Seattle is growing faster than most other cities in the U.S., in large part due to the region’s booming technology ecosystem. But as we’ve seen in the Bay Area, innovation hubs can face new problems with such growth — namely rising housing costs, increased congestion, and overall inequality.
This is top of mind for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who gave his third “State of the City” address on Tuesday at City Hall.
“Seattle is being transformed by an engine of change, fueled by the same large and disruptive forces that are upending social orders all across the globe,” Murray said. “And today we are presented with a fundamental question: Is a knowledge-based, technology-driven economy going to drive equity in this city, or is it going to drive us apart?”
Mayor Murray laid out some impressive stats, noting that Seattle’s median income is at an all-time high; more than 63,000 jobs have been created in the last five years; and “we are the sixth-most educated city in America.”
But he addressed issues like housing affordability and income inequity, laying out the work being done to ensure that “where we see disparities arise within our innovation economy, we will drive equity with an innovative government.”
As the Seattle tech ecosystem continues to grow — whether it’s new startups sprouting up or tech giants like Facebook and Google expanding their engineering centers — providing a home for technology companies to thrive while maintaining a high quality of life for all citizens will continue to be a challenge for the mayor and city officials.
The housing issue in particular is a growing problem caused in part by out-of-town tech company employees who can afford high rent and are forcing local residents to find other places to live — some have even moved into RVs to combat the rising rates.
Mayor Murray, who took office in January 2014, met with Seattle-based real estate giant Zillow Group this past October to talk about this subject. Zillow shared its own housing market data for specific cities with the mayor, who also noted that it’s more important than ever for tech companies and employees to get involved with civic life.
“Those folks that are moving to the city want to live in the city, they want to be able to take a bus or light rail, they want to walk to work, to the park, to the grocery store,” Murray said in October. “We need those folks in the IT world to be involved in government and politics and be that voice because there are other voices that say no more transit, no more bike lanes.”
Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries echoed those thoughts and said that there are steps Seattle can take — both from the private and public sides — to help avoid some of what’s going on in the Bay Area related to housing affordability.
“The lack of affordability in the Bay Area does create real competitive issues with the ability to attract talent to places like Seattle, Boston, or Austin that have lower cost of housing,” Humphries said. “We want to make sure our cities provide affordable housing because it’s important for companies.”
You can read Mayor Murray’s address here, or watch it below: