Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.

Rent Too High? Compare Seattle’s Neighborhoods

Stackhouse Apartments, South Lake Union
KUOW Photo/Ross Reynolds
Stackhouse Apartments, South Lake Union

Rents across Seattle have risen dramatically in the past 16 years, according to a KUOW analysis of housing data.

Since 1998, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment has risen 38 percent, measured in 2014 dollars. That’s pushed the average cost to $1,412 per month. 

Some areas have seen even more dramatic swings: the average one-bedroom in Ballard costs 75 percent more in 2014 than it did in 1998 in real terms.

Using data provided by real estate company Dupre+Scott and the city of Seattle's Office of Housing, KUOW analyzed the history of availability and costs for a one-bedroom apartment in various Seattle neighborhoods.

The analysis shows that while people most associate the noise of development and sight of construction cranes with high-profile places like Belltown, few regions of the city have escaped the boom.

How To Read The Data

The data are for 14 Seattle neighborhoods, following 2010 Census tract lines. Smaller areas, like Fremont or Maple Leaf, are lumped into broader descriptions, such as Ballard and University District.

The data covers one-bedroom units in 20-unit and larger market-rate apartment buildings.

The rent prices have been adjusted for 2014 dollar values. For instance, the actual average rent for Beacon Hill in 1998 was about $546, but that's adjusted to $801. That's meant to give a better comparison of the change over time. 

Overview: All Seattle

Between 1998 and 2014, Seattle added 14,253 one-bedroom units, an increase of 118 percent. The average rent jumped to $1,412, a 38 percent increase.

Jump To A Neighborhood

Ballard | Beacon Hill| Belltown, Downtown, South Lake Union | Capitol Hill, Eastlake | Central Seattle |First Hill | Green Lake, Wallingford | Madison, Leschi | Magnolia |North Seattle| Queen Anne | Rainier Valley | University District |West Seattle

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117846", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201505/ballard-header-upd1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]]

[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Rent Prices", "style": "wide"}]]Ballard rent has far surpassed Seattle's average, rising 75 percent to about $1,500 for a one-bedroom unit in 2014. Only the Belltown/Downtown/South Lake Union area has a higher average rent.

For the most part, Ballard kept pace with the average rent increase in the city until 2009. Then, from 2008 until 2014, rents climbed 61 percent.

As a result, a neighborhood that had some of the lowest rents in 1998 (above onlyBeacon Hill and Rainier) became the second most expensive in the city. No other neighborhood made a wider jump in the rankings.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117946", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201505/balll-rent-upd1.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]

[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Units", "style": "wide"}]]Also popping up in Seattle’s adopted craft beer district are construction cranes. Despite being on the low side for number of apartment buildings with 20 or more units in 2014 (Capitol Hill/Eastlake had the high at 149 and Madison /Leschihad the low at four), Ballard had the biggest percentage of growth from 1998 to 2014, an increase of 175 percent.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "118192", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/ballard-units-upd0603.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]Back to top.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117847", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201505/beacon-header-upd1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Rent Prices", "style": "wide"}]]Beacon Hill has been one of the most affordable areas in Seattle. On average, rent there has been about 22 percent lower than the average rent of all neighborhoods combined from 1998 to 2014.

Note: data is missing for fall 2005. 

[asset-images[{"caption": "Note: Data is missing for fall 2005.", "fid": "118143", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/beacon-rent-upd1.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Units", "style": "wide"}]]Despite having affordable rent, Beacon Hill had the fewest one-bedroom units in 2014 compared with all Seattle neighborhoods. Beacon Hill also added the second-fewest number of units between 1998 and 2014: just 64. Only Madison/Leschi added fewer.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Note: Data for this area is missing for fall 2005.", "fid": "118193", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/beacon-units-upd0603.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]Back to top.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117849", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201505/belltown-header-upd1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Rent Prices", "style": "wide"}]]The Belltown/Downtown/South Lake Union area has been consistently the most expensive since 1998. However, in percentage its growth follows Seattle's average. Citywide, rent increased about 38 percent between 1998 and 2014. This neighborhood's rent went up 39 percent in the same time period.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117947", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201505/bell-rent-upd1.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]

[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Units", "style": "wide"}]]No area has seen greater growth in the number of one-bedroom units than the heart of Seattle. In this 16-year span, 4,137 units have been created, an increase of 379 percent. In 2014, the area had more one-bedroom units than any other neighborhood. 

