White Center leads shift in Seattle area suburbs decade in the making

Oct 7, 2021, 12:24 PM | Updated: 12:33 pm
White Center...
King County's White Center neighborhood. (MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

Homeowners comprise nearly all residents of suburbs in the Seattle area, but it’s in White Center where a sizable shift appears to be occurring.

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Both North Lynnwood and Tukwila have been renter-majority suburbs since 2010, made up of 57% and 64% renters, respectively, according to newly-released data from RentCafe. White Center is the sole Seattle-area suburb to have joined those ranks in the last decade, though, having gone from 48% renters in 2010 to 51% by 2019.

Several other suburbs across the region also saw increases in their renter populations over that period, including Bryn Mawr-Skyway (up 23%), Lake Stevens (22%), and Tukwila (17%). That’s consistent with a larger national trend, driven by a variety of factors that have seen the makeup of suburbs shift away from the standards set in the 1950s and 1960s.

“We have reimagined the American dream for a modern, more diverse society where people are having fewer children and getting married much later in life (if at all), and where most good job/career opportunities require one to be flexible,” Millikin University associate professor of sociology Dr. Kenneth Laundra said in a news release.

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RentCafe further cites U.S. Census data indicating that a majority of the new renters flooding into suburbs across the nation “are Millennials and Gen Zs looking for housing options that better suit their budgets.”

For White Center, it represents an area in unincorporated King County where residents are within driving distance of downtown Seattle, while being situated far enough south to avoid the impacts of the recent West Seattle Bridge closure. The average monthly rental rate in the neighborhood has also remained largely consistent over the last three years, settling in just short of $1,600 in September of 2021. That’s down from White Center’s peak in July 2019, when the average monthly rate was $1,658.

Comparatively, the average rent in Seattle is roughly $2,170 a month. In Bellevue, that rate jumps up to nearly $2,500, while Tacoma is roughly on par with White Center at $1,539.

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White Center leads shift in Seattle area suburbs decade in the making