An overwhelming majority of residents in Washington State’s fifth largest city feel that the housing market is failing to meet the needs of the community and agree that a stronger “hands-on” approach is urgently needed to deliver affordability-focused solutions for Bellevue, a new groundbreaking poll conducted for the Northwest Progressive Institute and its partners has found.
NPI, Complete Streets Bellevue, the Sightline Institute, Eastside For All, and the Housing Development Consortium (HDC) teamed up this summer to ask Bellevue residents about their views on the housing market and housing policy.
Our survey, which our colleagues at Change Research fielded for us from August 15th — 19th, found widespread agreement that the status quo in Bellevue simply isn’t working for residents or prospective residents, along with a great deal of enthusiasm for promising new policies that could begin to change that.
One of the first questions we asked was Do you agree or disagree that the housing market in Bellevue is currently meeting the needs of the community?
A whopping 68% of the 475 residents surveyed said they disagreed, while only 27% said they agreed. Just 6% overall expressed strong agreement, a figure that really stood out to us. Only 5% said they were not sure.
We next asked respondents to tell us about their housing experience.
- 51% said they know someone who works in Bellevue but must commute from far away to be able to afford rent or housing.
- 46% said that housing affordability in Bellevue is a problem that has impacted them personally — and many took the time to share their stories.
- 42% said that housing affordability in Bellevue is a problem that is impacting members of their family (children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, other close relatives).
- 24% (nearly a quarter) said they know a senior who can’t find suitable housing to downsize and remain in the Bellevue community.
Just 16% said that it has been easy for them to find housing in Bellevue that meets their needs and is affordable. 12% told us they know a Bellevue resident facing foreclosure, eviction, or an unstable housing situation.
Given the current situation and a significant amount of anticipated population growth in the next twenty years, we asked respondents whether they want to see a “hands-on” management approach from the city, or a “hands-off” approach.
Once again, we saw a huge divide. 65% of residents expressed support for a hands-on approach, while only 19% preferred a hands-off, laissez faire approach.
What form should that hands-on approach take? One of the most popular ideas that we tested was a mandatory housing affordability (MHA) requirement, something that many neighboring cities are already doing.
A total of 78% of residents agreed that Bellevue should require developers constructing new housing in Bellevue to reserve a percentage of units within their projects as affordable housing, like adjoining cities such as Redmond and Kirkland already do. Just 18% expressed disagreement with this idea. 4% were not sure.
We also asked residents for their views on a significant number of additional policy ideas. We’ll share the results of those questions in the coming days.
With 151,854 residents according to the 2020 census, Bellevue is the second most populous city in King County and the fifth most populous in the state, as noted at the beginning of this post. The city’s land area spans 86.7 square kilometers / 33.48 square miles, and experienced population growth of 24.10% between the 2010 and 2020 censuses. Seattle, Bellevue’s larger sibling across Lake Washington, experienced growth of 21.09% during that same time period.
Though Bellevue is a very affluent city — 60% of our respondents said they make $100,000 or more per year, with nearly a quarter making over $250,000 per year — the city’s housing affordability crisis has gotten so bad that all but the very wealthiest families are feeling it. Even families with multiple adults who are working full time expressed frustration with the city’s housing market.
“Even though me and my husband are working professionals and make well over $215k/year, we could not afford to buy a home in Bellevue at this point,” said one respondent, who identified as an Asian American / Pacific Islander female homeowner between the ages of thirty-five to forty-nine.
She added: “We do have some concerns that with the rapidly rising property taxes, we may get priced out of the home we currently own.”
“I currently rent an apartment which has recently increased rent by 17% for renewing my lease,” said a male Asian American / Pacific Islander resident who is between the ages of eighteen to thirty-four. “Even with the increase, we have no choice but to stay because everything else is way more expensive. My wife and I would’ve liked to buy a home and start a family but home prices are too expensive and there are not enough options that fit our needs.”
“I grew up in Bellevue and currently rent,” said a male white respondent who is between the ages of thirty-five to forty-nine. “I make good money but still can’t afford even a starter home in Bellevue. Housing prices are going up faster then my ability to make more money and save for a down payment. Even though I am making more money every year. I feel shut out of the city I grew up in.”
“My family is blessed to have an income into the $100,000+ and we strictly budget,” said a Newport female resident between the ages of thirty-five and forty-nine who did not state an ethnicity. “I have lived here my whole life, born at Overlake. We have not been able to compete with the Wall Street firms, paying 100k+ over asking for an already overpriced house. We have the income and stability and by all account[s] we should have been able to buy a house years ago. Instead we spend over $40k a year in rent. My generation alone has faced two economic collapses, a deadly pandemic and outrageous cost of living rise, college expenses and outrageous housing/ food/ transportation.”
“I’m a standard tech Yuppie who has rented in DT for ~4 years,” said another respondent, who identifies as a white male between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four, and lives in the city’s downtown [DT] core. “I do want to buy, but I don’t need a single family detached home as a single person. Finding a condo or even a townhouse that isn’t priced like a Manhattan apartment is rare, and what does become available disappears quickly for well over asking price.”
“Had to move out — am in shared housing arrangement now, but do not expect I will or able to stay. Need affordable senior housing option!” said a white female resident older than sixty-five years of age. Another woman in the same age bracket told us: “Would like to downsize to a one floor home, but would cost the same or more than the home I have now with no savings for retirement.”
