Seattle and Vancouver: the Next Silicon Valley?

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While San Francisco’s lack of affordable housing and overcrowded neighborhoods have attracted a lot of media attention in recent years, it’s not the only tech hub wrestling with the ramifications of a strong tech market: Seattle also faces rising prices for housing, as well as collective hand-wringing over changing neighborhoods.

Housing prices have risen in Seattle’s King County, Jacob Vigdor, a professor of public policy at the University of Washington, recently told the Seattle Times. Nor is this a new problem; as far back as 2014, Amazon’s plan to build a huge complex in Seattle’s downtown has raised concerns about gentrification altering the texture and character of local neighborhoods.

While Amazon is engaged in an aggressive hiring spree, with job postings for thousands of workers across a variety of specialties, it’s not the only tech firm making major moves in the Seattle area. There’s Microsoft, of course, headquartered in nearby Redmond, WA, as well as outposts of Facebook and other prominent tech companies.

Recent tech activity has reached such as pitch that there’s talk of Seattle and nearby Vancouver becoming a tech region along the lines of Silicon Valley, riddled with hot startups and attracting top talent. The greatest impediment to that vision becoming real might be the cost of housing: although the median price for a detached house in Vancouver is roughly $1.06 million, according to The New York Times, the median tech salary is $49,000. That’s potentially a big problem for any tech pro debating whether to move to the region.

Counterbalancing the housing issues is a cross-border effort by regional leaders to build a sustainable tech hub. In September, many of those leaders attended the Emerging Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference, where Bill Gates and other tech luminaries discussed how Seattle and Vancouver could better collaborate. Discussions at the event also included the possibility of a high-speed rail as a ”catalyst for collaboration” and “cross-border philanthropy.”

But as demonstrated by Silicon Valley, rapid growth—while also benefitting companies and tech pros—can lead to substantial angst when it comes to things like housing. If Seattle and Vancouver are truly on their way to becoming the next regional “super-hub,” then quality of life is something that will need to be discussed and dealt with.

Image Credit: TomKli/Shutterstock.com

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