If you can’t afford Seattle, why don’t you just move?
If you can’t afford to live somewhere, why not just move to a cheaper area?
That’s a common question asked around the Puget Sound region as the cost-of-living skyrockets and affordable housing is rare. In fact, affordability was the biggest complaint people had in a recent survey by the Puget Sound Regional Council.
“They are assuming people are making decisions purely based on this economic calculation,” Emily Badger told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. “Ya know, ‘I can’t afford housing here, therefore I should move somewhere I can obtain the same resource for far cheaper.’”
Badger recently studied the issue and wrote her findings in a New York Times article.
“The reality is people are tied to the communities where they live,” she said. “People live within social networks. They have extended family they need to be by. Maybe someone has an aging parent they are responsible for. Or they have children in a school system where the children are thriving and they don’t want to pull them out of there.”
Badger said she has also heard from readers who stay in a location for access to medical care they cannot get elsewhere. The expensive vs. cheaper debate is really just one factor among many.
More Seattle homeless come from the area
Badger primarily studied California’s affordable housing issue. But the sentiment works just as well for Seattle or most any other city where costs are rising as affordability and homelessness increases. For example, Badger cites the need to stay in an area where children are going to school. Washington recently announced that its homeless student population is at an all-time high.
The most recent numbers indicate that only 12.8 percent of the Seattle homeless population came from outside the state. A total of 11.2 percent came from Pierce, Snohomish, and Thurston counties. The vast majority of homeless in Seattle were living in the city or King County when they became homeless. There are other issues as well. Older women specifically face a “silent epidemic” of becoming homeless in the Seattle area.
“There are all of these other tangible things that hold people in place that explain why people feel like they can’t leave, even really expensive communities,” Badger said. “We are ignoring that entire criteria of why people choose to live where they live.”
Affordability vs support
Take, for example, one single mother in San Francisco that Badger spoke with while writing her New York Times article. She lives with family in a small home where she does not have her own room. Why wouldn’t she just move somewhere cheaper?
Well, she has family in the area. That family helps take care of her child. Abandoning her support system and parachuting into a community where she knows no one doesn’t make sense in her situation.
“This is an absolutely rational, thoughtful decision that she has made,” Badger said. “She is choosing to stay here for reasons that other people may think are odd, but it makes perfect sense for her life. It makes perfect sense for her to be sleeping on the floor of her mother’s house.”