Flying to work cheaper for Seattle tech worker whose job is in Bay Area

SEATTLE — Seattleite Rebecca Heineman, a computer engineer who over the decades designed such video game classics as "Dragon Wars" found a unwinnable war herself for housing in San Francisco, so she decided that commuting by air from Seattle to San Francisco would save her at least $1,000 every month.

"Right now in Seattle, I have a beautiful two bedroom apartment, it's about 1,330 square feet, and it's costing me about $3,200."

She looked everywhere in San Francisco to rent any place of comparable size, within walking distance from her workplace, because she doesn't own a car.

"We're starting at about six thousand," she said.

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KIRO-7 compared what's already happened to rental housing in tech-heavy San Francisco to explosively growing Seattle, where housing value growth has outpaced every major city in the United States.

"There's going to continue to be this pool of renters out there looking for rental homes," said Aaron Terrazas, Zillow's senior economist. According to Zillow, King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, more than 16 percent of single family houses and townhomes are now being rented out, and that's not keeping up with demand.

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"We know inventory is tight across the board. it's down double digits in the past year," Terrazas said. "With homebuilding as costly as it is, we don't see that changing any time soon."

Even though housing construction in Seattle is hardly approaching demand, it is robust compared to San Francisco, where the largest recent growth in housing construction has been ultra-expensive luxury condominiums, according to Zillow.

A recent housing report from Harvard reported nearly half of Seattle renters pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent. And nearly a quarter of renters in Seattle spend more than half of their total income on housing.

"Things have got to change in Seattle, otherwise it will be untenable and we can be in the next 10 years, another San Francisco," Heineman said.

The story in San Francisco is not enough construction to keep up with demand, so wealthy buyers drive up enormous rents.

"We have buyers, typically younger high tech buyers who are massively wealthy, and typically suddenly so," said San Francisco real estate analyst Patrick Carlisle.

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Recently, Washington State Rep. Nicole Macri announced her effort to repeal the state's 36-year-old ban on government rent control. New Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is working on a plan disigned to help low-income families and first-time homebuyers afford a place to live in Seattle.

But Heineman said it comes down to simple supply and demand. "The more apartments that are opened up, the cheaper it gets because it's supply and demand," she said. "Simple business!"