Rising Rent Costs Lead to a New Capitol Hill

To Seattle University students:

Returning to start school this fall, Capitol Hill may look like a very different place. A quick stroll around the hill reveals a whole slew of construction sites, and early mornings are full of the requisite grinding and rumbling of heavy machinery. New apartment complexes have risen from the pavement seemingly overnight, and Pine and Pike boast a number of new, high-end restaurants and shops.

Gentrification is nothing new on The Hill, whose middle to lower income residents have been pushed outwards for over a decade to make room for students and coffee shops; but the recent development marks a dramatic shift in the area’s affordability for renters.

According to an article by The Seattle Times the Seattle area’s trend of increasing rents is one of the highest in the nation, saying, “Rent in the Seattle area climbed six percent in the past 12 months, outpacing increases in other bustling tech centers such as San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., or Boston.”

The article goes on to report that the average rent for the area as a whole is at $1,150, and appears set to continue rising. On Capitol Hill, this change is even more pronounced.

A different article by the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog states “average monthly rent in Capitol Hill has soared 8.2% since April to $1,395 per unit.”

The article draws from a recent report by Tom Cain at Apartment Insights, an online research database for the Northwest. The report shows that Capitol Hill is currently exploding with new units, numbering somewhere around 14,000 in King and Snohomish counties. While the influx of new apartments has led some to believe in a resulting drop in prices, the reality for most middle-to-lower income residents won’t be particularly kind. Most of the buildings are new and set to cater to high-income residents who populate companies like Amazon and Microsoft.

While these changes are undoubtedly a nice boom for the city and local business owners, those who can’t afford the rising rent are set to suffer, and the overall culture of Capitol Hill—once known for it’s more sordid, youth-centered vibe—is on the way out. Many young people still come to the hill to shop and go to local shows, but the folks who actually live on the hill are not the young 20-something’s they used to be.

Another report by the Seattle Times reveals that the predominant age group on the hill is becoming much older. While the numbers show that those aged 18-24 is sharply declining in residency on the hill, the number of people in their late thirties and early forties is on the rise. As prices continue to rise and high-end apartments remain the prevailing theme on the hill, young residents will have to either decide to leave or consider living in some of the area’s new small—but affordable—apodments.

Either way, the old Hill is on its way out, and a new, richer one is taking its place.

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