DHM Research

Living situation impacts opinions on housing as affordability remains top of mind for Washingtonians

Housing affordability is and will likely continue to be a top issue in Washington. With persistent inflation, high interest rates, and a shortage of affordable places to live across the state, the issue is top of mind for voters and policy makers. The recently adjourned 2023 Washington State Legislature explored, and in some cases passed, a variety of policy approaches aiming to address affordability in Washington.

From April 13-18, 2023, DHM Research conducted an online survey of Washington voters to gauge attitudes around housing perceptions of key policy issues. Coming out of this legislative session, we explore voter views on Washington’s housing situation and some of the policies aimed at making it more affordable.

Affordable housing is hard to find in Washington.

44% of Washingtonians indicate that their housing situation is not affordable based on the U.S. HUD definition—housing that accounts for more than 30% of income is unaffordable. This is particularly pronounced for those ages 18-44 and people with annual incomes below $50,000, of whom 55% and 57%, respectively, say their current housing situation is unaffordable. The affordability of your housing can influence how you view the housing market and housing policy. These influences are seen as we take a deeper look at voters’ perceptions of these topics.

Perceptions of the housing market are bleak. Only 16% of Washingtonians believe that it’s a good time to buy a home.

Graph showing "Washington residents are pessimistic about the housing market. This sentiment is greater among younger residents, those with less than a college degree, newer residents, and renters."

While affordable housing has been a growing issue in Washington for some time, the steep incline in interest rates over the past year has created an additional pressure point. 68% of Washingtonians think that it’s generally a bad time to buy a home. Perceptions of the housing market differ by age, education, length of time in Washington, and housing status, but sentiment is negative across the board. Voters under age 65 (70-76%) have more negative views compared to those ages 65+ (51%). People with a high school diploma or less (74%) and those with some college education but no 4-year degree (71%) are more likely to hold negative views compared to those with college degrees (60%). A large portion of residents who have lived in Washington for less than 5 years (88%) are also more likely to view the housing market negatively compared to longer-termed residents (65%). Another difference we observe is between renters (76%) and homeowners (63%).

Most homeowners want the value of their home to increase or stay the same, but voters in other living situations would prefer a decrease in the cost of housing.

Homeowners are more likely to view the rising costs of housing positively. 56% of homeowners say they hope the value of their home increases over the next 5 years, and 45% say they hope that prices in their community increase generally. On the other hand, only 18% of renters say they want prices in their community to increase over the next 5 years, and 56% say they would prefer a decrease.

Graphs showing "Preferences for the change in value of homes differ by housing status. Homeowners are the most likely to prefer that values increase."

It is easy to see this data and say that homeowners are out of touch with the housing situation across the state—and that may be true. However, the homeowners that most want to see prices increase are those from groups some might not expect. 71% of homeowners ages 18-29 say they want their home value to increase in the next 5 years, as do 70% of People of Color who own homes.