Commentary

Why are young people fleeing Seattle?

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After years of its status as a beacon of opportunity for young people, the city of Seattle is experiencing troublesome migration trends among its millennial population. As highlighted by The Seattle Times, the city is losing its shine for young people concerned about homelessness, property damage and the high cost of living.

On April 27, 14-year Seattle resident Alex Berezow penned an Op-Ed to the newspaper expressing his dismay with the current conditions of the city, citing litter, graffiti and homelessness as the major problems contributing to his decision to leave. Berezow’s piece criticizes what he calls self-inflicted wounds caused by the policies enacted by the City Council, such as “restrictive housing policy that artificially caps supply” and an increasing minimum wage that “has added gasoline to the fire.”

In March, The Seattle Times reported that the city’s median single-family-home price reached $777,000, an all-time high for Seattle and a figure that is well out of reach for the average middle class family. As a result, many young people are starting to leave.

As noted by Gene Balk, a writer at The Seattle Times, a large proportion of those leaving Seattle are millennials, who are the primary impetus behind the policies pursued by the City Council. According to Balk’s analysis, between 2011 and 2015, an average of 104,000 King County residents left the area each year. Surprisingly, though, the largest group leaving the metropolitan area is young people between the ages of 18 and 34.

“While Seattle is known as a magnet for millennials, they’re also the biggest group to leave. Nearly half (46 percent) of those exiting King County each year are age 18 to 34,” Balk writes.

Balk also cites findings from Redfin, a real-estate data firm, that show more of the site’s users sought to leave Seattle than relocate there in the final quarter of 2017, a trend opposite of what had been seen in previous quarters.

While many in King County are leaving for other counties in Washington, some are relocating to other states, including California, Oregon, Arizona and Texas. Despite Census data showing that King County experienced a net gain of 2,800 residents in 2017, that figure is down by 5,700 from the previous year, when the county saw a net gain of 8,500 new residents.

The high cost of living in Seattle is also creating troubles for another demographic: retirees, and soon to be retirees. In a city where the cost of living is estimated to be 50 percent higher than the national average, older populations are beginning to realize that they will not be able to afford the city’s high cost of living when they retire. To stretch their dollar further, relocation has become a promising venture for those on fixed incomes.

As noted by Balk, the current data available is too limited to definitely say whether there is an influx of young, outward migrating Seattleites in 2018. However, we can be certain that many young people in Seattle are experiencing buyer’s remorse after having lived through the long stretch of liberal policies enacted by the City Council; policies that are hurting the same people they are intended to help.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is a policy analyst for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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