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April 2016

News in Brief

Bellevue, WA was named No. 4 of the Top 10 Best Downtowns, 2016, by Livability.com. The "best downtowns" are growing and thriving, offering expanded housing options, rising population, affordability, diversity and around-the-clock entertainment. Livability.com looked at 2,000 small to mid-sized cities using figures provided by Esri, the Census Bureau, the United States Department of Agriculture and other sources viewing places with low vacancy rates, new development and an influx of people into those spaces. It also looked for cultural attractions and nightlife as well as the city's Walk Score and measures of affordability and diversity. It also included population parameters to ensure indentifying places with more just a quaint Main Street. The "Top 10 Best Downtowns for 2016" are (in top order): Alexandria, VA, Santa Monica, CA, Greenville, SC, Bellevue, WA, Pittsburgh, PA, Boise, ID, Tempe, AZ, Plano, TX, Colorado Springs, CO and Evanston, IL.

Property taxes are significant to all property owners but some states clearly take a bigger bite as reported in MyNorthwest.com. The average American household spends $2,127 on property taxes for their homes each year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Washington hovers near the middle of the pack, tied with Oregon and Maryland for 27th place on the list, all with an effective real estate tax rate of 1.08 percent, according to research by financial website Wallet Hub. Washington state's median house price of $257,200 brought an annual tax of $2,785. New Jersey has the highest real-estate taxes, $4,029, which is eight times more expensive than in Hawaii, the state with the lowest, $489. John S. Kiernan, Wallet Hub researcher, wrote that although property taxes might appear to be a non-issue for the 32 percent of people who rent their homes, that couldn't be further from the truth. We all pay property taxes, Kiernan wrote, whether directly or indirectly, as they impact the rent we pay as well as the finances of state and local governments.

Kirkland-based INRIX recently released its latest Traffic Scorecard and Seattle ranked sixth-worst for the number of hours wasted in commutes. According to the report, Seattleites spent an average of 66 hours sitting in traffic last year. Across the U.S. last year some 8 billion hours are wasted by commuters. In the Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue region, the worst commute was on Interstate 5 from 130th Street to Union Street in downtown Seattle. Congestion across the U.S. has gotten worse largely due to strong economic growth and low gas prices.

Single-family rentals can be a stellar investment across the county as rental prices climb. The online real estate investment firm Home Union recently projected which of 44 single-family rental markets will likely see the most growth in rents this year; Seattle ranks No. 3. The top seven single-family rental markets are (in order): San Jose, Orlando, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Denver, and Charlotte. Seattle's projected growth in single-family rents is 5.9 percent and its 2016 projected average monthly rent is $4,191.

Forbes.com compiled its annual list of America's Fastest-Growing Cities by ranking the 100 largest metro areas and their surrounding suburbs. For its rankings, they factor in population growth for 2015 and 2016, year-over-year job growth for 2015, the metro's economic growth rate, unemployment, and median annual pay for college-educated workers in the area. Seattle ranked No. 3 on Forbes' list as fastest-growing populations and economies. Seattle: 2015 population growth rate: 1.68% and 2016 projected growth rate: 1.34%. Austin topped the list, followed by San Francisco, Dallas, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Ogden, Orlando, San Jose, Raleigh and Cape Coral.