Seattle is not a cheap place to live. How not-cheap is it? Well, when I lived there last, which was back in 2002, I was living in the University District. It’s not the highest-end part of town, but it isn’t the lowest, either. The only space I could afford to rent was a single room in a shared housing situation. Think of a boarding house. I had my own sink, microwave and mini-fridge, all of which were considered great luxuries by the standard of where I was. The room itself, which I shared with a friend, was probably about 15′ x 12′. So not huge, and our single bed took up most of the floor space. But at least we had a place.
Now how much did we pay for all this luxury? $500 a month.
That was the price twelve years ago. I can only imagine what it would be like now. I can’t find it listed for rent currently, but I did find something else. Before I lived in that place where I paid $500 a month, I lived in another rental room. This one was about 12′ x 12′, though the bed was up on a platform, so I had a bit more floor space. I paid $400 a month for that. Again, I can’t tell you what that place is renting for now, but I can tell you that an apartment across the street from it is renting for about $950.
So rent is really quite high in much of Seattle. That’s is part of why I’m extremely pleased to see that Seattle has passed a law, on International Worker’s Day, no less, to gradually raise the minimum wage up to $15 an hour. It’s going to be phased in over three years for large employers and five years for small, which seems like a sensible way of doing things.
Now I’m not going to pretend that this will be without consequences. I’m sure some business will struggle to make this wage, and some may go under. I’m also sure some places will have to raise prices on their products. I’m not without sympathy, but I will also point out that more people will have more spending money, and that means that in the long run, sales will likely go up and business will likely be doing better.
I do hope that Washington State as a whole follows this policy, and that other areas do as well. People deserve to have a living wage.