Housing & Transportation

Housing: Summary & Data Highlights

FOR THE MOST RECENT DATA UPDATE, please see Community Health Indicators >>> 

Among King County renters and homeowners, over half of Blacks and Hispanics pay more than 30% of their income for housing. 

Households that pay a high percentage of their income for housing have little left for other necessities. The quest for affordable housing (costing less than 30% of income) can mean moving far from family, friends, work, school, and childcare arrangements. People who live in unaffordable housing may scrimp on food and forego necessary healthcare and medications.  


King County residents are not equally likely to live in affordable housing.

  • More than 1 in 3 rental and mortgage-holding households in King County spends at least 30% of income on housing (cost-burdened). 1 in 6 households spends at least half of income on housing (severely cost-burdened).
  • Households headed by Blacks experience the highest housing cost burden of any racial or ethnic group.

Housing costs are unaffordably high for about half of all King County renters, 1 in 3 homeowners with mortgages, and 1 in 55 who own their homes free and clear.

Over the past 25 years, the proportions of both renters and homeowners living in unaffordable housing have increased. 

  • From 1989 to 2002, the percentage of homeowners with mortgages in unaffordable housing more than doubled; the rate continued to rise until 2009 and declined significantly after 2009. 
  • Renters and non-mortgage (“free-and-clear”) homeowners showed a significant but more gradual trend toward unaffordable housing from 1989 to 2014.
  • Home ownership in King County declined from 63% in 1970 to 57% in 2014. The significant decrease after 2008 boosted the demand for rental housing.
  • Millennials aren’t buying: Home ownership rates for young adults dropped from 50% in 1980 to 25% in 2013.

Home ownership is no guarantee of affordability. In 2014, King County housing was unaffordable for...

  • The vast majority of mortgage-holding owners earning less than $75,000 a year.
  • More than half of renters earning less than $50,000 a year.

However, the income distributions of renters and mortgage holders differ considerably.

  • Only 29% of mortgage-holding owners earn less than $75,000; 59% earn more than $100,000.
  • 69% of renters early less than $75,000; only 20%% earn more than $100,000.

Only higher-income households can afford to rent in most King County cities.


From 2006 to 2010, foreclosure filings in King County more than quadrupled.

  • Since 2010, foreclosure filings have slowed down considerably, although they have not returned to pre-recession levels.
  • Foreclosure pushes households into the rental market, increasing the demand and cost of rentals. 
In the 2014-2015 school year, 7,260 King County public school children from pre-kindergarten through high school were counted as homeless by their schools. 

The overall rate of student homelessness for the county was 1 in 39 students, compared to 1 in 30 students for Washington state.  However, the county average masks large differences among school districts

  • Tukwila: 1 in 9 K-12 students homeless
  • Highline: 1 in 19 K-12 students homeless
  • Seattle: 1 in 18 K-12 students homeless
  • Mercer Island, Issaquah, Northshore, Tahoma, and Vashon Island: fewer than 1 in 100 student homeless

From 2013-14 to 2014-15 school year, the overall rate of student homelessness in King County increased 10.4%.

Almost half of King County’s homeless students (3,478 of 7,260) are in grade 5 or lower (see "Grade level"). 

More than half of King County’s homeless students “double up”   (See "Accommodation") with friends and/or extended family because their own family is unable to maintain stable housing.  

  • Only Lake Washington and Bellevue districts deviate from this pattern.
  • Only 3.5% of homeless students are unsheltered.

Why does this matter for students?  Independent of poverty, the academic performance of homeless and other highly mobile students is lower – and is likely to stay lower – than that of students with more residential stability.  Homeless students are also more likely than stably housed students to experience family adversity and problems with physical and emotional health.


"Due to limited resources and the economy, the four of us are living in a one bedroom rental. We rented this house with my mother and many of my siblings to save money. We’ve lived together for the past three years. Each family lives in the same apartment. We share the kitchen, living room and other living quarters…"
Mother from 2-parent family with 2 children who emigrated from China several years ago