Last night, about 200 Seattle residents, community leaders and experts from across disciplines joined Redfin and Mayor Ed Murray to discuss the future of our city. The rapid change Seattle is undergoing is as prominent in residents’ daily lives and conversations as cranes are in our skyline. Our booming tech sector is bringing growth and prosperity like never before, and new residents are flocking to the city. But with growth comes major challenges to affordability and livability. Residents are concerned that housing is becoming too expensive and are worried that the cultural fabric of the city is changing.
Local leaders and citizens came together to answer tough questions. How will we keep homeownership accessible for everyone? Seattle is expected to create 115,000 new jobs over the next 20 years; how will the city adapt to meet the needs of its growing population? How can we preserve Seattle’s culture and foster thriving and diverse communities?
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray gave opening remarks. Mayor Murray highlighted the importance of these discussions and said that we must act now to preserve our city’s affordability and livability.
“There is a fundamental question that people are asking: ‘Will the opportunities of the high tech economy drive us apart or make us more equitable?’” Murray said. “We don’t want to become one thing—one generation or one income bracket.”
Mayor Murray also provided an overview of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) committee’s recommendations including The Grand Bargain.
Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman presented data showing that new building hasn’t kept pace with homebuyer demand and wages haven’t kept pace with rising home prices. He advocated that Seattle needs to embrace becoming a denser, more urban city.
“There isn’t much choice. We’ve either got to grow out or grow up. I’d rather grow up,” Kelman said. “Seattle is going to have amazing prosperity, but can be a beacon for other cities going through the same change. ”
Natasha Chen, reporter at KIRO-TV, then moderated a panel discussion with Redfin Chief Economist Nela Richardson; Pamela Banks, the president and CEO of Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle; David Cutler, principal at GGLO Design; and Ed Lazowska, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Chair in Computer Science and Engineering and a professor at the University of Washington. Each panelist shared their top concerns about the future of Seattle, as well as their policy recommendations to address the challenges. Highlights of their conversation include:
“Like all good Pisces, Seattle needs to choose which direction it wants to swim. Upstream and become a livable city, or downstream and become like the Bay Area.” – Nela Richardson, Redfin Chief Economist
“The market is not going to build itself out of this problem. Time is the 4th dimension of affordable housing, and we don’t have a lot of it.” – David Cutler, GGLO Design Principal
“We have a civic obligation to make the city livable for as many people as possible. Those who can afford to purchase a home should help subsidize those who can’t.” – Ed Lazowska, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Chair in Computer Science and Engineering and professor at the University of Washington
“We need education systems to get people of color into the tech sector. When we talk about livability, Seattle is still segregated.” – Pamela Banks, President and CEO of Urban League
Data and Resources
All data and resources discussed at the event can be found here.
Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman’s presentation from the event.
Is Seattle Getting Richer or Poorer? It Depends Where You Look. New original Redfin research that maps changes in income over the past five years by neighborhood. From 2010 through 2014, the number of Seattle families earning $200,000 or more increased by 31 percent. Areas close to the city center and close to the water saw the largest increases in median family incomes.
Hot Markets Update: Home Prices Catch Up With Online Views. New original Redfin research that examines the difference between price of homes people are looking at and the price of homes they actually buy. The gap between the price of homes people look at online and the price of homes people buy is narrowing, especially in cities with the fastest price appreciation.
Want to Help the Middle Class? More Houses, Please. In his op-ed, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman explains that the U.S. is building new homes at about half the historical rate and how it’s causing our cities to become unaffordable.
Why You Should Buy the Cheapest Home on the Best Block. Neighborhoods with a mix of home prices are three times more likely to be walkable and have highly rated schools than are purely affordable neighborhoods.
An Attorney, a Janitor and a Mail Carrier Walk into a Bar – Where Are They? Experts say places with a balanced mix of home prices are good for society, but Redfin found that neighborhoods like this cover only 13 percent of our cities. Seattle fares much better, with 21 percent of the city having a balanced home-price mix.
Survey Says: A Denser, Less Economically Diverse Seattle in 2025. Redfin surveyed more than 900 Seattle homebuyers. Eighty-two percent believe Seattle will become more urban and dense over the next 10 years, but just 37 percent support local government getting involved to create denser development.
In The Digital Diaspora and The Second Silicon Valleys, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman discusses the great tech migration and data showing that the number of Bay Area homebuyers represented by Redfin’s Portland agents has tripled in the past year and doubled in Seattle.
Watch highlights from the event here, or scroll to the bottom for the full video.
Join the conversation using #LivableSeattle and check out our Visualization of the Week from Redfin’s Data Center below:
Watch the full video of the event here: