‘Something’s gotta give’: Spokane Co. rent sees 45% increase over 5-year span

If you feel like you’re paying more rent than ever before, you’re not alone. In the last five years, the average rent in Spokane County has seen a 45% increase, which is a higher jump than the statewide average.

Right now, rent in Spokane County is at a ten year-high. Reports from the Washington Center for Real Estate Research (WCRER) show since 2014, the average rent for all units has gone from $749 to $1,091 in 2019.

It can be easy to view the issue through the lens of numbers and percentages and those are important, but so is viewing the issue through the lens of someone who’s actually represented in those numbers, like Nicolle Zangar.

Zangar is a single mom who rents a two-bedroom in Spokane Valley. Zangar said in a few months, she’ll see a 30% jump in rent compared to what she originally paid.

“I didn’t really feel like I could say no because there were not very many two-bedroom units to be found,” said Zangar.

She’s not wrong — the numbers back that up. The latest numbers from WCRER show Spokane County has a 2% vacancy rate, well under what’s considered healthy at 5%.

Terri Anderson, co-executive director of the Tenants Union of Washington, said the vacancy rate is even worse for affordable housing and some landlords use that to their advantage.

“Landlords are not necessarily offering termed leases because they know that their tenants are staying one year even if it’s a month-to-month, so the risk of losing a tenant within a term just isn’t there for a landlord,” Anderson said. “So, when they’re not on a termed lease, they are allowed to raise the rent any time and as often as they want during a year’s period.”

In Zangar’s case, her rent will soon go from $735 to at least $915, which would be a 25% increase at minimum. Zangar told 4 News Now she, like many other renters in the area, is rent-burdened. She said she about 60-65% of her income goes toward rent.

“It just seems like at some point, something’s gotta give,” Zangar said. “There isn’t really a selection for some place cheaper — unless we were to transition and maybe go to a one-bedroom apartment where I give up a bedroom and I sleep on the couch. You know, that was something we looked at and that may be a reality if rent continues to go up.”

Along with tenant protection laws, Anderson would like to see rent control implemented in Washington, which is one of 25 states, along with Idaho, that do not have some form of rent control.

“As far as rent increases, the state of Washington has a pre-emption so cities in the state of Washington — no cities, no counties, no jurisdiction can pass any kind of rent regulation or rent control,” Anderson said. “We’ve seen rent control in Oregon, we’ve seen rent control in California and New York — I would like to see the state of Washington do the same thing.”

Anderson has also been outspoken about the need for tenant protection laws in Spokane — something the city council was set to vote on at its Dec. 9 meeting, but was delayed until March 1.