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  • Seattle’s recovery from the pandemic is still going strong, at least in population growth, according to a report by Gene Balk in the Seattle Times. New data from the Washington Office of Financial Management shows Seattle’s population hit 779,200 on April 1, a net gain of about 16,700 people from one year earlier. That’s a healthy 2.2% growth rate. The state’s data shows overall, Seattle grew faster than King County suburbs. In fact, Seattle accounted for more than half of the county’s growth. While Seattle’s population increased 16,700, the rest of King County increased 13,400. King County’s growth rate was 0.9%. The county’s population hit 2.35 million in 2023. A handful of King County cities grew faster than Seattle. The fastest-growing city in the county — and the state — was Black Diamond, a small city about 30 miles southeast of Seattle. Its population hit 6,880 in 2023, up by more than 700, for a one-year growth rate of 12%. Black Diamond is home to a large new master-planned community called Ten Trails, which is being built in phases. This development, which opened in 2018, will eventually include roughly 6,000 homes, bringing more than 15,000 people to Black Diamond. Some other more rural parts of the county continue to have strong population growth — Carnation, North Bend and Duvall all grew at faster rates than Seattle. Since the start of the pandemic and the rise of remote work, several small, more rural communities have more people. On the Eastside, Kirkland, Redmond and Woodinville had growth rates higher than Seattle. Bellevue only grew about 0.5% for a net gain of 700 people, for a total population of 154,600. Renton and Federal Way grew even slower, and SeaTac was the one city in the county to lose population, with a net loss of 170 residents. The state uses many records to determine changes in population. Some examples include vital statistics data (births and deaths), administrative records (counts of registered voters, licensed drivers, motor-vehicle registrations, K-12 students, Medicaid and Medicare recipients), housing data (number of completed housing units, postal delivery statistics, etc.) and data from “group quarter” housing (dormitories, nursing homes, prisons, etc.). No Washington county lost population this year, but a few in Eastern Washington had a 0% growth rate: Garfield, Ferry and Columbia. The fastest-growing county was Whatcom, where Bellingham is located, which grew around 1.8%. Benton County, where Kennewick is, had the second-fastest growth rate at about 1.5%. Snohomish County came in third, just shy of 1.5%. Four cities in Snohomish County had major growth rates: Mountlake Terrace (7.9%), Sultan (7.5%), Lynnwood (5.3%) and Monroe (4.5%).
  • The Seattle City Council, according to the Seattle Times, cut a bit of red tape for affordable housing developments, celebrating the move as a way to expedite some new housing construction amid a persistent homelessness and affordability crisis. Two bills the council approved will allow more developers to skip a process known as design review, when city staff and volunteer boards examine proposed developments, focused largely on the appearance of new buildings. Builders say the process, paired with high development costs and lengthy permit wait times, delays housing construction and makes it harder to fund. The council approved two related bills: First, the city will make permanent a pandemic-era policy that temporarily exempted affordable housing from design review. Housing developments are still subject to the city’s land use, health and safety regulations. The exemption will apply to rental developments where at least 40% of the apartments are affordable to people making 60% of area median income, or $74,000 for a family of three, and for-sale housing developments where at least 40% of the homes are affordable to people making 80% of area median income, or $90,850 for a family of three. The city expects between seven and nine projects to qualify for the exemption each year, with a total of about 725 units of housing. Second, the city will temporarily offer the same exemption to certain projects developed through the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability program. MHA requires developers building market-rate apartment buildings, town homes and other developments to either include affordable units on site or pay fees. Those fees are used to fund affordable housing throughout the city. The vast majority of developers opt to pay the fees. In an effort to incentivize developers to build affordable homes on site instead, the bill would exempt MHA-covered construction including affordable units from design review
  • The US Postal Service (USPS) raised the cost of first-class mail stamps 3 cents from 63 to 66 cents. That may not sound like much but it adds up to a 32% increase in just four years. Domestic postcards are up from 48 to 51 cents. International postcards jump from $1.45 to $1.50. Forever stamps can still be used no matter the price when you bought them. The USPS says first-class mail volumes are dropping because of online commerce. People are sending 50% fewer letters than they did about 10 years ago. USPS says the price hike is necessary to offset rising operating costs.
  • Tacoma was listed as one of the best places to live and move into, according to a study from The study looked at criteria such as well-being, affordability, job market, diversity and migration. Tacoma ranks third, beating out places like Alexandria, Virginia, Raleigh, North Carolina and Oakland, California. The study was featured on the Today Show, which says Tacoma is a more appealing city for those looking to work in Seattle since the cost of living is around 20% cheaper in Tacoma. The website also highlights the city’s vibrant natural habitat, museum district, and festivals which continue to impress, according to Travel Tacoma President Dean Burke.
  • Mercer Island will no longer have its own fire department and will instead contract with Eastside Fire & Rescue beginning next year. Eastside Fire & Rescue will hire Mercer Island’s 29 firefighters in their current or comparable positions, and the city has said the two stations on the island will remain open. City officials say response times will remain the same and there won’t be an impact on taxes for residents. The Mercer Island City Council voted 5-2 on the 10-year agreement, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2024. Mercer Island joins several other small cities throughout the region that have transitioned their fire departments to larger agencies. EF&R serves a patchwork of East King County cities like Carnation, Issaquah, North Bend, Preston, Sammamish, Tiger Mountain and Woodinville. In January, the Tukwila Fire Department joined the Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority. Olympia and Tumwater had proposed combining their fire departments into a regional fire authority, but voters rejected the proposition in April.
