Chelan-Douglas Trends Newsletter 2019 Q1

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Our World In Data

Helping to understand the world’s largest problems

by Jordan Stevenson - Chelan-Douglas Trends Student Intern

Although the Chelan-Douglas Trends project is local in scale, the data we track are part of a larger global context. Local issues we are concerned about, such as health, population, food security, and education are also international issues. As such, there are also organizations and publications such as Our World in Data that track similar indicators on a larger scale.

As we ask vital questions about the North Central Washington region, such as air and water quality, Our World in Data allows us to examine air and water quality on a global level.

For example, we can see the urban and rural disparity regarding access to water sanitation. Connecting the dots, across the globe, rural areas suffer higher rates of poor hygiene in relation to water sanitation. Looking at data through a global lens can help explain and make better sense of local data.

Among many unique things about Our World in Data, perhaps the most unique is their inclusion of data explaining culture. Have you ever considered the global levels of optimism versus pessimism in our collective consciousness? According to Our World in Data, we are locally optimistic and globally pessimistic, meaning as a collective of global citizens, we have more positive views of our individual and community outcomes, but more negative views of the world.

However, there are many indicators on Our World in Data that are both positive and trending upward. For example, global literacy has increased sharply since 1900, which coincides with increased in school enrollment across the globe, at all educational levels.

Some things really are getting better! Perhaps delving further into the Our World in Data project will change our minds, giving us a more positive view of the world’s future.



Getting Ready for the 2020 Decennial Census

Your Local Complete Census Count Committee

Chelan-Douglas Trends Staff

The decennial census, required by the U.S. Constitution, ultimately creates indispensable data at the national, state, county, municipal and sub-municipal levels. 

According to, the census attempts to count every person in the U.S. where they “live and sleep.” More than just a simple population count, the census determines the number of U.S. House of Representative seats for each state, assists the redrawing of state legislative district boundaries, and is the basis for the distribution e of more than $675 billion in federal funds annually to support states, counties and communities’ vital programs — impacting housing, education, transportation, employment, health care and public policy.

Questions on the decennial census are to be submitted to the U.S. Congress no later than two-years before the census occurs. The 98-page document can be accessed here. In this document, each question includes interesting factoids, such as what year each question first appeared on the census, what specific data will be created from the response, and how the results help communities.

Questions asked on the census produce the data found on the American FactFinder website, which is the data source for 31 indicators on Chelan-Douglas Trends, or about 20% of the total number of indicators on the website.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “The decennial census is the largest mobilization and operation conducted in the United States and requires years of research, planning, and development of methods and infrastructure to ensure an accurate and complete count.”

Of course, the decennial census requires planning and mobilization at the federal level, but without the same planning and mobilization at the local level, it would be difficult or impossible to fulfill the U.S. Constitutional mandate of conducting a census every 10-years.  

In Washington State, the Office of Financial Management (OFM) “serves as the liaison between the state and the U.S. Census Bureau, acts as an advocate on census-related issues for Washington and facilitates the bureau’s mission of achieving a complete, accurate 2020 census count.”

Under the OFM, Complete Count Committees are being created with the purpose of bringing “together community leaders to ensure a complete count of residents in the targeted area.” Complete Count Committees seek to combine” the expertise and knowledge of a representative group of local community, business, philanthropic, and elected leaders to strategize about how to:

  • Educate Washington state residents about the census
  • Explain innovations…and dispel myths
  • Engender trust in the process
  • Encourage and ensure self-response and cooperation with census workers”

What’s at stake? During Fiscal Year 2016 in Washington State, federal funds distributed based on census results were $16.7 billion, with the top-5 programs: Medicaid, Federal Direct Student Loans, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicare - Part B, and Highway Planning & Construction. On a per capita basis in the state during FY 2016, federal funds distributed in Washington came to approximately $2,321.

