NW REporter

News In Brief: October 2022

  • The New York Times reported that the Bank of America is offering mortgages for first-time homeowners that do not require down payments, minimum credit scores or closing costs in a program aiming to boost homeownership rates among first-time Black and Latino buyers. Under the trial program, which was announced last week, Bank of America will offer loans to people in certain predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas; Detroit; Los Angeles and Miami. Eligibility for the program, which is called the Community Affordable Loan Solution, is based on income and location and requires no mortgage insurance. Black and Hispanic homeowners face additional obstacles when buying homes compared with white homeowners. According to U.S. Census Bureau data for the second quarter of this year, the national Black homeownership rate was at 45%, while the rate of white homeownership reached 75%. Banks have contributed to racial gaps in homeownership rates by approving fewer loans with less favorable terms for Black applicants than for white borrowers with similar credit profiles.
  • Three local cities were named among the most ethnically diverse in the country. According to a new report from WalletHub, Kent is the seventh-most ethnically diverse city — out of more than 500 — in the United States, while Federal Way and Renton ranked Nos. 12 and 16, respectively. The personal-finance website used three key metrics: ethnoracial diversity, linguistic diversity and birthplace diversity. Kent ranked No. 8 in ethnoracial diversity, No. 14 in linguistic diversity and No. 120 in birthplace diversity. Jersey City, NJ, Germantown, Germantown, Md., Gaithersburg, Md., Silver Spring, Md. and Spring Valley, Nev. ranked Nos. 1-6, respectively. San Jose and Oakland followed Kent on the list. Bellevue claimed No. 37 and Everett capped the top 100. Yakima (No. 116), Seattle (No. 128), Tacoma (No. 135) all ranked in the top 135. Click here for the full report. In April, Kent ranked No. 1 among the most increasingly diverse U.S. cities, according to Preply, a language-learning platform that used Census Bureau data to conduct its study.
  • Gov. Jay Inslee along with tribal and local leaders broke ground on a project to improve the Interstate 90/State Route 18 interchange, according to KOMO News. The Washington Department of Transportation says it will be building a diverging diamond interchange and widening SR 18 to four lanes between the interchange and Deep Creek. The interchange is one of the busiest in Washington and improvements are meant to keep traffic flowing and improve safety for travelers. SR 18 is one lane in each direction and more than 27,000 vehicles use the highway each day. Between 2008 and 2021, there were more than 400 collisions on SR 18, involving 740 vehicles. The collisions have resulted in six people being killed and more than 170 people injured, according to a WSDOT study. The study also found that nearly half of the crashes took place near the Tiger Mountain summit trailhead. WSDOT hopes that widening the highway in this area, installing a center barrier, and redesigning access to the Tiger Mountain parking area will reduce the risk and frequency of collisions along that stretch of the interstate. The $188 million project is set to begin in November 2022 and is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2025.
  • Following input from the community, the Seattle Department of Transportation will build a new bike lane along the western edge of Green Lake as part of the Green Lake Outer Loop project. The Green Lake Outer Loop will provide more options for people walking, running, or biking and will create better connections to surrounding neighborhoods. The project will create a new protected bike path along Aurora Ave N between N 63rd St and W Green Lake Drive N. It will also remove the northbound vehicle travel lane on W Green Lake Drive N and add a two-way biking path on the lake side of the street. SDOT says the Green Lake Outer Loop project was created off of community suggestions and their Vision Zero plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries. The project is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
  • Seattle Municipal Court is about to start charging late fees again after suspending them during the COVID-19 pandemic. The reintroduction of late fees will begin Jan. 30, 2023, said communications adviser Laura Bet in a news release. Over 295,000 tickets will be impacted if they remain unpaid, she said. Drivers have until Jan. 30 to pay overdue tickets, sign up for the court’s payment or community service options or schedule a hearing to dispute a ticket. After that, late fees will go back into effect. The court instated a moratorium on default penalties for past-due tickets and sending unpaid tickets to collections in March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began. Late fees include $25 penalties on parking and camera tickets and $52 penalties for traffic violations. Tickets can be paid online, in person at Seattle Municipal Court at 600 Fifth Avenue, or at a neighborhood customer service center. For more information, call the court’s customer service team, 206-684-5600.
