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Study pegs Seattle's basic living cost at $76,000 (even without lattes)

caption: Housing costs contribute dramatically to the high basic cost of living in Seattle.
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Housing costs contribute dramatically to the high basic cost of living in Seattle.
KUOW photo/Megan Farmer

A family of four now needs annual income of nearly $76,000 just for basics to live in Seattle – up $30,000 from 2006.

That’s according to researchers at the University of Washington School of Social Work.

The study, the Self-Sufficiency Standard for Washington State 2017, lays out a bare-bones budget for a family (two parents, one school-age kid, one preschooler). That budget covers housing, food, and transportation, but also expenses like health care and child care.

It allows for adequate groceries, but no takeout or restaurant food – not even a single latte.

Even then, the income needed is up more than 60 percent in a decade.

The cost of living is "going up faster than our wages are going up for families, particularly at this low, basic level,” said Diana Pearce, director of the Center for Women’s Welfare at the UW School of Social Work and the lead author of the new report.

She said even with Seattle's higher minimum wage it is not enough to cover basics like housing, food and transportation.

Two adults working full time would need to earn nearly $18 an hour each to support a family of four.

One solution: more programs to help low-income workers cover basic costs. And Pearce said businesses should do more too.

"Do we want to support small businesses that are viable only by exploiting people and having people work at wages where they can't meet their basics?" she said.

But some small business owners tell KUOW they're having a hard time keeping up with rising costs, too.

Seattle is at the high end of the scale in the study, but it's not the highest. Eastern King County ($83,778) and western Snohomish County ($79,374) were more expensive in the study.

Asotin County in the southeast corner of the state had the lowest cost. The study says a family of four there would need an annual income of $49,000.

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