Living in Seattle isn’t cheap. According to a new study by GoBankingRates.com, it costs $72,092 a year to live “comfortably” in this city. That takes into account housing, transportation, healthcare, utilities and other living expenses. The study relied on the 50-30-20 budget rule in which 50 percent of income covers necessities, 30 percent covers discretionary items and 20 percent is saved.
The median income in Seattle is $67,365, according to the GoBankingRates website, which comes up almost five thousand dollars short of the income calculated in the study. The website bluntly suggests that, if you don’t make enough money to afford these expenses, you should cut costs or seriously consider moving to another city.
With the school year coming to an end, the cost of living in Seattle weighs on the minds of our community in different ways. For seniors and other students on the brink of graduation, it’s impossible not to think about life after college, where to live and how to pay for it.
Similar thoughts plague the mind of Joanna Frazier, a senior at Seattle University who will graduate with a degree in interdisciplinary liberal studies this June.
“I’ve been stressing about my living situation,” Frazier said. “I’m excited to get working but I’m nervous about finances.”
Currently, Frazier lives with her dog on Mercer Island. She drives 10 minutes to school every day. Her parents help her pay rent, which allows her to stay in Seattle, at least for the time being.
“I don’t know where I’ll live next year,” she said.
Frazier is excited to graduate and get a job. However, it’s doubtful that she’ll be able to find a job that will pay enough for her to live comfortably, according to the standard of living described in the study.
“The only way I’ll be able to live here is if I live in a house with a bunch of other people,” Frazier said. “I really can’t afford anything else.”
It seems the same issues that face Seattle are also at play on our campus. According to Associate Director for Housing and Residence Life Tim Albert, our growing freshman class is making it nearly impossible for the school to accommodate students like they have been in the past.
“Affordability off campus is a huge concern,” Albert said. “For low-income and moderate-income people, we’re at a crisis level.”
Seattle U, Albert said, is growing just like the city itself. Each freshman class is bigger than the last, and more students are looking to live off campus each year. The problem is that our campus can only hold so many students, and those students can only afford so much in terms of rent payment.
“There’s nowhere else we can house people,” Albert said. “We’ve kind of hit a wall.”
Julian Gottlieb, a political science lecturer, faces similar issues. Gottlieb moved to Seattle in 2015 when he started teaching at Seattle U. He lives on Capitol Hill in an apartment north of Broadway. It takes him about 20 minutes to walk to campus.
As a rule of thumb, Gottlieb once heard, you should not spend more than a third of your income on rent. Many people, Gottlieb said—himself included—cannot afford to abide by that rule.
Charles Mudede wrote an article for the Stranger in which he likened the inevitability of climate change to the rising cost of living in Seattle. This city’s housing market, he said, is locked in a cycle of asset value inflation, putting it on track to become the next Vancouver, B.C., or San Francisco.
“The idea of building our way out of this bad situation, as the urbanists propose, will not produce the desired results in reality because the market is not structured in that way,” Mudede wrote. “It does not answer to the basic laws of supply and demand.”
Gottlieb said that renters don’t get enough leverage anymore when describing what it was like looking for an apartment here.
“It’s not about keeping people in a place long-term. If I called or toured a place, it would be gone within the hour,” he said.
According to RadPad, a mobile apartment search and rent payment provider, Seattle U is the 22nd most expensive college in the country to live near, with the average two bedroom apartment within one mile of campus costing $2,950 a month. The CollegeBoard reported that the average cost of room and board on private school campuses in 2015-16 costs more than $11 thousand each school year. Divided among the nine months that students usually spend on campus, that amounts to more than $1,100 a month to live in a dormitory with roommates, on average. And all of that with Resident Assistant constantly looking over your shoulder.
“As long as there’s fifty or a hundred people looking at one apartment,” Gottlieb said. “Landlords are always gonna have the upper hand.”
Nick may be reached at