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December 2016

News In Brief

  • According to travelandtourworld.com, Seattle was named the best homeport in North America. With a picturesque waterfront, iconic skyline and new Central Link light rail system connecting cruise passengers to outlying areas and the airport, Seattle has been recognized by Cruise Critic as 2016's best homeport in North America.

  • The gig economy shows no signs of slowing down, and WeWork is betting it will continue according to a report in the Puget Sound Business Journal. The company announced in October it will open an 80,000 square-foot co-working facility in Lincoln Square high-rise in Bellevue. The new facility, opening in early 2017, will be the fourth WeWork in the area, but the first outside Seattle.

  • According to the Seattle Times, the Port of Seattle has released the latest design images for the new $660 million International Arrivals Facility at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, scheduled to break ground early next year and to open in late 2019. International passengers arriving at Sea-Tac currently disembark at the south satellite terminal, which is seriously overcrowded at peak times. On exiting this space, many passengers then load their bags on a conveyor belt and take a train to the main terminal where they have to wait at another baggage carousel to reunite with their luggage one more time. The new International Arrivals Facility (IAF) will be a 450,000 square-foot, self-contained add-on that wraps around the current Concourse A in the main terminal building.

  • Just six years ago, Auburn's downtown core was full of vacant properties, and residential options were also lacking. But Doug Lein, former manager of Las Vegas' economic development division, recognized the city's potential. Lein came out of retirement to promote Auburn and South King County, and convinced developers that there are excellent economic opportunities in the area. His efforts seem to be working. New residential, commercial and industrial developments are cropping up, often spurred by investors turned off by skyrocketing real estate prices in Seattle, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.

  • Energized by a thriving tech economy and fueled by a research arm that brings in more than a billion dollars in federal grant money each year, the University of Washington has ambitions to build 6 million additional square feet of academic, office and research space on its Seattle campus. According to the Seattle Times, the new buildings would make the university a third larger than it is today, square-footage wise, as outlined by the UW's draft master plan.

  • The federal government is increasing the limit for conforming mortgages in most regions of the United States starting January 1, 2017. In the three county area of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, the new conforming rate will be $592,250, up from the previous limit of $540,500. The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced that this is the first such increase since 2006, which moves the baseline rate from $417,000 to $424,100. The approximately 1.7 percent bump in the baseline conforming loan limit follows the FHFA's announcement that the average U.S. home price has returned to its pre-decline peak, which it hit in the third quarter of 2007. The FHFA bases the loan cap on its quarterly Housing Price Index, which gauges average single-family home prices. The index rose 1.5 percent during the third quarter of 2016 and is up 6.1 percent over the past year, enough to push it above its previous high point. Conforming loan limits are significant because they apply to home loans that meet the underwriting guidelines of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored entities that acquire mortgages from lenders and ensure a steady flow of money to the mortgage market. Interest rates for nonconforming, or jumbo mortgages, are generally higher than rates for loans that fall under the cap, and these types of mortgages can be more difficult to obtain.