‘We need housing’: Spokane City Council adds flexibility to accessory dwelling unit rules

SPOKANE, Wash. — There are new changes to how you build and rent out an accessory dwelling unit, also known as a granny flat or mother-in-law unit. The Spokane City Council recently passed an ordinance that makes the rules more flexible.

City leaders say the housing supply is not meeting the enormous demand.

“We need housing. We’re in a housing crisis and the idea of limiting housing is only going to raise prices more and limit choice for rental or even homeownership opportunities in our community,” councilman Michael Cathcart said.

The new ordinance allows for a larger Accessory Dwelling unit size limit. Instead of being limited to building 600 square feet, owners can now build 975 square feet, or 75 percent of the house size.

The space could be enough to accommodate a 2 bed 2 bath and kitchen.

“It will enable a lot more people to build ADUs and potentially rental housing for people in our community who need it,” Cathcart said.

The new ordinance also relaxes the parking rules to only one space needed for a two-bedroom. Also, anyone with a principal structure such as a duplex or triplex.

However, some don’t agree necessarily agree with the entirety of the ordinance. The new ordinance removes the requirement that the property owner doesn’t have to live on site except if it’s a short-term rental.

Gene Brake, the vice-chair of the Emerson-Garfield neighborhood council says removing the occupancy requirement makes way for developers.

“The negative comes in when you remove that owner occupancy requirement. Now, a developer looks at it and will not necessarily be from our community who now looks at that not as a home but as an investment for him personally,” Brake said.

Brake says while low-income housing advocates see the new ordinance helping stock, developers see it as a win with the potential to buy up homes and some cases, neighborhoods.

“So, forces gentrification on our city. It makes it difficult housing has to be a balance. Saving our historic qualities of Spokane, and our beautiful neighborhoods while also allowing housing options at all income levels. There’s nothing in the ordinance that forces any low-income housing at all,” Brake said.

However, councilman Cathcart believes the ordinance is only going to create more housing options.

“We’ve got to get more housing built I don’t think it’s going to create negative ramifications. In fact, not doing it will create worse outcomes than anything,” he said.

The city council will also be looking at a pilot program. The Building Opportunity and Choices for All would allow duplexes and townhouses in all residential neighborhoods. It would also allow triplexes and fourplexes in targeted areas.

READ: Proposed plan would speed up housing construction in Spokane