For questions or more information on how to get involved, contact Brooklyn Holton, Housing & Community Planner, City of Wenatchee at (509) 888-3258 or by email:

Current organizations involved as members of the local Complete Count Committee include:

  • City of Wenatchee
  • City of E. Wenatchee
  • City of Entiat
  • Link Transit
  • Action Health Partners
  • Parque Padrinos
  • Community for Advancement of Family Education (CAFE)
  • Initiative for Rural Innovation & Stewardship (IRIS)
  • United Way of North Central Washington
  • Wenatchee Valley College
  • Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce
  • Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho (PPGWNI)



Local Data Helps Inform

Fighting hunger, feeding hope in the Inland NW

Chelan-Douglas Trends Staff

It wasn’t too long ago estimating hunger relied mainly on Federal Poverty Level statistics. But the national estimates were inadequate when used to estimate hunger in smaller, more localized areas. This created a disparity of what statistically might qualify as food insecure in the national data to what is really happening. The Federal Poverty Level does not change from one place in the U.S. to the next.

Feeding America has developed an extensive methodology to create a different view of local hunger and food insecurity through data. As a result, local organizations and food banks have a much better understanding of what is happening, and how to best deal with the issues at hand.

The natural progression of the data work Feeding America has been involved with is to create data people can interact with. While we think you’ll find much of this website interesting, we’d like to point you to The Economic Drivers of Food Insecurity interactive web page.

Selecting any county in the U.S. in Box #2 shows connections between food insecurity and the poverty rate, unemployment rate, and homeownership rate. Sliders under each category allow the user to adjust the rates in positive or negative directions (poverty, unemployment, and home ownership) to see how can have a huge impact on estimations of food insecurity.

Indicator 2.6.3, Total and Share of K-12 Students Enrolled in USDA Free & Reduced Price Lunch Program, shows how food insecurity has increased over the last 20-years in the combined counties.  


Assessed Property Values Leap Over Last 4-Years

by Scott Richter & Dr. Patrick Jones

It was once said, “People who grumble about taxes have one consolation - they don't have to pay what they think they're worth.” While tongue-in-cheek, the recent growth of the total assessed value of the total taxable property might be closing the gap of grumble and worth.  

Physical property constitutes one of the most important components of wealth in a community. Taxable physical property in Washington State consists of two categories: real, or land, buildings, and some equipment affixed to land or buildings; and personal, or machinery, equipment, furniture, and supplies used by businesses and farmers. Most personal property owned by individuals is exempt. Business inventories, including goods for resale, are also exempt. Real property usually comprises over 90% of any county's total.

As we look at the Assessed Value of Taxable Total Property & Annual Growth Rate indicator, two things stand out. First, there has been quite a bit of growth. Second, the effects of the Great Recession and housing bubble can be seen.

Since the beginning of the series in 1999, the combined counties has experienced 166% growth of the assessed value of taxable total property - from $5.94 billion to $15.82 billion in 2017.  In the combined counties, the lowest mark since 2009 was $12.07 billion occurring in 2012, had increased by 9.6% in 2017.

Wes Cornelius, Chief Deputy, Chelan County Assessor’s Office, said the “main drivers behind the growth are twofold. First, we have a lack of housing availability and second, we continue to grow.”

From 2015 to 2016; 2016 to 2017; and from 2017 to 2018, the annual growth rate of the population in the combined counties has grown by 1.4%. From 2010 to 2018, cumulative population growth in the combined counties was 8.2% (see: Indicator 0.1.1). 

Cornelius continued to explain that it’s also a “simple supply/demand scenario [and] is not new to this area. We have always struggled with continued growth.” 

All indicators on the Trends website provide helpful insight, but some more than others are better looked at as part of the long game. For example, this indicator shows the decrease in the assessed value of total taxable property in 2010, ultimately not regaining the same value until 2015. But from 2015 to 2017, the combined counties experienced an increase of 15%.

