Ideas from city council candidates to manage growth, help locals stay housed

SPOKANE, Wash. — Every city council candidate sees housing stability and affordability as a major issue facing Spokane. They all know something has to change to keep up with the growth, but they have different steps to find a solution.

When candidates are out meeting with neighbors in their district, they hear the stories and concerns people have about staying housed.

“People I have been talking to at the doors, a lot of senior citizens are very concerned,” said Naghmana Sherazi. She’s running for City Council District 1.

“What ends up happening is if we’re not careful, we can see a lot of locals, particularly in my district where we have lots of lower income families, we can watch them get pushed out of their generational homes, and that’s a problem,” said Jonathan Bingle, who’s also running for City Council District 1.

A lot of these fears stem from how underbuilt Eastern Washington is. According to the Spokane Association of Realtors, the region underbuilt approximately 32,000 homes between 2010 to 2019. That jacked up prices by nearly 67 percent over the past five years.

Everyone knows we have a supply issue, and they support building more homes. The biggest disagreement between everyone is where and how.

Sherazi is a renter. She’s concerned about relief funds not going out fast enough and wants the moratoriums extended to ensure people stay housed until the help gets out.

“I am advocating for eviction moratoriums to be extended beyond what the governor is offering,” she said.

In the long term, she’s focused on density in city limits with mixed use around public transit.

“The areas around the central city line, we need to think in terms of mixed use,” Sherazi said. “My focus would be on creating density and infill.”

Bingle, her opponent, has a different vision for the district.

“A lot of emphasis has been placed on renting and affordable and low-income housing, which we need, but it’s only one portion of the housing discussion,” he said. “We need a full spectrum of housing to really serve the community in the way that it needs to be built.”

He supports infill development but also building out, so we can get more homes on the market quickly.

“Building up is a big deal. Building out is a big deal,” he added. “I would definitely pursue the boundary that is for the city. Basically, whatever we can do to to address the housing crisis, I’m fully on board for.”

Both want zoning updated to give families more options on housing types.

Current Council member Betsy Wilkerson sees those changes in the city’s future.

“We know we have some zoning changes before us: lot sizes, setbacks, development incentives,” she said. “What can we do to bring people to the table?”

She’s running unopposed and is excited to work with new people on the council to further her goal of making home ownership more equitable.

“My vision is use the funding we have, use our policy powers that we have to make housing more attainable and affordable for the citizens who live here,” Wilkerson said.

Zack Zappone is hoping he’ll get the chance to work on those issues. He’s running for Spokane City Council District 3. He wants to see more density inside the city with a focus on building around centers and corridors.

“We need to have smart growth that’s regional growth, and we need to work on making sure that it’s along infrastructure that we have,” Zappone said. “How can we increase our infill inside the city, fill up vacant lots that we’re missing?”

He doesn’t think building out is the way to go.

“We don’t want more sprawl in our city. We want it along the transit lines where we have the infrastructure to support it,” he added.

He’s running against Mike Lish for the seat. According to his website, he says housing is one of his top priorities. He wants to cut red tape and incentivize building without jeapordizing neighborhoods.

To see just how big of an issue housing is in this race, the National Association of Realtors and Washington Realtors Political Action Committee have invested nearly $250,000 in the race. All that money’s gone to Lish and Bingle. Lish has raised almost $150,000 alone from Washington real estate groups.

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