  • Washington state is the fifth-best state in the country for teachers, according to a new report from WalletHub. The personal-finance website analyzed the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 24 metrics, including teachers’ income growth potential, pupil-teacher ratio and digital learning plans. New York topped the list, followed by Utah, Virginia and Florida. Oregon placed 30th and Hawaii ranked last on the list. Click here for the full report.
  • Three West Coast states are ranked as some of the most expensive locations to buy a home. A new report from homebuyer.com ranked each state by home affordability. They used median household income data and median home value to determine which states are the most and least affordable to buy a house in. For the case of the study, the authors assumed all home mortgages were bought with a 30-year loan and a 4% interest rate. The findings show that Washington is the fourth most expensive state to buy a home in. It follows Hawaii, California, and Oregon.
  • Revenue projections for Washington state’s current two-year budget period increased by about $43 million more than projected at the state’s last quarterly update, but a series of factors — including slowing home sales due to high interest rates — led officials to lower the forecast for the next budget cycle. Updated numbers released Wednesday by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council show that projected revenue collections for the 2021-2023 budget slightly exceed what had been forecast in June. But the council lowered the forecast for the next two-year budget cycle that ends in mid-2025 by $495 million. Revenue for the current budget cycle that ends mid-2023 remains at $63.2 billion. For the next two-year budget cycle that starts July 1, 2023, revenue is projected to be about $65.5 billion, down just slightly from the almost $66 billion projected in the June forecast. The next revenue forecast is scheduled for Nov. 18. Gov. Jay Inslee will release his two-year budget the following month, ahead of the January start of the 105-day legislative session.
  • A recent Redfin report said the housing market is cooling off fast just about everywhere, and Seattle is feeling one of the biggest chills when it comes to prices, price drops, supply, pending sales, and how fast homes are selling. The Redfin report said 34% fewer homes sold within two weeks in August than a year earlier. The real estate brokerage also said home prices are falling from their peak, with the typical home selling for 2% less in August than a month earlier. Rising interest rates are mostly to blame for the slowdown. The typical monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced Seattle home costing $775,000 is more than $4,400 at today’s 6% mortgage rates, according to Redfin. That’s up from about $3,300 with 3% rates at the beginning of the year. Another twist, thanks to higher rates, is that fewer homes are being listed in Seattle.
  • A new study looked at the most confrontational drivers on the road and found Washington drivers rank No. 9 for worst road rage nationwide. Researchers at Forbes Advisor surveyed 5,000 drivers across the country on their experience with road rage. Forms of rage listed include frustrated honking, being cut off, physical confrontation or even gun violence. The survey shows 46% of Washington drivers reported another driver has insulted or threatened them. Twelve percent say another driver has damaged their car on purpose. The study found Utah tops the list of states with the most confrontational drivers. 1 in 4 residents there said they know someone in their state who was injured in a road rage incident. WSP says driving aggressively or exhibiting road rage can lead to fines or even criminal charges in some cases. If you witness aggressive driving, state patrol encourages you to report it.
  • According to a new report from helpadvisor.com, Seattle has the third-highest percentage of residents (60% or 581,118 people) paying at least $1,500 a month, trailing only San Francisco (71.2%) and Miami (61.9%) nationwide. Washington state as a whole ranked fourth in the United States among total residents paying at least $1,500 a month. The evergreen state has 770,619 people — 47.6% — paying at least that figure. Only California (53.1), New Jersey (52.9) and Hawaii (52.8) featured higher percentages. Oregon came in at No. 15 on the list with a mark of 34.6%. Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Kentucky, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Michigan, Arkansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma and West Virginia — which rank Nos. 39-51, respectively — all tallied less than 10%, with West Virginia boasting .9%. According to the report, 17.5% of Washington state residents have seen their rent increase by at least $250 over the past year, which ranks fourth in the country. “More than 60% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, but our analysis found more than 7.2 million renting Americans have seen their rent increase by at least $250 per month over the last 12 months,” HelpAdvisor’s report said. Click here for the full report.
