Making housing happen takes people willing to stand up, speak out, do what it takes to make housing equity a reality. Just getting started? In this section you will find resources to learn more about this complex issue.
When is housing considered affordable?
Housing is deemed affordable when an individual or family pays no more than 30% of their income on housing costs including all utilities, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). When a family pays above 30% they are considered ‘cost burdened’ by housing.
This threshold was determined as a rule of thumb to suggest the percentage of income needed to cover all additional expenses. Many other factors come into play to determine a family’s ability to make ends meet alongside housing costs, such as family size, age of children and total income. Additionally, other factors come into play that make housing affordable or not, including security deposit amounts, upfront payments of first & last, moving costs, commuting costs, utility deposits, etc.
What is affordable for Jefferson County workers?
A person making minimum wage ($14.49/hour) and working full time should be paying just $753 for their total monthly housing costs, including all utilities, for those costs to be affordable.
The US Census lists the median household income in Jefferson County in 2020 as $57,693, or $27.74 per hour at 40 hours per week. Households with this income should pay no more than $1,442 for their total housing costs, including utilities.
60% of this Area Median Income (AMI) is $34,620, or $16.64 per hour at 40 hours per week. Households at this AMI range should pay no more than $865 for their total housing costs, including utilities.
120% of the AMI is $69,240, or $32.28 per hour at 40 hours per week. These households can afford up to $1,731 per month for their total housing costs.
This wages represent our local nonprofit professionals, maritime industry workers, hospital staff, restaurant and hospitality workers, bank tellers and many others.
For families who are looking to purchase homes, the current housing market is very far out of reach. For the median household income of $57,693, and assuming no other debt obligations, a 5% down payment, a 4% interest rate, and the required homeowners insurance and property mortgage insurance, a family could comfortably afford a home around $225,000 and could stretch into a $260,000 home if they stretched their finances to the maximum debt-to-income. Homes in Jefferson County are currently selling for more than twice that amount.
What household income is required to purchase a home?
To comfortably purchase (35% debt-to-income) a median-priced home of around $550,000, it would take a household income of approximately $140,000. This assumes a 5% down payment, 4% interest rate, no other debt obligations, and the required insurance. That’s almost 2.5 times the current median income.
Fair Market Rents
Fair Market Rent is the rent amount, including utilities (except telephone), to rent privately owned, existing, decent, safe and sanitary rental housing of modest (non-luxury) nature with suitable amenities.
HUD Jefferson County, WA FY 2021 & FY 2020
Fair Market Rents By Unit Bedrooms
|FY 2021 FMR||$638||$771||$964||$1,380||$1,663|
|FY 2020 FMR||$693||$781||$1,020||$1,471||$1,663|
How many units do we need?
The number of housing units needed is difficult to accurately predict because we simply cannot account for the people who have moved away or never came due to housing concerns. However, the City of Port Townsend projected in their 2015 Housing Element that with population growth estimates, there is a need of 1,369 units over the next 20 years. That is nearly 350 units needed over the next five years.
As Port Townsend is just one third of the County’s population, a conservative guess is that the need is likely at least double, which would be 700 units, County-wide in the next five years. However, just having more units will not solve our workforce housing crisis if new units are only purchased by people moving here with cash, city-wage salaries, or plan to only live here a few months out of the year. Ultimately, to stabilize and support our local families, businesses, and economy, we need more units that are protected as permanently affordable. With the extreme interest in our small community since the start of the pandemic, driven by remote workers, retirees, second or third home-buyers, and affluent climate migrants, simply building more housing will not bring prices down to a rate that is affordable for people who work in local industries or have lived here their whole lives.
How does housing become affordable?
Jefferson County can approach our housing challenges from many directions, and the two most obvious choices to increase our housing stock is through new construction and through making existing housing (such as ADUs, extra rooms in a home, etc.) more available.
But how do we protect the affordability?
