The pros and cons of living in Western Washington
Washington has received a lot of praise lately. It’s a safe state. It’s an economically competitive state. Real estate prices are gold. And Seattle is the shining emerald in this economic crown.
But to be fair, and in an effort to stay humble, the state and its largest city don’t boast all good news. There are plenty of cons to the pros of living in Western Washington. It just depends on if you view the rain gauge half full or half empty. So let’s balance out our Pollyanna with a little Debbie Downer.
Economy / jobs
Pro: Washington’s economy is best in the nation
After considering 28 different factors across economic activity, health, and potential, WalletHub ranked Washington as the nation’s best economy. It notes the state has: the highest GDP growth in the country; it has the most exports per capita (tied with Texas, North Dakota, and Louisiana); has the fourth highest change in non-farm payrolls; and the fourth highest percentage of tech jobs.
On top of that, Governor Jay Inslee’s office announced this week that Washington is the most competitive state in the country when it comes to aerospace manufacturing. This is according to a study that the governor’s office commissioned itself. It’s called the “Teal report.”
“Washington has an aerospace supercluster like none other in the country,” Inslee said. “The Teal report shows that by any measure, Washington is leading the way and offers the most competitive environment and workforce for companies seeking to build world-class planes.”
This all factors into yet another No. 1 ranking for Washington — best place for jobs.
Con: Not everyone benefits from the economy, which may not last long
The state doesn’t rank highly when it comes to number of startups, or the highest median annual household income on WalletHub’s list. In Seattle, where a lot of the tech industry is headquartered, only one in four residents earn more than $100,000. More than half of the Emerald City earns less than $50,000 annually.
Seattle is among the top five cities with the most expensive rent, and Tacoma is not far behind.
And economies are fragile, like the ego of certain sitting presidents. Much of the state’s economic engine revs up in Seattle, or at least Western Washington; its vibrations generally radiate out from there. Many in the state are wary of policies coming out of Seattle, such as the recent-passed head tax. Many local companies are saying they are looking to expand outside of Seattle as a result of the tax.
Even surrounding counties are looking to benefit off of Seattle’s taxing attitude. But the larger concern is that the head tax will amplify a message to out-of-state businesses potentially looking to locate in Washington — that they are unwelcome.
On top of that, Seattle was just listed as having the most regressive taxes in Washington; the state itself is ranked for having the most regressive taxes in the nation.
Pro: Business is good in the real estate market
Seattle is among the fastest growing cities in the nation, and that is helping to heat up the housing market. Redfin reports that the Seattle region is the second fastest market in the country with homes pending sale in just seven median days on the market — 64 percent of homes sold at above list price. Seattle prices also grew by 14.7 percent since April 2017.
Con: Few can afford it
Seattle tops the list of least affordable cities in the state. It’s followed by Vancouver (near Portland), and Tacoma.
Nationally, Washington comes in at 44th when it comes to affordability, according to U. S. News. This is based on its rankings with cost of living (38th) and housing affordability (46th).
So while there are plenty of jobs in the nation’s hottest economy, affording to live near that job may not be so easy.
Pro: There’s actually no pro argument here. I literally can’t find any good news related to getting around Western Washington … the Roosevelt bike lane in Seattle is pretty cool, so I guess there’s that.
Con: There’s plenty of factoids about how bad Washington traffic is, however. It’s the second worst in the nation. The Seattle region’s traffic has been ranked among the worst on Earth. And it turns out we all make it worse for ourselves.
Pro: Washington among top 10 safest states in America
WalletHub is also patting the state on the back as the 10th safest in the country — despite having the fewest law enforcement employees per capita (ranked 49th). But the state has very few occupational injuries, and suffers little costs from climate-related disasters.
Con: Gun violence
And while property crimes — a common complaint in the region — went down in 2017, violent crimes went up. Meanwhile, there are thousands of backlogged rape kits that remain untested for years. Cemeteries can’t get any relief from addicts and prostitutes. And the region has been experiencing upticks in bias (hate) crimes.
Pro: There’s plenty of beer
Washington doesn’t have the most breweries in the nation, but it ranks fairly high and produces quite a lot of barrels. There’s a considerable craft beer scene. So if affordability and crime gets you down, at least there’s crafty cold one available to you.
Con: It’s all IPA
Which is nice if you love IPA. This is more of a personal observation; it’s not all IPA, but it just seems that IPAs have gone beyond a trend and become a regional flavor. Personally, all beer is a failure by default for not being whiskey. But if we’re going to have so many breweries, why not diversify? It’s like living in a candy factory that only makes black licorice.