NW REporter

News In Brief: September 2022

  • According to the Seattle Times, about 40% of the 4.8 million registered voters in Washington participated in the Aug. 2 midterm primary election, with the highest turnouts recorded in the eastern and far west parts of the state. The turnout for these primary races for state legislative and U.S. House and Senate seats was about the same as 2018, when 40.8% of voters returned their ballots. About half of Washington’s voters, 2.4 million people, are concentrated in the Puget Sound region, where a median 37.3% participated in the primary election, according to data from the secretary of state’s office. In the 2018 primary, the region recorded a marginally higher voter turnout of 38.6%. King County, which has 1.3 million registered voters, recorded a turnout of over 38% for the primary — a significant decline from 2018, when the turnout was over 50%. Spokane County, which has the largest number of registered voters in Eastern Washington, recorded a turnout of about 40%, witnessing a drop since 2018 (45%), when the region trailed King County. Regionally, counties in Central and Eastern Washington recorded the greatest dip in voter turnout this primary election compared to 2018. Yakima County led that pack as more than two-thirds of that county’s 27,000 registered voters did not participate in the primary this year. This is a 25 percentage-point drop from 2018. Pend Oreille County in the east followed, with a 23 percentage-point drop in voter turnout compared to 2018. Nearly half the counties in the state recorded a drop in turnout this year compared to 2018, and a few saw a significant swell of voters. The greatest increases were recorded in Lincoln County in the east, Pacific and Jefferson in the west, and San Juan County in the north. Registered voters in these counties account for just over 1% of registered voters in the state but they accounted for nearly 2% of the ballots counted this election. Since 2014, when the state recorded its lowest voter turnout in a midterm primary (31.2%), voter participation has consistently declined in Yakima and Franklin counties in the south-central part of the state. At the same time, turnout in southwest Wahkiakum County and central Okanogan County has grown.
  • WalletHub released a report detailing the top real estate markets in the country, and Seattle edged out all but three other large cities. The personal finance website ranked Seattle the No. 4 large real estate market in the United States. The report relied on 17 metrics to determine the most attractive real estate markets nationwide, including median home-price appreciation, median days on market and job growth. Austin ranked No. 1, followed by Nashville and Forth Worth, Texas. Portland clocked in at No. 16. WalletHub ranked Seattle No. 16 in the country for best places to buy a house. Click here for the full report.
  • A new program known as Wheels to the Waterfront is being rolled out by the city of Everett and it is providing a boost to local merchants’ summertime business through free rides to the city’s waterfront. Shops and restaurants around the Everett marina have long-sought the no-fare transit trips and city officials said they are already seeing more people take the bus. Everett is using some of the pandemic relief money it received to subsidize the city bus system. The free trips start at 6 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but then are scaled back to just Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 30.
  • Students who used federal loans to attend ITT Technical Institute as far back as 2005 will automatically get that debt canceled after authorities found “widespread and pervasive misrepresentations” at the defunct for-profit college chain, the Biden administration announced Tuesday, August 16. The action will cancel $3.9 billion in federal student debt for 208,000 borrowers, the Education Department said. The debt is being forgiven using a federal rule known as borrower defense, which is meant to protect students from colleges that make false advertising claims or otherwise commit fraud. The new policy will automatically cancel any remaining federal student debt that was used to attend ITT Tech from Jan. 1, 2005, through its closure in 2016.
  • Just in time for National Thrift Shop Day, StorageCafe.com compiled a list of the hubs for lovers of vintage clothing. Ranked in the top 50 most populous metro areas, Seattle – Tacoma – Bellevue placed second, right behind the Denver – Aurora – Lakewood area. In Seattle, there are seven resale venues per 100,000 locals, which ranks fifth among the 50 metro areas on the list. However, the Emerald City truly shines when it comes to resale shopping power. Secondhand sales reach close to $220 per household annually, which ranks fourth overall. Which is a strong indication of the overall thrifting industry here in Seattle. Several metrics are included in this valuation, including thrift establishment availability and thrifting sales volumes. You can view more on the study here.