The above are just a sampling of the stories that we heard from our respondents. They span every age and income bracket. People of many different backgrounds in Bellevue are in strong agreement: the housing market is failing and City Hall must take action to ensure that Bellevue remains inclusive and welcoming.
Here’s the text of all the questions we’re releasing today, and their responses:
QUESTION: Do you agree or disagree that the housing market in Bellevue is currently meeting the needs of the community?
- Agree: 27%
- Strongly agree: 6%
- Somewhat agree: 21%
- Disagree: 68%
- Somewhat disagree: 29%
- Strongly disagree: 39%
- Not sure: 5%
QUESTION: Please tell us about your housing experience as a resident of Bellevue, and that of the people you know (family, friends, colleagues, or employees). Check any of the following statements that apply.
- 51%: I know someone who works in Bellevue but must commute from far away to be able to afford rent or housing
- 46%: Housing affordability in Bellevue is a problem that has impacted me personally
- 42%: Housing affordability in Bellevue is a problem that is impacting members of my family (children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, other close relatives)
- 24%: I know a senior who can’t find suitable housing to downsize and remain in our community
- 16%: It has been easy for me to find housing in Bellevue that meets my needs and is affordable
- 12%: I know a Bellevue resident facing foreclosure, eviction, or an unstable housing situation
- 16%: Other (please specify)
QUESTION: The City of Bellevue has committed to adding 35,000 new households within the next two decades as its contribution to the Puget Sound region’s expected growth. Which approach to managing this growth do you agree with the most?
- 65%: Bellevue should take a stronger “hands-on” approach to housing and adopt more policies that encourage or require the development of homes that people can afford to buy or rent.
- 19%: Bellevue should take a “hands-off” approach to housing, reducing regulations and zoning requirements, and let the private market determine what type of housing is built in the city.
- 16%: Not sure
QUESTION: Do you agree or disagree with the following approaches for investing in affordable housing in Bellevue?
Idea: Requiring developers constructing new housing in Bellevue to reserve a percentage of units within their projects as affordable housing, like adjoining cities such as Redmond and Kirkland already do
- Agree: 78%
- Strongly agree: 50%
- Somewhat agree: 28%
- Disagree: 18%
- Somewhat disagree: 7%
- Strongly disagree: 10%
- Not sure: 4%
Our housing-focused survey of 475 Bellevue city residents was in the field from Monday, August 15th, through Friday, August 19th, 2022.
The poll was conducted entirely online for the Northwest Progressive Institute and its partners by Change Research. It has a modeled margin of error of 5.2%.
Like its northern neighbor Kirkland, Bellevue has a council-manager form of city government and is governed by a seven-member city council. The current Council consists of Conrad Lee, Jennifer Robertson, Jared Nieuwenhuis, Mayor Lynne Robinson, Janice Zahn, John Stokes, and Jeremy Barksdale. All but Barksdale have been elected to multiple terms; Barksdale is serving his first term.
However, unlike Kirkland and other neighboring cities, Bellevue has yet to embrace many of the ideas gaining popularity in our region for keeping people in their homes and increasing the availability and affordability of housing.
Staff and consultants have been studying ideas for tackling the housing crisis and collecting feedback from the public, but the Council has yet to take decisive action and implement the kinds of policies that residents told us they want in Bellevue.
As mentioned, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they wanted Bellevue to take a stronger “hands-on” approach to housing and adopt more policies that encourage or require the development of homes that people can afford to buy or rent. And 78% — yes, that’s nearly eight out of ten residents in the city! — favor requiring developers constructing new housing in Bellevue to reserve a percentage of units within their projects as affordable housing, like adjoining cities such as Redmond and Kirkland already do.
Surprisingly, even half of Republican residents surveyed (49%) support mandatory housing affordability, which was striking to us.
Republican residents were more divided on the philosophical question of whether the city should adopt a “hands-on” approach to managing growth versus a “hands-off” approach. 38% of Republican residents of Bellevue favored a hands-on approach to 41% who favored a “hands-off” approach.
Still, it’s impressive that so many residents who identify with a party that has traditionally championed deregulation and laissez-faire economics think the city needs to be intervening to address a significant market failure.
Once considered a Republican bastion, Bellevue is now indisputably a Democratic city. In our poll, 68% of residents who are voters and participated in the 2020 presidential election said they voted for the Biden-Harris ticket, while 59% identified as Democrats to some degree. Only 23% identified as Republicans.
Democratic residents, as you might expect, are in favor of decisive action and affordability-focused solutions by massive margins. 77% of Democratic residents want to see a “hands-on” approach, versus 10% who want a “hands-off” approach to managing growth. And 88% of Democratic residents support mandatory housing affordability, while 10% are opposed. Independent residents are only slightly less enthusiastic: 81% of them also support an MHA policy.
Later this month, we’ll be sharing additional findings from this poll that will nicely illustrate the extent of Bellevue residents’ enthusiasm for policies that could get us closer to a future of housing for all. If you’d like to watch the press conference where we rolled out the findings discussed in this post, that’s available on NPI’s In Brief. We welcome your questions and thoughts on this research: you can get in touch with us through our contact form or leave a comment below.