Packed In: ‘No product is being developed for less than $300,000’: Zoning changes could be possible solution to housing crisis

SPOKANE, Wash. — More people are buying homes in Spokane at prices that continue to rise. The median price for a home is now $375,000. Last year, the median home price was $289,900. These hikes are pricing out buyers who can’t keep up with the increases, but some experts say zoning changes could help.

Kendall Yards was developed before 2006 with the flexibility to create an urban neighborhood of mixed residential and business opportunities. The neighborhood also boasts a wide variety of home styles: single family, condos, townhomes and multi-family complexes all created together.

“The kind of things that you see happening in this neighborhood today, we couldn’t get it approved today,” said Jim Frank, the developer behind Kendall Yards.

That’s because codes have gotten more restrictive and favor a single-family approach. However, in this tight housing market, more people are forced out of the market because of this. Homes are only getting more expensive, and there aren’t other options for people who can’t afford to pay more. The buyers most affected are first time and workforce buyers.

“When it comes to affordability and lower price-point houses, you have to be able to build smaller houses on smaller lots,” Frank said. “That’s simply not permitted in the vast majority of our neighborhoods.”

Homes built on smaller lots would end up being less expensive options for buyers, but there’s nowhere near enough supply of these types of homes. Duplexes, triplexes and townhouses currently make up only 9% of housing options in the city.

“No product is being developed less than $300,000,” Frank said. “There’s just no new product being developed.”

“Every year, it’s getting worse and worse and worse, and we keep studying it and looking at it and saying we need to do this and we need to do that,” said Tom Clark with the Spokane Association of Realtors “We’re not doing it.”

He says all the restrictions to build and develop various types of housing in the city will lead to development going across the border to Idaho.

“If we don’t have any land to build on and all the land that’s being built on is in Idaho, guess where people are buying their homes,” Clark said.

The city is working to address this housing crisis. They’ve released a Housing Action Plan. You can view and comment with ideas on the plan HERE.

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