Housing can be affordable in two main ways: naturally occurring and subsidized. Naturally occurring affordable housing is when the market offers housing (rental or homeownership) that meets the income thresholds of the area’s residents. This is primarily accomplished when costs of living (rents, housing prices) are compatible with average wages. While this used to be more common in Jefferson County, housing prices are now extremely incompatible with average wages. Housing can also be made naturally more affordable through smaller units, tiny homes, boarding houses and other creative models that drive down housing costs. Unfortunately, in many communities naturally occurring affordable housing is often substandard or far from job centers, forcing workers to commute long distances to work.
Subsidized affordable housing is housing that is made available at below- market rates through the use of government subsidies and private donations. These sources of funding keep construction costs low, and the savings is passed on to the homeowner or renter. Habitat for Humanity and Olympic Housing Trust are the two organizations in Jefferson County building permanently affordable homes.
Other programs such as Section 8 vouchers provide aid to fill the gap between what a renter can pay at 30% of their income and rent costs for a “fair market value” apartment.
Jefferson County has very limited naturally occurring and subsidized affordable housing options. While there are organizations working to fill the gap of needed housing, much work remains to be done. Visit our Portfolio of Community Engagement and Investment Opportunities to get involved and support their work.
Want to learn more about affordable housing? Check out these resources:
- Find fact sheets, publications and other statewide resources at the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance
- Sign up for statewide policy updates and action alerts here
- Learn more about government definitions and programs at HUD.gov
- Smart Growth America’s Rural Affordable Housing Toolkit
- Sightline Institute’s “Legalize Inexpensive Housing” series on affordable housing issues in the Pacific Northwest
- Vox – Affordable Housing Explained
- National Low-Income Housing Coalition
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the median household income for Jefferson County?
The US Census lists the median household income in Jefferson County in 2020 was $57,693, a 5-year increase of 17.8%. 1
What is the Median home value in Jefferson County?
The median home value in Jefferson County on June, 30th 2021 was $487,444, a 5-year increase of 49.1%. 2
How much are homes expected to increase in value over the next year?
Across all Washington MSAs, homes are expected to increase in value an average of 21.2%. 3
What is the median sale price in Jefferson County year-over-year?
In February 2022, the median sale price was $505,000, an increase of 9.8% year-over-year. The 12-month average median sale price was $549, 201. 4
How much can the average local family afford?
Assuming a median income of $57,693, no other debt obligations, a 5% down payment, a 4% interest rate, and the required homeowners insurance and property mortgage insurance, a family could comfortably afford a home around $225,000 and could stretch into a $260,000 home if they stretched their finances to the maximum debt-to-income. Homes in Jefferson County are currently selling for more than twice that amount. 5
What household income is required to purchase a home?
To comfortably purchase (35% debt-to-income) a median-priced home of around $550,000, it would take a household income of approximately $140,000. This assumes a 5% down payment, 4% interest rate, no other debt obligations, and the required insurance. That’s almost 2.5 times the current median income. 5
How many homes are being sold?
The 12-month average number of homes sold per month is 52 homes. 4
How long does it take to sell a home?
The 12-month average number of days on the market is 9 days. 4
How many homes in Jefferson County are vacant?
The 2020 Census listed 3,380. This number includes homes that were vacant because they were being sold, on the rental market, are vacation homes or vacation rentals, or were vacant for other reasons. The two most significant numbers were vacation homes/vacation rentals and “other vacancies.”
How many homes in Jefferson County are vacation homes?
Over the last 5 years, the number of vacation/vacation rental homes has decreased from 2,908 to 2,236, or 672 housing units. This is a decrease from 16.2% to 11.9% of the total housing units. 6
What’s going on with “other vacancies?”
There was a significant increase in the number of “other vacancies” in 2020. There was a bump to 1,187 units, and this measure has historically been between 600 to 800. These units could be vacant due to foreclosure, personal/family reasons, legal proceedings, preparing to rent/sell, held for storage of household furniture, needs repair, currently being repaired/renovated, specific use housing, extended absence, abandoned/ possibly to be demolished / possibly condemned, or uncertain. 6 Definitions
How many units are being built in Jefferson County?
In 2020, there were 176 housing units built, or about 0.95% of the existing housing stock .6
How many people commute into and out of Jefferson County?
In 2019, more than 55% of workers that live in Jefferson County commute outside the county. More than 33% of people who work in Jefferson County commute into the region for work. 7