Renton’s renter population outpaces homeownership in last decade

City staff presented market data and recommended actions to protect tenants.

Renton City Council members received a presentation from city staff during the June 5 Committee of the Whole meeting regarding the current state of Renton’s rental market, and data and policies related to landlords and tenants.

According to city staff, new Renton residents are increasingly likely to be renters, with renter population growth outpacing the homeowner population threefold between 2010 and 2021.

The development pipeline of anticipated housing projects, which city staff said can be examined to predict what the community can expect as far as future population growth, has a planned 7,200 of 7,800 housing units (92%) being primarily market-rate rental housing.

City staff said that according to the data, most of the new renters coming to live in Renton recently have been “the most educated households, more than likely making at, or above, area median income.” City staff said this means that renters in the area are not primarily below the area’s median income level.

City staff attributed the fact that the community is seeing more higher-income rental tenants to the trend of increasing rent in the city. Post-pandemic rent prices have been reportedly increasing at proportionally higher rates in South King County, compared to Seattle and Bellevue, as Renton shifts from being a community that in decades prior has been a community that was typically cheaper to live in than in Seattle.

Data presented by city staff shows that rent prices in Renton have increased by 61% between 2015 and 2023, while renter income has only increased by 45% between 2015 and 2021. A 27% increase in inflation was observed between 2015 and 2023, as well.

City staff said they anticipate that renter income will continue to lag behind rent increases in the 2022 to 2023 period, for which a gap in data collection and reporting currently exists.

In 2010, about 45% of rental households were “cost-burdened,” meaning they pay more than 30% of their income in rent. In 2021, the number of cost-burdened rental households increased to 60%, representing an additional 5,200 cost-burdened renters in the city, according to city staff.

City staff said that Renton is proportionally where it would be expected to be as far as eviction rates, making up 5% of King County’s population but accounting for 6% of the county’s evictions.

Several policy recommendations were made by city staff to the council members about how to improve the regulatory environment for rental tenants in Renton, both short-term and long-term.

Recommended near-term actions included education and outreach so that both tenets and landlords are made aware of the policies, process, rights and responsibilities of renting, as well as improving the Rental Registration Program, which was established as a framework to encourage rental policy compliance in the community.

Some of the recommended longer-term recommendations included distribution of information requirements that would compel landlords to provide information on rental rules and to inform them of resources, as well as the implementation of policies like limits on late fees, an extended notice of rent raises, and limits on move-in fees.