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Thanks again, Seattle: Tacoma’s rising rents, affordability take hits in new lists

Visitors view the Seattle skyline from the top of the Space Needle. New rankings on apartment rental increases and overall affordability illustrate the ripple effect Seattle is having on Tacoma’s economy.
Visitors view the Seattle skyline from the top of the Space Needle. New rankings on apartment rental increases and overall affordability illustrate the ripple effect Seattle is having on Tacoma’s economy. Associated Press file, 2015

It seems every day that Seattle’s real estate keeps shocking buyers and sellers, we receive another survey on the ripple effects in Tacoma.

Tacoma’s resulting double-digit rent increases have landed the City of Destiny on the latest ignoble list: Cities in the nation with the highest year-over-year rent increases.

The list compiled by RentCafe places Tacoma fourth in the nation for the highest percentage rent increase. The top five include the California communities of Stockton, Modesto and Sacramento. Lancaster, California, in northern Los Angeles County, was at the top of the list.

Tacoma apartment rents in March increased by 10.6 percent compared with the same time a year ago. The data compare rents in 250 cities nationwide with more than 100,000 people and with more than 2,800 apartments in complexes with 50 or more units each.

Tacoma rents are still relatively low compared with Seattle and the national average. RentCafe lists Tacoma’s average rent as $1,110. Nationwide, rents average $1,312, while rents in the Emerald City average $1,908 per month, up 5.6 percent from the previous year.

As more people leave expensive Seattle for Tacoma’s relative affordability, rents will continue to climb, said Michael Mirra, executive director of the Tacoma Housing Authority.

He said a full quarter of residents in the new apartments and condos on the Thea Foss Wateway are commuting to Seattle — and more will come after Sound Transit’s light rail reaches Tacoma in at least 13 years.

“If that happens, then Tacoma’s rental market and people who live here will be competing with these housing refugees from Seattle and King County,” Mirra said last week.

Affordability

As home prices here are skyrocketing, affordability slips compared with wages.

High housing prices contribute to Tacoma’s poor ranking in personal finance website WalletHub’s study of Washington’s best places to raise a family.

Tacoma ranks as Washington’s 11th worst city to raise a family when comparing affordability, education, violent crime, household income and other metrics. Tacoma’s affordability ranks 77th of the 111 cities studied.

It could have been worse, because Tacoma’s robust parks system and other amenities came in seventh in the state, bringing up the city’s overall ranking

With a historic apartment building boom, Pierce County could see thousands of new units within the next three years. Tacoma even gained the attention of mortgage lender Freddie Mac, which listed Tacoma as a top prospect for investors looking to cash in on multifamily investments.

But the building boom might not last.

Prices to build in Pierce County are the same as in King County, said Rush Co. Vice President Chris DeWald last month, but projects command less rent here. Apartment growth could slow in the coming months until rents catch up and make Tacoma a more desirable place to build.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542, @KateReports

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