How to find some cheap, horrible room to rent in Seattle?
June 22, 2017 8:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm asking on behalf of a 22-year-old friend--my girlfriend's son. He's a full-time dishwasher, looking for a room in the $500/month range, within a 90 minute commute from downtown. What are some ways he can find a place? What are some things he can do to get more callbacks?

Now the dude has been applying to places on Craigslist and Facebook every day for a month or so, and only gotten three replies back. One of the places he went to, the apartment manager just walked off without offering an application or explanation of how to continue.

There's nothing wrong with my friend except maybe that he's young and low-income. He communicates well and is very polite, so I don't get it. I was in his same position in the 90's, and had no problems getting into some horrible smelly apartment. When you are young and broke, there should be crummy places to live that are good enough, you know? But maybe Seattle has changed so much, that they aren't there anymore.

Any ideas?
posted by ErikH2000 to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
Where is he looking? $500 rooms are probably all gone inside King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties.

I don't get it. I was in his same position in the 90's, and had no problems getting into some horrible smelly apartment.

Yeah, but that was before 25 years of property appreciation and very minimal new construction (certainly not at the rate needed to keep pace with population growth).

When you are young and broke, there should be crummy places to live that are good enough, you know?

There should, but there kinda aren't any more. That's at the crux of Puget Sound's current very loud debate about housing. People who "only" make $65k/year as mid-career teachers are finding it hard to live within two hours of their school districts.

Has he tried across the sound in Bremerton or elsewhere in Kitsap County? How does he get to and from work? The ferry might be a financial beating but maybe he could make a go of it.
posted by fireoyster at 9:10 PM on June 22, 2017 [14 favorites]

Oh, a couple of more data points: A friend's about-this-age kid is renting a studio apartment inside the city for $700/month but that was only because they knew the landlord and it's kind of an "all cash, under the table" kind of thing. And even that was after negotiating down from $850.

Also, you said "room" but then mentioned "apartment manager." Is he looking for his own place or one with roommates? A $500 all-by-myself apartment, even studio, doesn't seem—to me—to be a thing any more on this side of the mountains.
posted by fireoyster at 9:14 PM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Facebook and friends. Have him ask everyone he knows, including coworkers and any online or IRL groups he might be part of (22 in Seattle? He's probably a climber/skier/trail runner/hiker/beer drinker; he needs to join social media groups and let it be known that he needs a place). Seriously: all my friends looking for cheap housing have found it via Facebook groups.
posted by halogen at 9:17 PM on June 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

$500 single-occupancy dwellings at market rates aren't really available anymore, outside of subsidized "homelessness amelioration programs" (if they even exist, anymore) and have stupid long wait times, and even when they are available, are rarely available for single young males without disabilities.

If people tell you that they are "only paying $500" (or less), they've probably been at the same place for multiple years and the regulated maximum rent increase allowance is lagging far behind market price appreciation.

Anything in that range is likely to be a misrepresentation if not an outright scam, or an upsell. Anecdotally, (not in Seattle, but Vancouver BC) I've heard about extraordinarily too-good-to-be-true rental agreements offered to young women; it's creepers taking the opportunity to be creeps and escalate their creeptitude towards their tenants.

If these places are legitimate - is it possible for him to bring with him a signed letter (with contact information) by someone who is willing to "co-sign" for him (like for mortgages)? So, if he misses a rent payment, the co-signer is on the hook for the rent plus penalties. Month after month after month until the end of the lease.

Even if $500 single resident occupancy units (SROs) exist that aren't for borderline "homeless" people - *lots* of innocuous personal style choices are discrimination points. Tattoos, non-conforming hairstyle, etc., etc., etc. Property manager's jobs is to minimize risk and risk management is extraordinarily conservative, as one would expect from one who's job may be as precarious as the potential tenant's.

Other solutions may be roomates and/or a longer commute, but 90 minutes is really pushing it (way past it, imo, unless one can earn money during the commute, like, writing/editing/translating) already.

