average for renters -- largely because of the inclusion of Belltown -- with 61 percent of the 92,000 district residents as renters. (The city has 51 percent.)
Sources: U.S. Census American Community Survey 2013 and City of Seattle.
Registered candidates for the 2015 District 7 primary:
Sally Bagshaw, sallybagshaw.com
Gus Hartmann, firstname.lastname@example.org
Deborah Zech Artis, deborahzechartis.com
About this series:
KPLU is exploring an issue central to each of the seven new districts in the upcoming city council primary election. Last Monday, we explored South Park in District 1 and residents' concerns about crime. On the following Tuesday, we were in District 2 at the Othello light rail station, where residents wait for as-of-yet undelivered new commerce. Then on Wednesday, we went into District 3 and the Central District where locals fears gentrification is changing the neighborhood for the worse. The next day, Thursday, we went to District 4 where we talked with group of neighbors who were able to limit a developer’s proposal to build five townhomes on a lot currently containing a classic single-family home. On Friday, we discovered why walking is a little riskier in in far-north District 5 than in other parts of town. Yesterday, we heard from District 6 where Ballard residents are concerned about the breakneck pace of development. We wrapped up primary election district coverage with District 7, where an apartment building on Queen Anne's Roy Street has traditionally has been home to service-industry employees. But now residents there are wondering how much longer can they afford to live in the neighborhood.