  • Since 1950, households of color in King County lost $12 billion to $34 billion because of redlining and other racially discriminatory housing practices, according to a recent report commissioned by the county and covered in the Seattle Times. Conducted by the consulting firm ECONorthwest, the study’s estimates reflect not just the amount lost because of a lack of homeownership among people of color, but also money that went toward rent payments that never accrued wealth, and wealth lost because of lower home value appreciations for homes owned by people of color compared with white people. For Black households in King County, the estimated cumulative intergenerational wealth loss ranges between $5.4 billion and $15.8 billion, the study found. The study was part of a report commissioned in 2021, when the council directed county staff to look into the possibility of wastewater capacity charge exemptions or cost reductions as a form of reparations for those affected by redlining and racial covenants. Overall, the study estimated the lost wealth for the average Black household ranges from $105,000 to $306,000, and for other nonwhite households, including Hispanic, Indigenous and Asian households, ranges from $32,000 to $85,000 in 2019 dollars. In 1950, about 35% of households of color owned their homes, compared with more than 60% of white households, the ECONorthwest study found, a reflection of explicitly racially discriminatory housing practices like racial deed restrictions and redlining. In 1968, the federal government outlawed housing discrimination based on race through the Fair Housing Act. Homeownership among people of color in King County peaked at 49% of Black, Indigenous and people of color households between 1960 and 1970, but has since decreased, the study found. The study noted that in place of explicitly racist real estate practices, other policies and trends emerged — single-family zoning, community disinvestment, mortgage discrimination, subprime lending, urban renewal, gentrification — that blocked access toward building generational wealth for people of color. 
  • The U.S. home turnover rate in the first half of 2023 has fallen to the lowest in at least a decade as high mortgage rates compel owners to stay put, according to a report by Redfin. About 14 out of every 1,000 U.S. homes changed hands during this period, down from 19 in the same period during 2019, according to the real estate brokerage’s report examining housing turnover since the pandemic. California, and specifically the San Francisco Bay Area, had the least housing availability out of any state, the report said. The brokerage said only 6 out of 1,000 San Jose homes changed hands this year. From 2019 to 2023, California turnover dropped 30% in the metros of Oakland, San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Anaheim. In the Seattle area, 11 of every 1,000 homes turned over in the last year, a 37% drop in turnover from 2019. The highest turnover rate was in Newark, New Jersey, with 24 of every 1,000 homes changing hands. Nashville and Austin follow closely behind. Redfin’s report examined turnover rates in the 50 most populous metropolitan divisions in the U.S. The analysis was based on data, county records and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s urbanization perceptions small area index. 
  • As of July 23, new rental laws about the eviction process in Washington state are in effect. The new laws will impact renters and property owners throughout the state. Sen. Mark Mullet of Issaquah sponsored the approved legislation that gives tenants more time to secure rental support before their landlord can evict them. Mullet said it was crucial to find ways to help tenants avoid losing their homes at a time when affordable housing is one of the biggest challenges in Washington. Previously, property owners had to give a seven-day eviction notice, but as a result of the new rental laws that’s been extended to two weeks. The extension works as long as a family or individual has documented proof rent can be paid through a federal program or a non-profit. Additionally, tenants can request the eviction hearing be held remotely by phone or video. Remote eviction hearings make the process more accessible for everyone, and helps legal counsel handle more cases to streamline the eviction process. Look for statewide programs for rental help here.
  • A newly signed protection ordinance took effect for all trees on private property in Seattle starting July 30, according to KOMO news. The legislation aims to protect and grow a healthy tree canopy in Seattle while also addressing inequities in distribution that impact “historically underserved communities,” according to the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI). The legislation also aims to support housing production that is needed amid a citywide homelessness and housing crisis. Once the ordinance takes effect, Seattle will add protections for over 157,000 more trees by limiting the removal of them on properties not undergoing redevelopment and requiring replacement for any tree removed that is 12″ or more in diameter. The removal of dangerous trees will also require tree replacement, and there will be new incentives for property owners and builders to retain their trees, according to the SDCI. Trees formerly known as “exceptional” will be protected from removal when they are at least 24” in diameter rather than 30”. The new ordinance also increases penalties for any illegal tree removal and creates additional penalties for unregistered tree service providers attempting to perform commercial tree work. Mayor Bruce Harrell’s One Seattle Tree Plan now requires three trees to be planted for every tree removed on City-owned land and also targets new plantings in underserved communities that are most impacted by climate change. Replacement trees will also be required to have a maintenance plan in place to maximize survival in the first five years after planting when they are at their most vulnerable. The newly signed ordinance is a hopeful stride toward bringing Seattle closer to its tree canopy goals of 30% by 2037.
  • According to a new report from Redfin, luxury home prices dropped by double digits in several west coast cities. San Francisco saw the biggest loss of more than 12.7% in a year. Seattle is close behind at a 12.3% drop. The Seattle-based real estate company said the price of luxury homes in other parts of the country are actually on the rise though. The median price of a high-end home rose 4.6%, outpacing the 1.5% price increase of a non-luxury property. While demand is slowing, inventory remains low propping up those prices. If they start to drop, expect more competition to drive them right back up.

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