Ask the Expert - What is Housing Shortage?

  • by Snohomish County Camano Association of REALTORS®
  • Nov 20, 2023, 09:39 AM

In the dynamic world of real estate, Snohomish County, like many parts of the United States, is grappling with a housing shortage. While this issue isn't unique to our region, it's indicative of a broader challenge that has affected major metropolitan areas across Washington state and the nation.

As of late 2020, Freddie Mac reported a national housing shortage of approximately 3.8 million units. This shortage has developed over the years due to various factors, including government management, and a lack of innovation and forward-thinking legislation. The consequences of this shortage have had far-reaching impacts ranging from economic strain to increasing rates of poverty and homelessness in our community.

While Snohomish County is known for its picturesque landscapes and thriving job market, beneath the idyllic surface lies a massive housing challenge. According to a recent report by Washington REALTORS® (WR), the job market and population of Snohomish County grew disproportionately during the past decade, far outpacing the expansion of housing options. From 2010 to 2020, job growth averaged an impressive 2.5% annually leading to a 16.1% overall population increase.

A booming job market unquestionably benefits our local economy, offering opportunities and prosperity. But the gap between job growth and housing supply has created a complex situation which has gotten progressively more complicated.

Beyond the supply issue, there's also a shortage of housing options in the middle-income range. Rising development costs have led many construction companies to focus on high-end projects, leaving a noticeable gap in the market for affordable, middle-income, housing.

One of the most visible outcomes of this housing challenge is the soaring home prices in Snohomish County. The WR report highlights that the median price of a single-family home reached $735,000 in September 2022, marking a 49% increase from September 2019.

Alongside the increase in home prices, the cost of rent and mortgages has risen as well. In Snohomish County, over 50% of renter households and nearly 30% of households with mortgages are spending more than 30% of their income on housing and are considered “cost burdened.” As a result, many would-be homeowners continue to face difficulties trying to find a home to purchase and are left confronting the realities of long-term renting.

Behind these statistics is a critical truth: the housing challenge isn't just a result of unfortunate circumstances but also stems from years of economic mismanagement and restrictive planning practices. Adapting our housing development strategies to meet the evolving needs of the community is essential to overcoming this shortage.

When asked about her view, SCCAR President Julie Love stated that, “the data might present a challenging picture, but it's not all doom and gloom.” The convergence of job growth, population expansion, and rising home prices presents a unique challenge; one that can be addressed with well-informed, decisive action.

To tackle this crisis, Snohomish County must embrace innovative approaches and break free from outdated policies. The upcoming 2024 Comprehensive Plan offers a pivotal opportunity for residents and stakeholders to advocate for market-driven affordable housing strategies, including reducing taxes and fees and eliminating policies that stifle residential development.

Moving forward requires a collective effort to implement proven solutions. It's about addressing the current housing shortage while setting the stage for a more prosperous and sustainable future in Snohomish County. By doing so, we can ensure that housing is accessible to all residents, fostering an inclusive and thriving community for generations to come.

For more information about the state of real estate and housing policy in the northwest, visit Snohomish County-Camano Association of REALTORS®. Snohomish County-Camano Association of REALTORS® is the voice for real estate in Snohomish County. If you have questions for The Expert about real estate email us at, or by visiting