First-time home buyers and low-income families are being pushed out of downtown Bothell due to rising rent and home prices caused by a greater demand in housing and popularity of the area.
There are more people wanting to live in Bothell than units available. Eight-hundred thousand people moved to King County last year, creating a huge demand that the city is striving to meet, said Bothell deputy mayor Davina Duerr.
Downtown Bothell is going through major construction that would increase the inventory and possibly slow down rising rent and home prices. However, it is not clear how much these new condominiums will help with gentrification — the rising of property values making an area uninhabitable to financially struggling populations.
The housing being built is not really affordable at $750,000 for a townhouse unit, Duerr said. Nonetheless, the construction would create more density and allow young people to move here, adding more energy and vibrancy to the area.
Currently, affordable housing is still very hard to find. This causes congestion on the roads from workers in Bothell who must commute from their homes further away. Some long-time residents with fixed incomes may end up selling their home and moving where there is cheaper housing, Duerr said.
When asked what increasing home and rental prices means for Bothell residents, senior planner Dave Boyd said if residents have to pay more for housing they will have less to spend on other things like eating out. This could harm the local economy. If increasing housing prices forces people to move and they still work or attend school here, it will increase traffic.
Rising rent and home prices can harm vulnerable parts of the population. For every $100 rents increase, the percentage of the homeless population increases by 15 percent, Duerr said.
According to rental data on Trulia.com, median rent in Bothell rose from $2,300 in November of 2016 to $2,595 in August 2017. This would potentially increase the homeless population by 45 percent.
The Zillow home value index for Bothell is $543,000. Five years ago, in January 2013, this valuation was $329,000. That’s a $214,000 increase in just five years. In the last year, there has been a 15.8 percent increase.
In efforts to lower the blow, City Council put affordable housing and a housing strategy on the docket for the Planning Commission. The commission has been working on recommendations for addressing the affordable housing issue. Council will be reviewing those recommendations in the future and will likely take action in early 2018, said Duerr.
We cannot stop gentrification from happening. We cannot stop people from moving to our city. The city can offer incentives to developers that offer affordable housing units such as allowing more density in exchange for affordable housing. We can also continue to protect our mobile home park overlays to keep those parks from being developed into higher priced housing, Duerr said.
The city offers discounts on utility bills for low-income households to help them to remain in their homes. The city and King County also give discounts on property taxes to senior citizens for the same reason.
Christian Anderson, an assistant professor at University of Washington Bothell, came to Bothell in 2012.
“Downtown Bothell has changed tremendously over those five years,” Anderson said. What was once a sleepy diner, is a now a pub with 100 micro brews and sriracha roasted Brussels sprouts. “Bothell, from what I heard, was families and some retirement communities, but it definitely didn’t have this hip, potential tech satellite vibe that the city is maybe trying to cultivate now.”
The remarks from Duerr and Boyd, the home and rental prices and the colorful comments from Anderson all shine light on the rapidly changing character taking place in Bothell. Concerned community members can attend council meetings and public hearings to stay engaged with this topic.
Hannah Horiatis is a student journalist at the University of Washington Bothell.