Cornelius said “We are approximately 10% over the highs of 2008 / 2009. This is where we should be if the ‘Bubble’ did not happen. The market corrected itself and I feel we are heading to a normal growth for our area.”

Jim Ruud, Douglas County Assessor said “The East Wenatchee urban area has a little more land available for development compared to Wenatchee. With the higher prices in East Wenatchee I have seen increased demand, along with higher prices in some of the outlying communities such as Orondo, Waterville and Mansfield to a lesser extent.”

Both Cornelius and Ruud comment on how great an area the Chelan-Douglas area is for recreation, low electricity rates, and retirement.


Low Income Homeownership Above State

Scott Richter and Dr. Patrick Jones

Traditionally, home ownership has represented one way for households to maintain long-term affordable housing. Home ownership "locks-in" monthly payments (assuming fixed interest loan terms) that become more affordable provided household income increases over time.

However, it is becoming more difficult for low income households to change their status from “renters” to “buyers”.

Recent developments in the housing market and the current economic environment have tightened up home lending practices. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has increased standards not only to qualify for a mortgage, but has set new thresholds for approving FHA home loan applications through their automated system.

The new thresholds in the FHA’s automated system alone, according to the USA Today, as many as “50,000 borrowers that previously received mortgages could be filtered out.” While applications rejected can still be submitted manually, many financing companies have adjusted their lending practices matching those of the FHA and won’t submit manually applications. Manual submissions take more time, but might also include income not considered through the automated system, such as bonuses.

All of this market energy is making it more difficult for low income households to enter into homeownership.

First, a little prep work before we look at this indicator. Low income is defined as annual household income between 30% and 60% of the area’s median income (AMI). Median household income measures all sources of income - wage & salary, investments & rents, proprietors' income, pensions, transfer payments and other sources for a household, and is the value at which 50% of households are below and 50% are above.

For this indicator during 2017, AMI (and 30%-60% of AMI) in:

  • Chelan & Douglas Counties: AMI = $58,990 ($17,697 - $35,394).
  • Chelan County: AMI = $61,615 ($18,485 - $36,969).
  • Douglas County: AMI = $55,805 ($16,742 - $33,483).

Looking at the share of low income households who own and live in their home during 2017, we see the rate in the combined counties has typically been above the nation and most often above the state. More specifically, the share of low income households who own and live in their home during 2017 in:

  • Chelan & Douglas Counties combined was 44.0%, decreasing from 53.1% in 2006.
  • Washington State was 42.4%, decreasing from 45.6% in 2006.
  • The U.S. was 46.9%, decreasing from 52.1% in 2006.

Individually, Chelan County has closely followed the combined counties trend, ending at 44.9% in 2017, Douglas County has been steady, ending at 55.6% in 2017, increasing by 0.4% since 2010.

Sherri Schneider, Executive Director, Columbia Valley Affordable Homeownership, comments on why the rates here aren’t higher, “These households will and do qualify to buy a home due to good credit and excellent work histories. But the banks can only lend according to income, so the pre-approved loan amounts are too low to actually buy in the current market…They are qualified, but they cannot afford to buy.”

Increasing home resale values are also playing a part. The median home resale value in the combined counties has increased by 38% over the last decade (see: Indicator 6.3.1). Schneider said “skyrocketing home prices lure low-income homeowners into selling. They live on a financial knife’s edge and making $100,000 in net profit on a home sale can motivate someone to move in with family or into an apartment to allow them to pay off medical and other lingering debt.”

In addition to the typical increased home values, and the tightening housing market, investors have had an effect too. Schneider said, “During the recent recession, we had hundreds of modest homes on the market priced under $185,000.  Low-income folks were still working, so they were able to buy homes. As soon as there was a whiff that the economy was improving, investment buyers and landlords bought up every one of those affordable homes and turned them into rentals.  I saw the list of available homes for sale for $185,000 or less go from hundreds to less than a dozen in the space of 18 months!”


