‘Affordable housing is going out the window’: Builders turn clients away, can’t build homes at prices people can afford

PRIEST LAKE, Idaho — The Inland Northwest has a housing shortage. Right now, there’s only a 10 day supply, according to the Spokane Association of Realtors. There’s high demand to build, but more people can’t afford escalating prices.

“I want to be able to build new homes, custom homes for younger married couples, and right now we can’t,” said Lonnie Edwards who owns Built on Trust home building company. “Affordable housing is going out the window.”

He says he used to be able to build starter level homes for around $250,000. Now, he’s struggling to build similar homes for under $500,000. Prices are rising dramatically, inventory is delayed by months, and he can’t even predict what prices will look like a week out.

“This market is so scary right now. It’s unnerving.” he said. “It makes me lose sleep at night.”

In the past month and a half, he’s had to turn away around 20 clients because he can’t budget what prices will look like and can’t build in many people’s price points.

“It’s really scary because you can’t see what’s coming tomorrow and where the prices are going to be,” Edwards said.

“What’s happened is every five days, the price on all products just jump,” said Naomi Oscarson, who’s having a custom home built right now.

The Oscarson family started their forever home project months ago. They expected price fluctuations but nothing like this.

“It’s worth it, but it’s painful,” she said. “It’s painful to know that we have to hit our accounts hard to finish it the way we want to finish it.”

To frame the home they’re building, the materials cost them $185,000. However, if they were buying those same framing materials now at the current prices, it would cost them over $300,000. Edwards says a piece of plywood that’s normally $7 is now $72.

Now, Edwards is telling prospective clients to save up their money and start building when the market levels out. Having to add thousands of dollars on to a project is taking the joy out of building for many people, including himself, and he’s hoping something changes soon.

“Building a house is supposed to be fun,” he said. “There’s an added stress to it right now that is just no fun on the financial end of it.”

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