Recovery is underway in Kitsap, an affordable regional housing option with convenient commutes to the Seattle metro.
As 2021 comes to a close and the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be slowing, now is the time to reflect on how South Kitsap fared and the next steps in its economic recovery. The good news is that COVID-19 cases have been steadily declining in recent weeks since the height of the delta-variant-fueled spike, and nearly two-thirds of Kitsap residents are fully vaccinated
Students are back in school, and businesses are resuming normal operations. What’s more, the county is in the process of devising a recovery plan using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) to make legacy investments for the long-term benefit of the community with input from the people who call Kitsap home.
One way to track Kitsap’s ongoing recovery is by using the Recovery Vitals, a set of 30 key economic indicators created by the Association of Washington Business Institute (AWBI). These easy-to-access stats show how individual counties and Washington state overall are getting local economies back on an upward trajectory, after two years marked by upheaval and uncertainty. The Recovery Vitals are regularly updated by AWBI’s partners at the Eastern Washington University Institute for Public Policy & Economic Analysis. They’re one part of Washington in the Making, a framework for the state’s recovery that envisions lasting prosperity for every community in Washington.
Using the Recovery Vitals, it is clear to see why Kitsap remains a popular place for people to live, work and play with its relatively affordable housing, convenient transportation options to neighboring metros and scenic beauty. While the median home value and average sale price of homes in Kitsap County have both risen steadily over the past year—due in part to a housing squeeze that has affected communities nationwide—the county has more than 4,600 housing units permitted or scheduled to be permitted for construction. These plans, which include single-family homes, townhomes and apartments, have affordable options designated for senior and low-income residents.
With residential building permits at 1.44 per 1000 residents, an increase of 54 percent since 2018, the housing units currently in the pipeline are a continuation of the upward trend in Kitsap county’s growth. Consider that economists use residential building permits as a leading indicator of a region’s activity and growth. An increase in these permits reflects an increase in population growth or a desire by current residents to change their dwelling, usually the most important financial asset of a family or household.
Of course, for homeowners in Kitsap, the increase in home values has been a net positive, with median home values growing by 56 percent in the last five years. There’s no denying growth like that makes entering the housing market a daunting prospect for some first-time homebuyers. Yet, compared to other counties in the area, like King which has a median home value of over $866,000, Kitsap County remains a place where homeownership is within reach to more families.
Kitsap also has the benefit of the Fast Ferry, which began operating its third and final route from Southworth to Seattle in March of this year. The opening of the 25-minute route marked the completion of a four-year project to connect county residents to the Seattle metro without the need for an hour-or-more commute on the I-5. In short, Kitsap residents enjoy all the benefits of convenient access to Seattle without the expense of living there.
While some residents worry that growth in Kitsap County will change its way of life, it is hard to deny that the money coming into the county from increased retail sales taxes and state and federal recovery funds, if carefully invested to benefit everyone, will mean better roads, better schools and a brighter future for Kitsap.