The construction cranes that have been part of the landscape helped double the number of buildings with at least 20 units from 31 to 75. Two other neighborhoods -- Capitol Hill/Eastlake and North Seattle-- had more buildings than Belltown, but not as many units. 

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "118194", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/bell-units-upd0603.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]Back to top.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117850", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201505/caphill-header-upd1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]]

[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Rent Prices", "style": "wide"}]]Capitol Hill/Eastlake has kept close to the average pace of rent in the city. This area did see its biggest rent increase recently, bumping nearly 12 percent between 2013 and 2014.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117948", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201505/cap-rent-upd1.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Units", "style": "wide"}]]The area has the most buildings with 20 units or more of all the neighborhoods, but the third-most one-bedroom units. Belltown/Downtown/SLU is first, followed by North Seattle.

Compared to other neighborhoods, Capitol Hill/Eastlake has not seen as much growth in the number of buildings over the years. 

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "118195", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/cap-units-upd0603.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]Back to top.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117851", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201505/central-header-upd1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]]

[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Rent Prices", "style": "wide"}]]In 1998, Seattle's Central Area represented the average for Seattle, but that didn’t last long. By the next year, the area's rents had increased nearly 14 percent, compared to an average increase of less than a percent for all neighborhoods.

For many years, the area hovered about 10 percent above the average. In 2009, rents there once again started to move more in line with the average for all neighborhoods.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117949", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201505/cent-rent-upd1.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Units", "style": "wide"}]]The Central Area has seen the largest percentage growth in number of units since 1998, save Belltown/Downtown/SLU, with an addition of 22 buildings and 766 units. 

But the area has fewer units than most other neighborhoods: 1,048 in 2014 compared to a high of 5,229 in Belltown/Downtown/SLU and a citywide average of 1,881.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "118196", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/cent-units-upd0603.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]Back to top.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117852", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201505/first-header-upd1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Rent Prices", "style": "wide"}]]The rent on First Hill has largely followed the average for all neighborhoods. Only in 2007 was the area’s rent more than 5 percent above the average for all neighborhoods. This neighborhood is most representative of the growth of rent for the city as a whole since 1998.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117950", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201505/first-rent-upd1.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Units", "style": "wide"}]]First Hill has the lowest percentage of growth in the number of units since 1998, save Madison Park/Leschi, adding 438 units for a total of 1,778 in 2014. However, it still ranks in the top five for most units of all neighborhoods. 

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "118197", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/first-units-upd0603.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]Back to top.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117853", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201505/greenwally-header-upd1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Rent Prices", "style": "wide"}]]This area, like First Hill, has followed the average rent price fairly closely, staying within 5 percent of the average for most of that time.

In 2014, the region had the fifth most expensive rent (in 1998 it was ranked seventh).

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117951", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201505/green-rent-upd1.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Units", "style": "wide"}]]Since 1998, Green Lake/Wallingford has added 1,159 units, an increase of 217 percent. On average, the number of units has increased steadily by 8 percent per year. The area saw its biggest jump between 2012 and 2013, when the number of units increased by 22 percent.

The neighborhood is in the top third for the whole city in terms of growth, but a little below average for the number of units in 2014. 

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "118198", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/green-units-upd0603.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]Back to top.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117854", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201505/madlesch-header-upd1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Rent Prices", "style": "wide"}]]In 1998, Madison/Leschi had the third highest rent in the city. But while the rest of the city’s rent grew by 38 percent on average, this neighborhood only increased by 8 percent. With the exception of Magnolia, Madison/Leschi had the smallest amount of growth in rent prices.

By 2014, Madison/Leschi was in the middle of the pack, with rents that were 9 percent below the average for the city. 

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117952", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201505/mad-rent-upd1.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Units", "style": "wide"}]]It wasn’t just Madison/Leschi’s rent that stagnated over the years: The neighborhood also had the lowest housing growth. The area added just six one-bedroom units between 1998 and 2014.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "118199", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/mad-units-upd0603.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]

Back to top.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117855", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201505/magnolia-header-upd1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Rent Prices", "style": "wide"}]]Magnolia's rents were 20 percent higher than the city average in 1998. But the neighborhood's rents dropped, and by 2014 the area was 12 percent below the average.

