Mapping housing that’s affordable to all

New database tracks region’s income-restricted housing

Homes provided by the private market are an integral part of housing in the region. But the private market alone can’t provide housing for all residents.

Income-restricted units (often also referred to as subsidized units) are made possible with federal, state, and local funding and incentives that ensure long-term rent or income restrictions. They provide affordable housing that the private market can’t.

There are income-restricted units throughout the region, with most concentrated in the region’s five Metropolitan cities: Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, Everett, and Bremerton.

A recent inventory of income-restricted units tallied over 83,000 units across the four counties. There are a total of 1.8 million housing units in the region.

Most income-restricted units (70%) are located in King County. Nearly all of the units (99%) are affordable to households earning less than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI). About a quarter of them (23%) are affordable to households earning less than 30% AMI.

The majority of income-restricted units (58%) are studios or one-bedroom units. Two- and three-bedroom units account for nearly half of all units in Kitsap and Snohomish counties. There is an extremely limited supply (3%) of units with four or more bedrooms.

Neighborhoods matter for the well-being of families. Moving from lower-opportunity neighborhoods to higher-opportunity neighborhoods has been shown to improve later-life outcomes for children whose families move and may reduce the intergenerational persistence of poverty.

In addition to looking at the total number and geographic distribution of income-restricted units, PSRC looked at the location of units in relation to access to opportunity and communities at higher risk of displacement.

The map shows the income-restricted units overlaid on PSRC’s Displacement Risk Mapping index. The index is a tool used to identify what neighborhoods in the region are at higher risk of displacement so policy makers can prevent it from happening in the future.

Income-Restricted Housing Units 0-80% AMI and Displacement Risk, 2020

Map with income-restricted housing units overlaid on displacement risk in Puget Sound region.
Click to enlarge map

Overall, there are larger concentrations of income-restricted units in areas of moderate to high risk of displacement than in areas at lower risk of displacement. These income-restricted units are critical to ensure affordable housing options are available so that long-term residents can continue to live in these communities and new residents of all incomes have housing options.

The need for long-term income-restricted units in moderate and high-risk areas will only increase as public investments, such as the expansion of light rail and bus rapid transit continue into Pierce and Snohomish counties, and high home prices in central places close to jobs push residents farther from jobs, services, and cultural connections.