Affordability for First-Time Homebuyers is on the Decline: Simple Supply and Demand Forces at Play

by Brian Kennedy and Dr. Patrick Jones

Housing affordability for first time homebuyers, as seen in Indicator 6.3.3, depicts affordability of an important group of area home buyers in steady decline. A myriad of supply and demand issues has created a housing market becoming more and more difficult for the first time buyer to purchase a home. Traditionally, home ownership in the U.S. has been associated with the middle class.

The graph illustrates the first time home buyers index, produced by the Runstad Department of Real Estate at University of Washington. The index is defined as the degree at which a median income family could afford to purchase a home in the current local market conditions. The index is based on the likelihood that a lender would be willing to fund the loan so that the principal and interest payments do not exceed 25% of the gross income. It is then built on the following assumptions: a 30 year fixed loan with a mortgage rate equal to that of the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s estimate of the effective rate of existing home sales, a home price set at 85% of the median home resale value, and a median household income equal to 70% of the community’s median household income. Given these assumptions, an index value of above 100 indicates housing more affordable while those falling below 100 the market conditions lead to less affordable homes for the first time buyers.

As it sits, the combined counties of Chelan and Douglas Counties had an affordability index of 61.7 in the fourth quarter of 2018. This is slightly lower than the state at 63.0. Indicating that first time home buyers are having a more difficult time here trying to find an affordable home than the average first time home buyer across the state.

As the trend shows from the fourth quarter of 2008 to the fourth quarter of 2018, Washington and the combined counties have moved in lock step, with a positive correlation coefficient of 89%. This, indicates that local market conditions often mimic statewide conditions for this measure. How does the metro area are stack up to other metro areas east of the Cascades?

In this comparison, we again see home prices less affordable for the first time buyer in Chelan and Douglas Counties. Yakima County and the combined counties of Benton and Franklin are the communities with the closest home values. Yet, Chelan and Douglas Counties’ index is still 6.4 and 7.4 points higher respectively, as shown on Yakima Valley Trends 8.3.3 and Benton Franklin Trends 7.3.3. While these three areas face similar conditions, affordability for Chelan and Douglas Counties is much more challenged than in places like Walla Walla and Spokane, where they are 29.3 and 22.2 points higher, as shown on Walla Walla Trends 5.1.3 and Runstad’s Housing Market Snapshot in Spokane County.

Since the first quarter of 2013, affordability for the region has been steadily declining. From that date, it has dropped over 50 points, and with the exception of the Tri Cities, the market in Chelan and Douglas Counties has seen the largest degradation out of all Eastern Washington metro areas. The Yakima index dropped 41.4, and Spokane dropped 43.8, but Walla Walla only fell by 22 points.

How does the experience of first-time buyers relate to the affordability of all buyers? Indicator 6.3.2 shows this index over the same time period. For this measure, the local outlook is actually better than the statewide estimate: 113 in Chelan and Douglas Counties compared to 108.1 across the State. Still, Chelan and Douglas Counties remain less affordable than their Eastern Washington counterparts, averaging about 12.5 points higher (see: Benton Franklin Trends 7.3.2Spokane Community Indicators 6.3.2Walla Walla Trends 5.1.2, and Yakima Valley Trends 8.3.2).

So there is a clear gap in the market between first time buyers and all buyers. JoAnna Holland, communications director for North Central Washington Association of Realtors, states that there is a continual battle happening locally between first time home buyers and home buyers who are downsizing. Finding that “first time home buyers, who are financing their home purchase, are competing against home buyers who are possibly paying with cash or having a large down payment due to downsizing. With the steep competition first time buyers are finding themselves in the position where they have to offer more in order to be competitive.”