Taken on the whole, Magnolia had the least amount of growth in rent price over the years: It increased only 2 percent compared with the city average of 38 percent.

However, Magnolia has seen steep increases in recent years. Since  2012, the average rent has gone up 28 percent.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117953", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201505/mag-rent-upd1.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Units", "style": "wide"}]]The neighborhood has consistently been in the bottom half in number of one-bedroom units. Its growth has also lagged behind the other neighborhoods. Since 1998 the number of units has increased by 50 percent; citywide the growth has been more than double that at 118 percent.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "118200", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/magn-units-upd0603.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]

Back to top.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117856", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201505/north-header-upd1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]]

[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Rent Prices", "style": "wide"}]]North Seattle has consistently had some of Seattle's most affordable rents, averaging 19 percent below the citywide mark. In the past five years, the citywide average has outpaced North Seattle’s even more. By 2014, the difference was closer to 28 percent.

With the exception of Madison/Leschi and Magnolia, no neighborhood had less growth in rents between 1998 and 2014.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117954", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201505/north-rent-upd1.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Units", "style": "wide"}]]North Seattle not only has some of the lowest rent, but it also has the highest number of units besides Belltown/Downtown/South Lake Union.

The neighborhood added 1,471 units since 1998. That's less than Belltown/Downtown/SLU’s staggering 4,137, but still in the top rank of construction.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "118201", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/north-units-upd0603.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]Back to top.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117857", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201505/queen-header-upd1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]]

[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Rent Prices", "style": "wide"}]]The Queen Anne area has followed fairly closely the average rent for all of Seattle, staying mostly within 5 percent of the average.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117955", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201505/queen-rent-upd1.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Units", "style": "wide"}]]Queen Anne has seen some spillover from the explosive growth of neighboring Belltown/Downtown/SLU. Queen Anne has added 1,922 units since 1998, putting it in second place behind its neighbor both in terms of total number of units in 2014 and number of units added in that time.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "118202", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/queen-units-upd0603.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]Back to top.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117858", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201505/rainier-header-upd1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Rent Prices", "style": "wide"}]]Rainier Valley has consistently had the lowest rents in the city. However, with the exception of Ballard, it also has had the largest percentage of growth in rent prices, increasing nearly 48 percent since 1998.

That growth has in no way been steady. Between fall 1998 and fall 2009, the rent increased by only about 2 percent, then climbed sharply in the last five years.

In 2014, North Seattle took the spot for cheapest rent from Rainier ($1,020 and $1,042, respectively). Beacon Hill should also be noted in this group with a 2014 rent averaging $1,055.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117956", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201505/rain-rent-upd1.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Units", "style": "wide"}]]Rainier lagged behind most of the neighborhoods in growth: The 157 units added was an increase of only about 48 percent, and it was the only neighborhood in this data set to have a decrease in the number of housing buildings, from 14 in 1998 to 11 in 2014.

The neighborhood had a high of 511 units in 2013. 

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "118203", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/rain-units-upd0603.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]

Back to top.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117859", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201505/univ-header-upd1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Rent Prices", "style": "wide"}]]The University District has maintained rent prices over the years that are about 11 percent below the average. There have been small incremental growths, but the steepest climb came between 2013 and 2014.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117957", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201505/univ-rent-upd1.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Units", "style": "wide"}]]The University District trends below the average in number of housing units. In 2014 it was ranked ninth out of 14 neighborhoods with 1,205 units.

Since 1998 the number of units has increased 87 percent. Citywide, the growth in that time was 118 percent.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "118204", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/univ-units-upd0603.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]

Back to top.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117860", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201505/west-header-upd1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]]

[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Rent Prices", "style": "wide"}]]West Seattle has been about 12 percent below the average rent for all of Seattle. Overall, the rent has increased since 1998 by 25 percent, below the citywide average of 38 percent. That growth has been more consistent than many neighborhoods, fluctuating no more than about 6 percent from one year to the next.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117958", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201505/west-rent-upd1.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]][asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Units", "style": "wide"}]]West Seattle has a little more than doubled the number of units since 1998, which is about the trend for Seattle as a whole. It remains in the middle of the pack in terms of overall growth and number of units.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "118205", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201506/west-units-upd0603.gif", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]Back to top.