In Seattle, One-Room Units More Common Than Ever

Over ten percent of housing units in Seattle are single-room units, a new high and the result of a shift in housing costs and trends in recent years.
October 16, 2018, 12pm PDT | Camille Fink
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New Census data show that for the first time over 10 percent of Seattle housing units have just one room. The number of units has increased 80 percent since 2010, when there were more nine-room units than single-room ones. 

Seattle is now more similar to San Francisco, the only other large U.S. city with a share of one-room units above the 10 percent mark. What is happening in these cities with these smaller units is not the norm across the country, says Gene Balk:

They are much rarer in a lot of other cities, particularly places where most people live in houses and rents aren’t anywhere near as high as Seattle. At the other end of the spectrum from San Francisco and us is Virginia Beach, Virginia — only about one in 100 housing units are one room.

While many of these units are studios, Balk notes that micro-units, generally smaller than 400 square feet, have been springing up around the city. Because the units are smaller, the rents tend to be more affordable, particularly in costlier neighborhoods.

Three-quarters of these one-room units are rentals, and Balk acknowledges they do have their place in Seattle’s expensive housing market. “Living in a single room can’t be the solution to Seattle’s high rents for everyone. It certainly isn’t suitable for a family, or even a couple. But for a young, single person, it can work out well. And in Seattle, there are a lot of them,” says Balk.

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Published on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 in The Seattle Times
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