Published on October 21st, 2015 | by Sean Alexander


Calculating Tacoma’s cost of living

Over the past few months, I have been paying close attention to the boiling pot that is Initiative 1 and have found myself increasingly unsatisfied with the dialogue from both sides.

Detractors have said that the measure represents a fairy tale’ and laid out a litany of reasons why the measure will cripple local businesses and result in the loss of hundreds, thousands, millions of jobs. Supporters have grown angry and sarcastic, belittling efforts of compromise by the city council and mayor and failing to recognize proposed Initiative 1B as the partial win that it is.

Bottom line, there has been too much extreme speculation on both sides of this measure.

A wage hike of this proportion is unprecedented in an area this size, so nobody really knows what will happen if it passes.

Additionally, no one has provided any researched information about what it actually does cost to live in Tacoma. I have attempted to do that here and I hope it is helpful in furthering the conversation locally. Below is a graphic that considers the minimum wage vs. the cost of living in Tacoma.

This is an important issue that deserves a close look and a thoughtful conversation because it is, at it’s core, about equality and the sacrifices that we have to make to if we actually want to live in a more equal society.

Don’t forget to read up on the current slate of issues/candidates and vote by November 3rd. If you are anti-voting at this point then GTFU.

Calculating the cost of living in Tacoma graphic by Sean Alexander

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About the Author

Is a local artist, designer, and opinionated citizen.

6 Responses to Calculating Tacoma’s cost of living

  1. Pati says:

    As a business owner who does not take a salary….if I had to pay more than minimum wage, I would go out of business

    • Sean A. says:

      What type of business are you in Pati? How many employees? Would it be possible to keep your business afloat by thinking on your toes and expecting more from your employees/customers?

  2. Eric says:

    Great article, Sean. From a housing perspective, the lowest price point of housing in Tacoma is in the South and East neighborhoods. However, that is also now some of the lowest vacancy rates in the area (around 1.7%), this is compared to the average in Tacoma being slightly over 4%. That difference will continue to drive rental rates ups. Overall, by raising the minimum wage to $15, we are able to address these changes in rents in a responsible manner by allowing tenants to remain in their homes, despite rental hikes. One issue that does arise, is the reduction in assistance some families may receive due to a raise in income.

  3. Jessica says:

    What is the breakdown for single parents? I ask because the demographic for minimum wage workers has significantly changed over the years….

    • Sean A. says:

      Good question Jessica. The USDA estimates the cost of a child under the age of 5 (including childcare) to be around $1000 a month, so basically the statistics in this graphic get destroyed when you add the cost of a dependent. Even if a single-parent on minimum wage were making $12 an hour they would be almost $700 under the required amount to live a bare bones lifestyle with medical/auto insurance etc… Some of the first things to go in the juggle are healthy food, car insurance (1 in 8 drivers don’t have auto insurance) and regular medical/dental visits (because even copays are hard to scrap together). Then there are the late fees imposed by banks, rental companies, and public utilities etc…

      I get bothered hearing peers (most of whom make well over 15 an hour) talking about how minimum wage increases will sink small businesses. Even if they do, I would consider these casualties of positive change. I believe that systems evolve and that policy leads the way. It seems obvious that evolution and growth as a society cannot and will not happen if we are too scared to address the problems for what they are. That said, those of us in the middle also have to pay more for the great products and services we receive from our local businesses. I can only speak for myself, but I’d gladly pay an extra couple bucks for a beer or a haircut if it meant greater mobility (and peace) for all of us.

  4. Martin says:

    Minimum wage was never meant for young adults, it was meant for the 16 year old kid bagging groceries. Can’t help but thinking too that if you raise it so dramatically, those making over the minimum wage will want an equal increase. Increase the minimum wage and cost of goods sold in the area is going to go up as well because owners know people here can afford it now, small business owners will also have to raise prices in order to keep their business open. Sorry for the word vomit…

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