Mar 17, 2023 - Real Estate

Mount Rainier park rangers priced out of nearby housing

View from the Skyline Trail at Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park. Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Housing in parts of Washington state is so expensive that 124-year-old Mount Rainier National Park had to do something it's never done before: Ask landlords for help.

Driving the news: The park — which draws close to 2.5 million visitors annually — put out a request for proposals last month from property owners of houses, apartments and RV pads within 50 miles of Paradise willing to lease their properties to the park.

  • Officials said there is not enough park housing for the 200 to 300 workers and volunteers needed in the summer.

Why it matters: The park's pilot program underscores how wide-ranging, and sometimes surprising, the impacts of Puget Sound's affordable housing crisis are.

  • Housing concerns factored into staff shortages this winter that led to weekday closures of the popular road to Paradise — a blow to outdoor enthusiasts across Western Washington.

Details: Many of the rental properties used by park employees for decades have disappeared in the last three to five years, Scott Livingston, administrative assistant for the park's headquarters, told Axios.

  • As housing and rental prices across the region rose, more properties around Mount Rainier were bought as investments, said Livingston. The majority of them, especially on the west side of the mountain, have been turned into short-term vacation rentals or Airbnbs, he said.
  • Park workers can't afford those prices, he said, and without housing, can't afford to take the jobs.
  • Building more housing in the park is not being considered, largely because 97% of the park is designated wilderness, he said.

Yes and: The housing shortage impacts full-time, permanent staffers looking to buy as well.

  • In Packwood, south of the mountain with a population of around 300, the price of a typical house rose 12.3% year-over-year in February to $397,399.

What's next: Livingston said the response to the park's request has been robust. The park now has enough housing for its summer workers and is building relationships with local property owners.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Seattle.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Seattle stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Seattle.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more