By Jack Mayne

The Kent City Council was told Tuesday night (Jan. 2) that in 2017 it received the highest number of residential building permits in its history, reflecting the area’s growing housing costs driven by surging King County rental and home-buying costs.

“We are anticipating this is gong to continue,” said Kent Economic Development Director Ben Walters, noting the stride already shows potential to reach the 2017 number again in 2018.

Driving the growing is the increase in jobs – 47,000 area-wide – and he said there were 8,300 new jobs in the region.

Kent Economic Development Director Ben Walters.

Major developer eying area
Walters said Lennar Homes, the largest single family home devellper in the United States, is planning to submit 40 building applications in the coming days.

“When you add up our building permits” and potential new developments, “we are $3 million above budget, an indicator of the size of and the amount of development that is unprecedented – it is historic.

“We’ve never see anything like this amount of development.”

Walters says he’s crunching numbers on building valuations for the Councilmembers but “honestly, a truly extraordinary year for us.”

What drove the huge increase, said Walters, was single family home permits, of which he said there would be 300 permits, but the final number of 319, is “well above anything we’ve seen in the past. The highest number ever, surpassing the previous high of 307 in 2006.

Rents going up
Rents, he said, are set to increase 5.5 percent higher than in 2017, bringing industry growth in employment.

He said the city, which has seen the nations’s second largest growth in apartment development in the past, now is seeing a surge of demand. The region has the second highest rent growing in the nation with developers area wide set to open 62,000 units in the next two years.

“Who is renting apartments is changing,” he added. “There has been a 17 percent increase of renters under 34 years of age, a 45 percent of increase of those 55 and older, a 50 percent increase in renters without kids and also a 50 percent increase in renters with kids.”

This shows the effect of the increase in housing purchasing costs, making it more challenging to buy a first home, said Walters.

Also, the community is becoming more aware that as housing costs in the Eastside and in Seattle continue to increase, all of the cities in the south end of the county are ready “to cash in.”

New Kent Mayor Dana Ralph.

New Kent Council team
As the new mayor following longtime Mayor Suzette Cooke who decided not to seek reelection, Dana Ralph thanked the packed Council chambers.

“This is incredible, I don’t know when I have ever seem this many people in this room,” said Ralph, who was first elected to the Kent Council in 2011. She defeated Councilmember Jim Berrios.

Newly elected Councilmembers Toni Trautner and Satwinder Kaur, along with reelected Councilmember Brenda Fincher were sworn in and took their positions on the Council dais.

Kent Council President Bill Boyce.

On a motion from Councilmember Les Thomas, Councilmember Bill Boyce was relected Council president. Mayor Ralph said she “couldn’t think of a better partner to have” than Boyce.

Boyce then nominated outgoing Councilmember Dennis Higgins to remain on the Council and fill the two-year vacancy created when Ralph was elected mayor.

Higgins had decided not to seek reelection and was replaced in the last election by new Councilmember Troutner. She said she was looking forward to working on the Council with Higgins. Once sworn in, Higgins said it was an honor to be asked by councilmembers to return and would “serve the best I can in the time given to me.”

The council created two new neighborhood councils, the Shadowbrook Ridge Neighborhood Council and the Kent Downtown Partnership Neighborhood Council.