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How one Redmond ZIP code built its way to housing abundance

caption: A street scene in downtown Redmond.
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A street scene in downtown Redmond.
Courtesy of the city of Redmond

Out of all the ZIP codes in Washington state, downtown Redmond’s has built the most new apartments, according to a new study.

In the whole nation, Redmond comes in 10th place for new housing, behind ZIP codes in D.C., New York, and Texas.

Fifteen years ago, the mayor of Redmond displayed posters on his wall showing a vision for the suburban city as a dense, walkable place full of six-story apartment buildings.

Josh Brown, head of the Puget Sound Regional Council, said that vision has come to pass.

“The transformation in downtown Redmond over the past 10 years has just been absolutely profound, and that’s been very intentional,” he said.

The new ZIP code rankings come from RentCafe, an apartment tracking website owned by real estate data company Yardi.

98052 isn’t the only local ZIP code to make the list of top places for new housing. Just a few slots behind Redmond on the national list is 98109, which includes Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.

Both places are near major tech companies, like Amazon and Microsoft. Most of the new apartments in both neighborhoods require high salaries to be affordable.

In the Seattle metro area, proximity to tech employers generally means higher rents. Relief in the form of greater affordability can sometimes be found in large apartment buildings near light rail stations.

To find the local ZIP code with the most new housing for people with modest incomes, look to 98144, home to Seattle’s Beacon Hill and Judkins Park stations.

The mix of affordability in each city's housing stock could change in years to come, thanks to new state rules requiring cities to meet more stringent affordability criteria.

RELATED: Cities in Washington can no longer make vague promises to build enough 'affordable housing'

These neighborhoods are part of a much larger pattern, in which people are migrating to tech hub cities. That’s according to Doug Ressler, a senior analyst for Yardi.

Ressler said despite recent layoffs and a slowdown in housing construction due to high interest rates, most analysts expect this migration to continue as tech companies bring on specialists in fields like artificial intelligence and electric vehicles.

Here’s how downtown Redmond made housing easier to build, according to Brown with the Puget Sound Regional Council:

  1. Elected leaders liberalized land use and zoning policies to allow more housing.
  2. The city made some key strategic investments that benefited builders. For example, it came up with a citywide system for managing stormwater in the whole watershed, rather than making builders manage their own stormwater on their own property.
  3. Leaders made sure the market for new homes was robust. This included arguing that Sound Transit should reach Redmond’s downtown core, which ensured new housing would connect with more regional employment centers than just Microsoft.

“Now, all that work is paying off in a big way,” Brown said.

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