PSRC study: Affordability top factor in where to live

Why do people choose to live where they do?  In central Puget Sound, 60% say it’s about affordability.


Of those surveyed, 6 out of 10 said affordability was most important factor in where they chose to live.

The data comes from the Puget Sound Travel Study, which surveyed more than 6,000 households last year.

It’s essential information for forecasting travel demand and planning for the future.

Given a list of nine statements, participants were instructed to rank each from “very unimportant” to “very important” (including “neither or no answer”) about why they chose to live in their current home:

  • A change in family size or marital/partner status
  • Affordability
  • Quality of schools (K-12)
  • Having a walkable neighborhood and being near local activities
  • Having space & separation from others
  • Being close to family or friends
  • Being close to public transit
  • Being close to the highway
  • Being within a 30-minute commute to work 

Affordability was the most important factor across the board. Whether broken out by county or by how long they’ve been at their residence, 6 out of 10 respondents said that was a very important reason for choosing to live where they did.

Click on the graphic to see the chart larger.

Click on the graphic to enlarge.


Snohomish County residents were more emphatic about affordability than those in King County, 66% saying that was very important versus 57% of King County residents doing so. Everywhere only 10% or less said that affordability was in any way unimportant. No other factor came close to matching those numbers.

The second most important factor chosen – “Being within a 30-minute commute to work” – lagged far behind affordability, with 42% regionally saying that factor was very important.

It’s perhaps not surprising that it was the residents in King County who were more concerned with short commutes (46% versus 36-39%). The many people choosing to live in the other three counties and still work in Seattle probably used other criteria to decide to where to live. A less-than-30-minute commute is relatively rare in such situations.

“Walkable neighborhoods and nearby local activities” and “Being close to transit” were very important factors to King County residents, while “Having space and separation from others” were more important in the other counties.

As mentioned above, “Affordability” was by far the most important factor no matter how long respondents have lived in their current home. Other factors show a lot more variance.


Those who have been in their current residence only since 2009 rated “Being close to public transit” and “Walkable neighborhoods” as more important factors than those with longer tenure. Conversely, people who have lived in the same home for 10 or more years were more likely to rate “Quality of schools” and “Having space and separation from others” as very important.

For Seattle residents, four factors stood out as very important: affordability, short commute, walkable neighborhoods, and convenient public transit. Unlike the region as a whole, more Seattleites rated “Walkable neighborhoods and nearby local activities” as “very important” than they did “Affordability” though the difference was small.



A sizable number rated two factors, “Change in family size or marital status” and “Quality of schools” as very unimportant, but for the most part, if they didn’t rate a factor as important in some way, they more often chose “Neither or N/A” rather than unimportant.