A Seattle-based PhD student feels excluded from the city due to high housing costs.

A Seattle-based PhD student feels excluded from the city due to high housing costs.

The Struggles of Renting and Living in Seattle: A Personal Journey


Anyone who has experienced the soaring costs of living in a booming city knows that it often comes at a price. Anastasia Selby, a nonbinary writer in their early 40s, can certainly vouch for that. Although Seattle had always felt like home to Selby, their dreams of settling down in their beloved city were shattered due to the exorbitant housing expenses. Selby’s journey from being a struggling renter in Seattle to moving away and pursuing a Ph.D. in another state highlights the immense challenges faced by many individuals in today’s housing market.

Selby’s decision to leave Seattle was not an easy one. Having moved back to the city in 2019 after completing their master of fine arts degree in creative writing, Selby intended to stay. However, circumstances forced them to reevaluate their situation. Despite working as a full-time nanny for tech workers, Selby found it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. The rising cost of rent in the city, coupled with their freelance writing income, left them rent burdened. Paying more than 30% of their income towards rent became unsustainable. Frustrated by the financial strain, Selby decided to explore other options.

The realization that they could no longer afford to live in their hometown hit Selby hard. They embarked on a journey, ultimately ending up in Tallahassee to pursue a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing at Florida State University. This decision was influenced by the cost of living in each potential market. The financial toll of living in Seattle had left Selby depleted, both emotionally and financially. Moving away from Seattle meant leaving behind cherished memories and experiences – a painful goodbye to a city that had shaped their identity.

In Tallahassee, Selby found respite in a more affordable living situation. Paying $995 a month for a small apartment near the university, Selby felt fortunate to have secured a rent-controlled one-bedroom unit. While the stipend they receive as a Ph.D. candidate is considerably lower than their previous income, the more affordable housing in Tallahassee offered relief from the burden of high rent.

Seattle’s skyrocketing cost of living is primarily driven by its flourishing tech sector. Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Zillow, and SpaceX have contributed to the rising demand for housing, outstripping the supply. Consequently, housing costs in Seattle are significantly higher than both the state and national averages. For someone like Selby, who comes from a background with limited financial opportunities, homeownership feels like an unattainable dream.

Despite the current challenges, Selby remains optimistic about their future prospects. As a Ph.D. candidate, they anticipate opportunities to expand their writing career and potentially even teach creative writing. Selby hopes that within the next five years, they will be in a position to buy a house. However, Seattle is not part of their real estate aspirations due to the city’s astronomical average home prices.

Selby’s personal journey sheds light on the broader issue of affordability and the struggles faced by individuals in finding suitable housing in booming metropolitan areas. While Seattle’s economic growth has brought prosperity to some, it has simultaneously made living in the city increasingly unattainable for many others. As we reflect on Selby’s story, it becomes evident that the housing crisis extends beyond financial constraints. It is a deeply emotional experience, as dreams of home ownership are deferred and cherished connections with one’s hometown are severed.

The journey of Anastasia Selby highlights the need for long-term solutions to make housing more affordable and accessible for everyone. Addressing the housing crisis will require a combination of policy changes, investment in affordable housing initiatives, and efforts to increase income opportunities for individuals in economically disadvantaged situations. Only through concerted efforts can we strive towards creating inclusive cities where everyone has the opportunity to call their hometown home.