Editorial: Lower rents can help housing

Lloyd Mullen
Posted 2/27/19


That’s the number one reason Jefferson County is facing a housing crisis.

In 2000, the average home price in Washington was $168,300, according to the U.S. Census …

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Editorial: Lower rents can help housing



That’s the number one reason Jefferson County is facing a housing crisis.

In 2000, the average home price in Washington was $168,300, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

During the past six years, the average home price in Port Townsend has increased by $112,000, a rise of nearly 50 percent.

Are you having a hard time hiring for that minimum-wage position? We’re hearing our fellow businesses find it difficult to make hires, in part because of the high cost of housing in Port Townsend.

In 2012, the average national wage was $44,322. By 2018, that had risen to $48,642, an increase of slightly less than 10 percent. That’s over the same six years that housing prices here rose by 50 percent.

It’s no wonder we have a housing crisis.

The Seattle market has artificially inflated our market, and our service industries are suffering.

We’ve seen quite the influx of homeowners moving in from California, no doubt drawn by what they see as undervalued housing. They’re used to $600,000 homes. By moving here, they can tuck away hundreds of thousands of dollars and have some cash to spare for renovations.

Our average Jefferson County resident is 56 years old, which makes us the oldest population in Washington. And the majority of the workforce here is in the service industries.

If we expect visitors to our community to be taken care of, then we need to take care of our community’s housing needs.

People who invested in real estate in the 1970s and ’80s did so in a tremendously undervalued market, and they rebuilt the town into an attractive destination and a place where a lot of people want to live.

Those people probably would have been happy to see the cost of real estate keep pace with inflation and wages. But housing prices have far outpaced working wages here.

The way to solve our housing crisis is to reduce the cost of rent or, at the very least, slow its escalation.

As free-wheeling as we like to think our community has always been, it appears we are marching backward toward a community where a few wealthy people will own all of the real estate, while most of our citizens will work two to three jobs in order to pay for their housing.

It’s a system that works well for the few elites.

We applaud those real-estate owners who have kept their rents lower than the market demands.

We only wish we had more landlords like that.

— Lloyd Mullen


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Tom Camfield

To someone as old as I, it's little short of fascinating to look back at real estate prices and wages of earlier years. My wife and I bought our first house here in Port Townsend in 1954. It was an almost-new 2-bedroom. Total price was $8,500. We bought an extra lot, to preserve our view, for $100. 'We paid 10% down ($850) to speed up processing of a GI loan. Mortgage interest, as best I can recall, was around 4%.

We bought our next (and current) home, 3 bedrooms, half basement, 2 second-story rooms, on 2 Uptown lots in the courthouse area, in 1961 for $15,500. Salaries, wages also have been interesting. I worked the summer of 1945 at the local paper mill for 90 cents an hour. When I left the Leader early in 1958 to publish my own paper in California, my salary was $5,200 a year. When I returned here late in 1960, the salary was $7,200 a year.

Wednesday, February 27
Debbie Jahnke

It isn’t really driven solely by the cost of the rentals, it is more controlled by lack of housing stock to rent. In the 2017 American Community Survey, Port Townsend’s median monthly rent is $917 + - $102; Sequim is $894 + - $59, Port Angeles is $873 + - $44. So our median is $23/month and $44/month higher than our nearest neighbors. But they have rentals available - many folks live in Sequim or PA and commute here to work because they can find housing there but jobs here. We just don’t have the housing stock. PT is working on the issue, with everything from changes in AirBnB rules to protect existing stock to incentives for both workforce and affordable housing but it takes time and investors willing to build more housing for the non-wealthy, non-retired folks who make this community what it is.

Thursday, February 28