This is a signature problem with the insane acceleration of housing costs - cities will no longer have support/backbone workers unless business are willing to pay those workers enough to afford to live within a reasonable range to the job.

Like I mentioned; roommates - I swear, there are despicable people who want the return of workhouses or workers dormitories in North America, which is complete and total bullshit.
posted by porpoise at 9:47 PM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are you living with your gf in Seattle within 90 minutes of her son's current place of work?

Are your living conditions amenable to housing him also?

*His* solution (as opposed to society's) is making more money - if you can house him and subsidize that cost, it makes it incrementally more plausible for him to improve his earning potential (through experience and/or education/credentials) over the course of a year or two. No guarantees. But life never does, outside of death.

No longer are the days where Bruce Lee makes enough money being a dishwasher to support his BA Philosophy at a University of California *and* pay the lease and deposit on a martial arts studio.

Going back for a trades skill in an accredited program may be an option, especially if you can subsidize him for a couple of years - either having him live with you or subsidizing his housing costs (or loans; but much more research and analysis should be done before pulling the trigger).
posted by porpoise at 9:54 PM on June 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

Could he find some senior person who has a room in his house and would be glad to have someone do chores and such as well as a bit of additional income from the rent?
posted by Joleta at 9:59 PM on June 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Honestly... it's going to be tough finding something at $500/mo -- as some above have mentioned, those places just don't exist anymore. It was doable 6 years or so ago, but huge swaths of Seattle is brand new and unaffordable to anyone not bringing in tech-level salaries.

The only thing I could think of that might be do-able is is looking into an Apodment. They can be surprisingly affordable and a good option if you can handle the small space. I don't know if they have anything in the $500 range anymore, but since they include all utilities, maybe he could go a bit higher in his budget? Otherwise, check around the UDistrict. Since the college is there sometimes you can get cheap rooms with students. He'll need to ask around -- friends in the area, CL, Facebook, any communities/fandoms he may be a part of -- all are good ways to get the word out that he's looking.
posted by stubbehtail at 10:13 PM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

There's an apodment complex on 17th just north of Jackson that had units for $550, last time I saw the sign. There are probably other micro studios at similar rates in similar neighborhoods.
posted by lunasol at 12:27 AM on June 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are literally 30+ rooms for rent on Craigslist within 10 miles of downtown for under $500 right now. Assuming 80% of them are scams/want a female roommate/are too weird, that's still half a dozen at one random moment. What kind of places is he applying to? What are the geographical boundaries he's considering as his '90 minute commute'?

And although you say he communicates well and is very polite, have you seen what he is writing in his applications to people? I've known people who were perfectly reasonable but incredibly bad at talking themselves up in the way you have to in any kind of application.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:24 AM on June 23, 2017

If he's looking for a room, with a roommate, that's totally doable and he wants to be looking in Tacoma - the Sounder train is pretty reliable and that will get him to King Station in an hour. If he's looking for an apartment, that's completely impossible, trust me, I worked in housing homeless people and I have literally never found an apartment that cheap even once.
posted by corb at 6:09 AM on June 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think the last time I paid $500 for rent in Seattle was when i split a tiny one bedroom apartment in 2009.

Sub $500 will be very hard to do. There are some co-op living situations where like, 8 people split a house - perhaps that would be the way to go? I see a couple sub-$500 on craiglist but some of them are sharing studios or sharing a bedroom, not a private room.

Does he have a car or is he relying on public transit?
posted by Amanda B at 10:35 PM on June 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

If he is washing dishes he knows immigrants, likely undocumented immigrants. Maybe they can help him? I have a friend who lives cheaply in White Center in a neighborhood that appears Salvadoran. It's going to be about finding a bed in a crowded share. Seattle public transit sucks but you can bus into downtown in 30-45 mins. Does he perchance speak some spanish?
posted by spitbull at 9:38 AM on June 24, 2017

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