  • According to Redfin, nationwide, roughly 63,000 home-purchase agreements fell through in July, equal to 16.1% of homes that went under contract that month. In Washington, Seattle saw 11% of pending sales fall through in July 2022, in Tacoma the percentage of buyers backing out of deals was 17.2%. Data showed that’s the highest percentage on record with the exception of March and April 2020, when the onset of the coronavirus pandemic brought the housing market to a near standstill. Click here to read the full report.
  • Washington is the fourth most active state, a new study reveals. Research conducted by fitness experts Fitness Volt, based the review on a multitude of factors related to fitness. Such as the number of gyms and health clubs per capita, the prevalence of physical inactivity, access to exercise opportunities and Google search terms associated with exercise. Washington ultimately fell behind the states of Minnesota, Colorado, and Connecticut. The Emerald State has six gyms per 100,000 people, 12 health clubs per 100,000 people, 18% physical inactivity prevalence, and 86 percent access to exercise opportunities.
  • Due to increased hospital needs, the regional supply of blood and platelets has dipped to critical levels, according to Bloodworks Northwest as reported by KIRO 7. As donations remain low this summer, Bloodworks Northwest says over 9,000 appointments need to be filled between now and Labor Day to meet expected demand. The most in-demand blood type, Type O, is especially needed to support trauma patients and all eligible donors with Type O are urged to donate immediately. Most people who are at least 18 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds can donate blood every 56 days. In Washington, 16- or 17-year-olds must have a signed permission form. Schedule an appointment to donate blood now at bloodworksnw.org or call 1-800-398-7888.
  • U.S. Rep. Adam Smith has introduced a bill that would all but shut down the sale of single-family homes to institutional investors and large private equity companies. The SHAPE (Saving Homes from Acquisition by Private Equity) Act would create a federal real estate transfer tax set at 100% of the property’s sale price. Revenue from the tax, which would affect companies with $20 million or more in assets, would be disbursed in grants to states to build and preserve affordable housing for low-income households. The likelihood of the act passing is highly doubtful given the exorbitant tax rate and the might of the real estate lobby. Investors bought 87,500 homes in the second quarter, according to a Redfin analysis of county records across 40 of the largest metro areas. That was 19.4% of the homes sold, down from a record 20.1% in Q1. In the Seattle area, investors swooped in to spend just over $1 billion on single-family homes, or 8.7% of the market’s purchased houses. Redfin reported the share of homes purchased by investors in Q2 was nearly 19% lower compared with the same period a year ago. While passage of the act in its present form is unlikely, there is interest in Congress in reining in institutional and private equity companies. Both the House Financial Services Committee and the Ways and Means Committee held hearings this summer on the topic.
  • King County Elections confirmed that Seattle voters will have their say on a ballot initiative that establishes a public developer to create permanently affordable housing in a city known for rising rents and a growing homelessness crisis. Initiative 135 qualified to appear on the ballot in a special election in early 2023 after a second, successful signature-gathering effort by the campaign. If passed, the measure would establish a public development authority, the Seattle Social Housing Developer, that would use government and philanthropic dollars to build new housing and take over existing properties to establish renter-governed housing that would be protected from rental market forces. This model is picking up steam in other states, including Hawaii and California, and is popular in other countries, including Austria and Singapore. Before it can go before voters, the initiative will go before the Seattle City Council. Councilmembers could decide to skip the public vote altogether and pass the initiative, making it a city ordinance. But if that doesn’t happen, then it will advance to voters’ mailboxes. This new measure, I-135, would create a public corporation operating under state and local laws that would be run by a governing board. Out of the 13-member board, two members would be appointed by Seattle City Council and one by Seattle’s mayor. Unlike current forms of public housing operated by agencies like the Seattle Housing Authority, the corporation would not have to abide by federal rules in determining who qualifies for housing. It also would expand eligibility for rent-controlled housing. The initiative’s language says it would create housing for people who earn from 0% to 120% of the area’s median income. Most federal housing funds go to people who make 80% or less of area median income. Seattle’s median household income was $102,500 in 2019.