Lakewood’s Annual Housing Report Reviews Market Forces, Challenges

As the region grows and costs rise, the report reveals “no easy solutions” to meet demand and restrain costs.

Lakewood, Wash. – The City of Lakewood published its 2021 Housing Report in February, offering a detailed review of housing market forces. Housing is scarce and the region continues to grow. More housing is needed, but it’s increasingly difficult to build.

Surging material costs (+188% since the pandemic began), have added over $24,000 to the cost to build a single-family home. New development is subject to new green building requirements, adding cost and time and administrative burden. Smaller homes are built at just 20% of the rate they were built in the 1970s.

“As of January 2022, 928,200 people live in the Tacoma-Lakewood metro area. By 2050, nearly a million and a quarter people will live in Pierce County – that’s like adding another city the size of Tacoma. This growth is one reason why housing costs have risen three times as fast as income since 2010.”
Dave Bugher, Assistant City Manager, City of Lakewood

Lakewood has felt these pressures acutely. The rental vacancy rate is just 2.7%, much lower than the Pierce & King County averages. Lakewood’s owner-occupied housing rate is 43.4%, ~20% lower than the state & county average. Lakewood’s persons-in-poverty and eviction rates are higher than most of Washington. The average rent increased 20% between July 2020 and January 2022.

Per the report, there is no ‘easy’ fix. Complex building requirements, material costs, lumber shortages, tree preservation, and water & sewer deficiencies may continue to inhibit development.

There are solutions. Developers may turn to alternative materials like concrete to build new units. Lakewood’s Rental Housing Safety and Dangerous & Nuisance Abatement programs preserve existing structures and prevent neglect. Grants, tax incentives, special districts, and other mechanisms have been effective in attracting development. The report will inform the efforts of Lakewood’s City Council, Planning Commission, and staff to establish policy, zoning, code, plans, and incentives that may help match surging demand with corresponding supply.

A new roof is installed on a rental unit near Lakewood’s International District. Home repair and preservation of existing housing are priorities of plans to address rising costs.
Relevant Links
City of Lakewood Annual Housing Report
2021 Report, Full
2020 Report, Full
City of Lakewood Issues: Housing