  • King County and Seattle-area officials plan to ask voters for a new property tax levy to fund mental and behavioral health, potentially raising as much as $1.25 billion over nearly a decade to fund construction of five regional crisis care centers and more services to strengthen the county’s ailing mental health system. King County Executive Dow Constantine, along with Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and other local officials, announced Monday they intend to bring the tax proposal to voters on the April 2023 ballot. The tax levy would begin in 2024, costing the median-value homeowner an estimated $121 that year, and continue through 2032, according to officials. 
  • Portland is known for having a great vegetarian food scene, so it’s no surprise a new study has ranked the Rose City as the best city in the U.S. for vegans and vegetarians. Wallet-Hub recently released a report ranking cities from one to 100 by best and cheapest places for following a plant-based diet. The data set ranges from the share of restaurants serving meatless options to the cost of groceries for vegetarians to salad shops per capita. According to Wallet-Hub, there were three dimensions that were concentrated on when ranking these cities. Those dimensions are affordability, diversity, accessibility & quality, and vegetarian lifestyle. Portland ranked top of the list. Orlando, Fla. was second, followed by Los Angeles. Fellow Pacific Northwest city Seattle landed in sixth-place. Wallet-Hub says they evaluated those dimensions using 17 relevant metrics. The experts say each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for vegans and vegetarians.
  • The cost for enhanced Washington licenses and IDs is increasing by $3 per year starting Oct. 1. This means a six-year license or ID will cost $18 more and an eight-year version will cost $24 more. The fee increase is to help fund Move Ahead Washington, a nearly $17 billion 16-year transportation revenue package that will pay for a variety of projects across the state, including highway maintenance and the building of four new hybrid-electric ferries. In addition to the enhanced license or ID fee, fees are increasing for driver abstracts and to update your license or ID. The abstract fee, which is a summary of a person’s driver’s record often used by employers or insurance carriers, will increase from $14 to $15, and if you need to update information on your existing license the cost is increasing from $10 to $20, starting Oct. 1. The cost of license plants also went up in July, as a part of the new law.
  • The share of homes built with patios hit a record high in 2021.  Of the roughly 1.1 million single-family homes started in 2021, 63 percent came with patios.  This number comes from NAHB tabulation of data from the Survey of Construction (conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau with partial finding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development).  Patios on new homes have become increasingly common recently, and 2021 marks the sixth consecutive year that the share of new homes with patios hit a record high. From the start of the downturn in 2007 through 2011, the share of new homes with patios was consistently under 50 percent—as low as 44.8 percent in the trough of 2009.  In 2012, the share jumped to 52.4 percent and has been consistently climbing ever since.  The incidence of patios on new homes has now increased in each of the past twelve years, except for 2015 when it remained unchanged. The geographic incidence of new homes with patios still in general resembles the pattern described in last year’s post.  At the low end of the scale, only 17 percent of new single-family homes built in the Middle Atlantic and 28 percent in New England came with patios in 2021.  At the high end, the incidence of patios on new homes was over 70 percent in the West South Central and South Atlantic divisions, and only a little under 70 percent in the Mountain states. The SOC data tell us how many new homes have patios but don’t provide detail about the nature of the patios.  Some of this detail, however, is available from the Annual Builder Practices Survey (BPS) conducted by Home Innovation Research Labs.  Unlike the SOC, the BPS explicitly includes pool decks in its patio category. For the U.S. as a whole, the 2022 BPS report (based on homes built in 2021) shows that the average size of a patio on a new single-family home is just a little under 300 square feet.  However, there is considerable geographic variation, with the average new-home patio reaching nearly 400 square feet in New England and the South Atlantic but falling to as low as 197 square feet in the West North Central, 210 square feet in the Mountain Division, and 229 square feet in the West South Central. On a square foot basis, poured concrete continues to be builders’ overwhelming favorite material for patios, except in the New England and Mid Atlantic divisions where concrete and brick pavers, respectively, are more common.