High prices, low income a turnoff for Port Orchard homeowners, renters

While additional residency options for Port Orchard residents are on the way, increasing costs and stable incomes continue to be major obstacles in the housing market.

In its first regular session of 2023, the Port Orchard City Council heard an initial conditions report for the upcoming Housing Action Plan, which is aimed at addressing housing diversity, increases in housing costs, and identifying promotion opportunities for affordable housing options.

The need for housing continues to increase as the city projects an unprecedented growth of nearly double its current population over the next two decades. Andrew Oliver with Leland Consulting spoke on the rise in population as well as extremely low vacancy rates.

“In multifamily (renters), it’s about 3.5 percent vacancy, which is pretty low, lower than what we think of usually as an optimal range, which is more along the lines of 6 to 8 percent,” he said. “This just shows there’s, of course, a high demand for housing as we know in Port Orchard.”

Corresponding with demand and limited space, costs for buyers and renters in the city have been rising faster than the average consumer can catch up. The average home value in the city stands at over half a million dollars, and average rent is $1,638 through mid-2022. Those prices can prove to be challenging for families above and below the median income threshold, as a family earning $100,000 annually would still not be able to afford a house at the median rate.

“This shows that rent and home values are rising faster than incomes, particularly in the past few years, and there’s some work to be done,” Oliver said.

For those who do pursue buying, the high prices can put a financial strain on homeowners, especially for those with low incomes. Data in the presentation shows that 70% of the lowest-income households, which earn around 30% of the median income, were spending more than half of their income on housing. Data shows over half of households earning 80% or less of the median income are cost-burdened, meaning they pay more than 30% of their earnings on housing.

Councilmember Jay Rosapepe said the focus needs to be on lowering costs across the board, describing the report as “sobering.” “The big takeaway for me was we’re outpricing, housing is outpricing our residents,” he said, “and we’ve got to have a plan and take some action to bring affordable housing to our residents.”

Mayor Rob Putaansuu said some assistance will need to come from the state and federal levels, highlighting Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed $4 billion referendum for subsidized housing statewide. “It’s sorely needed, and this data demonstrates that,” the mayor said.