Industry News

News In Brief

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  • Offices in 10 major U.S. cities are now just more than halfway filled, according to a report from security tracker Kastle Systems. The firm said it’s the first time since early 2020 that occupancy has crossed the 50% mark. While Seattle is not on the list, the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) is tracking office occupancy as companies return. However, the DSA said worker foot traffic is increasing, with 2022 ending at 44% of pre-pandemic levels. The return to the office is affecting the rest of downtown Seattle. The DSA said the number of occupied apartment units is not only above pre-pandemic levels, they’re reaching new records. The DSA said more than 56,000 units are full.
  • The city of Eugene, Oregon, will join other local governments throughout the country in phasing out gas appliances in some types of new construction in an effort to cut climate pollution. The Eugene City Council passed the measure by a 5-3 vote. The ordinance, believed to be the first of its kind in the state, bans natural gas hookups in the new construction of residences that are three stories or less. Existing buildings are not affected by the new requirements. Council members in favor said the move would reduce carbon emissions and eliminate the air quality hazards of gas stoves, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. Dozens of local governments throughout the country have moved to restrict the use of gas in some types of new construction, including in Seattle and Bellingham, Washington, and San Francisco and Berkeley, California. Multnomah County, home to Portland, in 2021 approved a resolution to prohibit the use of fossil fuels such as natural gas in new and remodeled county buildings. Some federal lawmakers have called for addressing the potential health risks of natural gas usage through regulation, such as requiring that gas stoves be sold with range hoods to improve ventilation or issuing mandatory performance standards for gas stoves.
  • New polling, according to the Seattle Times, suggests a majority of Washingtonians support changing zoning laws to allow more duplexes, triplexes and small apartment buildings. That information comes as the Washington Legislature pushes along proposals to make cities allow multifamily housing on more residential lots. The poll surveyed 613 Washington voters. It was commissioned by sustainability think tank Sightline Institute and conducted by FM3 and New Bridge Strategy. With a margin of error of four percentage points, the poll found 71% of respondents would support a proposal to do away with local zoning laws that allow exclusively single-family housing in cities with more than 6,000 people. When asked if they would support a measure if it meant a duplex or triplex could be built in their neighborhood, 68% of respondents said they would. Sixty-one percent said they would support it if it meant a duplex or triplex could be built next door. Pollsters also asked about the factors respondents believed led to higher housing costs in Washington. Seventy-two percent of respondents said a shortage of housing pushed up prices due to people competing. Lawmakers are trying to tackle the housing crisis from multiple angles this legislative session, including proposals to streamline permitting and stabilize rent prices.
  • SmartAsset, a personal finance company, ranked the U.S. cities with the most layoff anxiety using Google Trends data for 94 metros based on the average number of searches for the following keywords: layoffs, severance pay, recession, downsizing, unemployment, benefits and furlough. With so many major tech companies based in western Washington, it’s no surprise the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area ranked third in the country, trailing only San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley and San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad in the study. “The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area, a tech hub that’s home to companies like Amazon and Microsoft, has the third-highest average search interest (42.67) for the six keywords related to layoff anxiety,” SmartAsset said. “’Recession’ had the most search interest out of the six phrases, followed by ‘severance pay’ and ‘layoffs.’ ‘Unemployment benefits,’ by contrast, is the least popular out of the six search terms.” Texas’ Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington ranked Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. According to 365 DataScience, tech companies laid off more than 150,000 employees in 2022 and another 68,500 in January 2023, SmartAsset said. In the greater Seattle area, AmazonGoogleTwitterMicrosoftBoeing and REI have all announced a hefty number of layoffs.
  • The California exodus has shown no sign of slowing down as the state’s population dropped by more than 500,000 people between April 2020 and July 2022, with the number of residents leaving surpassing those moving in by nearly 700,000. The population decrease was second only to New York, which lost about 15,000 more people than California, census data show. The primary reason for the exodus is the state’s high housing costs, but other reasons include the long commutes and the crowds, crime and pollution in the larger urban centers. The increased ability to work remotely — and not having to live near a big city — has also been a factor. Net migration out of California surpassed that of the next highest state, New York, by about 143,000 people. Nearby states such as Utah have warned Californians who might consider moving to stay out. A similar story is playing out in Nevada, where California migrants are seeking to re-create their lifestyle. California gained about 157,000 more people from natural change — the difference in number between births and deaths — than New York did, making New York’s total population loss greater. As California’s population has shrunk, some of the nation’s most populous states have added people at a considerable rate. The states with the highest population increases between April 2020 and July 2022 were Texas and Florida, which gained about 884,000 and 707,000 people, respectively.
