By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
It has taken several years, but Tacoma, for better or worse, has moved into the territory many have worked and wished for – the population growth that invites and warrants business investment – and the business investment and opportunity that attracts even more people.
In fact, according to The Seattle Times, Pierce County in 2016, had the “largest net increase of people moving in” of any county in the United States. (1*)
Yes, many of them are from, and continue to work in, King County. Stories of housing fugitives from Seattle and King County moving to Pierce County are in just about every news show or newspaper headline. (2*)
To put it mildly, this is shaking up and dividing Tacoma and outlying areas of Pierce County like nothing else in our history.
The Tacoma/Pierce County of the 2020s will, for better or worse, be a very different place than even the Tacoma/Pierce County of just a few years ago.
Traffic, schools, parking, cost of living and home prices in particular will almost certainly never be as they were.
Many years ago there was a best-selling book titled Future Shock, by the futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler, The authors defined the term “future shock” as a sustained, definable psychological state of individuals, if not entire societies. Their definition for the term was an unrelenting personal sensation of “too much change in too short a period of time.”
I am convinced that term, or at least that definition, sums up the general state of anxiety – especially of virtually every renter or first home buyer.
Tacoma/Pierce County is nothing like Seattle, of course (which just had its Manhattan Moment – an apartment costing almost $20,000 a month (https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/another-manhattan-moment-seattles-new-19265-a-month-apartment/). Just a reminder; that is more than a full year’s mortgage payment in many small towns not that far from the fevered real estate markets of King and Pierce County.
It seems that every conversation I hear about the cost of real estate in our area is some combination of hand-wringing and nostalgia.
Upheavals and evictions are constantly in the news. Upzoning and other jargon formerly exclusive to urban planners have become terms of every day conversation.
Every new development – or even the promise of one – is cursed and blessed, welcomed or protested.
The irony of course, is that this is what Tacoma has always wanted. Tacoma has always sought – if not actively courted – investors and developers.
Our “destiny” was never to stay the same, but to welcome newcomers, investors and entrpreneurs long before it was cool.
Tacoma has had eras of explosive growth and lingering stagnation, but has shown population growth at every ten year census. The most recent census analysis shows an increase, by birth or relocation, of 46 people per day in Pierce County. That’s almost 1,500 people each month and approaching 17,000 each year.
That’s a lot of parking places and restaurant tables and places in line for almost everything.
The crazy thing about this population tsunami is that we all see it coming. What we will do about it, or even five years from now, what we will wish we had done about it is anybody’s guess.
City agencies, speculators, families and individuals all have different intentions, priorities and worst case scenarios.
All I can say is, hang on for the ride, don’t look back, don’t worry too much and seize the opportunity.
Or you could look for a home somewhere else
By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
And if you are looking at how much house you can afford OUTSIDE of Pierce County, take a look at this website – https://smartasset.com/mortgage/how-much-house-can-i-afford#washington to see the MOST affordable areas of our state. Or check this guide from Bankrate.com. *
If you needed a reality check, here are the most affordable areas way back in 2017 – https://smartasset.com/mortgage/how-much-house-can-i-afford?year=2017#washington. Notice that Pierce County was on the short list back then – Orting, Elk Plain and Prairie Ridge in particular.
And for a real shock, look way back to 2015, even King County is on the affordable list – https://smartasset.com/mortgage/how-much-house-can-i-afford?year=2015#washington.
* Updated February 26, 2019