In case you haven’t noticed, the housing market has grown wings and taken flight. This is leaving our community’s workers with fewer and fewer options for housing and putting local …
In case you haven’t noticed, the housing market has grown wings and taken flight. This is leaving our community’s workers with fewer and fewer options for housing and putting local employers in a lurch.
In all of March, the Leader’s Classifieds section listed only two rentals: one house and one apartment (neither of which allowed pets). I learned that the house listing received “40 or 50” inquiries. So far in April there have been only two rentals listed. One unit is a tiny home that is only available for a single person for a maximum of two months, no pets. The other is a two-bedroom unit for $3,250 per month for a six-month stay, or $2,500 per month for one year; it is also being advertised on Seattle Craigslist.
Those who can buy aren’t able to secure housing either. The number of home sales in Jefferson County increased 39 percent comparing the end of 2019 with the end of 2020, and prices that were already high increased 11 percent. The few homes for sale that once may have been considered starter or fixer-upper homes for local families are being swooped up by full cash offers, often well above asking price. Local families continue to be out-bid.
Scrolling through posts in the Facebook group “Jefferson County, WA Rentals” it is clear who is being left out of this market. A young family seeks housing and is currently homeless. Young, working couple seeks a home in advance of their baby’s birth, and can afford $1,200. Young couple is pre-approved to buy a home up to $300K, desperately trying to find a rental instead. Young couple trying to move here for work, can afford $1,800. Single people of all ages trying to rent a room or studio for under $1,000. Person moving here for work and looking for space to park a trailer. Many posts are about finding space to park trailers or RVs. Many people have pets.
The consequences for our local economy are deeply concerning, especially as we try to recover from the pandemic. In each week of April, the Leader’s classified section has included around 45 help wanted listings, many of which listed multiple positions open.
A few weeks ago, board members of our local economic development council counted more than 80 job openings among them, including at the paper mill, hospital, and public transit. Whether the job is minimum wage or offers a decent salary, all these employers are struggling to hire or retain workers due to the lack of available and financially attainable housing.
Last week I spoke to a young mom who grew up here but plans to move across the country this year. When I asked why she responded, “I’m a single parent living in a tiny home and using an outhouse. I want more opportunity.”
(Justine Gonzalez-Berg is the Director of Housing Solutions Network and serves on the board of Homeward Bound Community Land Trust.)