So what is contributing to the falling affordability in Chelan and Douglas Counties? Ms. Holland cites supply and demand factors are at play. “The number of active listings have steadily decreased year over year. With demand staying about the same, this has caused an increase in pricing as the supply continues to decrease.” This explanation is certainly echoed in the data as well. Indicator 6.3.1 depicts the median home resale value over the same period of time. In the first quarter of 2012 the median home price was $211,007. From there the price has steadily increased to $332,674, at a compound annual growth rate of 6.7% and a jump that’s over $120,000 from seven years ago. In fact, locally the community has seen the highest compound annual growth rate of all eastern metro areas, slightly edging out Yakima, the next fast growing median home price and far ahead of Walla Walla, the slowest growing (shown in Yakima Valley Trends 8.3.1 and Walla Walla Trends 5.1.1).

One way to keep affordability high is for wages, and consequently income, to increase at a similar pace. Unfortunately in Chelan and Douglas Counties, median household income hasn’t grown nearly as fast, as shown on Indicator 2.1.2. Since 2012 median household income has increased by a compound annual growth rate of 3.8%, three percentage points slower than home prices.

Despite the decline affordability, there are reasons people are moving to or staying in the community. Ms. Holland mentions the overall lifestyle as a driving force: “small town vibes for schools yet having amenities of larger towns, year round activities, and a highly rated medical center all contribute to the desirability of the community. With rural towns like Waterville and Orondo, and vacation towns like Leavenworth and Chelan, nearby there sure is something to catch any household’s attention; and wherever there is the demand the prices are sure to increase.”



5-Questions with:

Dr. Peter Rutherford

CEO, Confluence Health

Q1) Just a few short years ago, Central Washington Hospital merged with Wenatchee Valley Clinic to form Confluence Health. In the meantime, you have garnered many accolades for many outcomes, from patient experience to surgical excellence. What’s next for the organization?

A1) Our major focus right now is improving the care processes we use, to improve the outcomes from the patient’s perspective, and control our costs.  This involves engaging all the physicians and staff in this effort, as they are the ones doing the work day to day. 

Q2) The success of healthcare delivery is increasingly defined by a range of metrics. Which of the many measures for clinical care do you find most mission critical?

A2) As you say, there are many, really too many measures of success now.  I think some important ones are from an outcomes perspective in the shorter term are:

Pick a couple care metrics like diabetes “perfect care” and hypertension control. Well-functioning organizations who do well on these are probably doing well on many others.  Hospital readmission rates also measure how well a patient did in the hospital, but also how well they were helped in the transition back to outpatient care.  Then patient experience overall, did the patient feel that they received good care, that it was worth their time and effort to come in.

In the longer term we need to be following more community based metrics, like percent of population that is diabetic, how many people are having vascular events (MI or CVA), did diabetes control, hypertension control, smoking cessation make a difference?

Q3) Chelan Douglas Trends contains many Indicators of population health. Is that an area you feel Confluence Health can influence? If so, which of these indicators do feel are most important?

A3) Now we can hopefully affect death rates, hospitalization rates (by improving outpatient care), avoidable hospitalizations, cancer deaths (improved screening to find early stage disease where it helps), hopefully preterm deliveries, and low birth rates.

By advocating for improved efforts on the social determinants of health and improving patient behaviors, hopefully we can reduce health care utilization in the longer term.

Q4) The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among others, claims that approximately 80% of the root causes for health outcomes are found outside of the clinic. These are widely known as the socio-economic determinants of health. Do find this argument persuasive? If so, are there certain Trends indicators in this area that you pay close attention to?

A4) I really do think this is true, everyone needs a safe stable place to live and consistent food availability to feel safe.  Unless people feel safe, they will not be able to manage their health.

So I look at housing rates, poverty rates, high school graduation rates, and employment rates.

Q5) When you observe the full sweep of measures tracked by the Trends, health-related or not, are there any that jump out at you?

A5) Housing availability, the disparity in incomes (many people very low income, a few people with the majority of the income.   Size of the health care work force.  Health care delivery in my mind is in a community to help the community to stay healthy, so they can be active and productive members of the community, helping other businesses to thrive.  We are not bringing “new money” into the community like other value added companies do.