  • According to King County’s Tax Assessor’s office, aggregate King County property values increased by 21.8% in 2022, but since the county operates under a “budget-based” property tax revenue system, aggregate property taxes in King County for 2023 rose by 6.4%. The tax assessor’s office notes voter approved levies are largely the reason for an increase. The county showed local schools and state schools will get a large chunk of this year’s property taxes.
  • Thirteen percent of the over-50 population, or about 1 in 8 people over 50, cannot control their consumption of highly processed foods — such as sweet or salty snacks, fatty foods and sugary drinks, according to a report in from the University of Michigan’s ongoing National Poll on Healthy Aging. The report’s findings were based on a nationally representative sample of 2,163 people ages 50 to 80. The 13% were found to have two or more symptoms of addiction to highly processed foods, but nearly half of the participants (44%) had at least one symptom. The most common symptoms were intense cravings, along with unsuccessful attempts to cut back on consumption and signs of withdrawal, such as irritability, trouble concentrating and headaches. Those with a food addiction also reported distress or problems in their daily life caused by their eating behavior. More women than men met addiction criteria, and the percentage also was higher among those who were overweight or felt isolated from others, and those who described their physical or mental health as fair or poor. Addiction to highly processed foods was found to be more common among adults 50 to 64 than those 65 to 80. The researchers wrote that the addictive nature of such foods might stem from their ability to trigger the brain’s release of dopamine, sometimes called a feel-good chemical, “at levels comparable to nicotine and alcohol.” The release of dopamine sparks good feelings as well as the desire to continue or repeat the feeling.
  • Americans nationwide are struggling with high rental prices and new data shows a record number of renters are now spending more than they should be based on their income. According to the “30% Rule,” Americans shouldn’t spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs. It’s advice that some financial professionals have been giving for years but amid inflation and skyrocketing rental prices, some have said that it’s quickly becoming an impossible target to meet. For the first time in their 20-plus year tracking history, Moody’s Analytics found a record number of renters in the U.S. are spending more than 30% of their income on rent. According to the federal government, these households are considered “cost-burdened.” According to the latest census data, more than 40% — about 19 million rental households — fall into this category. Experts have said that rental prices have started to ease slightly but some tenants in communities nationwide say the availability of affordable housing continues to be a big issue.
  • One Washington state small town was named among the 50 best to visit in the United States, and two others placed in the top 150. Vacation website polled families to identify the country’s favorite small towns, and both Hawaii and Alaska placed two towns in the top 10. Leavenworth, an evergreen state favorite, ranked No. 44 on the list. A popular destination in both the snowy winter and sunny summer months, Leavenworth, home to Oktoberfest, features “stunning natural beauty, outdoor activities, and a unique Bavarian-style village,” the report said. Sequim ranked 70th on the list and Coupeville came in at No. 147. The top location in the U.S., according to is Holualoa, Hawaii.
  • According to a report in, home prices in the U.S. declined for a sixth straight month, sending a key index of values down 2.7% from its peak in June. Prices nationally fell 0.3% in December from the month before, according to seasonally adjusted data from S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller. Seattle and San Francisco clocked another month among the fastest-cooling housing markets. Seattle-area home prices dipped 1.8% from November to December, the seventh consecutive month of decline. Seattle-area prices were also down 1.8% compared to December 2021, the region’s first year-over-year price drop since 2019, according to the index. The index tracks single-family home prices in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties and lags by two months. Since December, the local market has begun to pick up slightly, though sales are still slower than prior years. Unlike in the Seattle area, prices nationwide in December were still higher than they were a year earlier, but the pace of gains has cooled. The national index, not seasonally adjusted, was up 5.8% annually, down from the 7.6% gain in November.

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