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Spokane gets high marks for low costs

Mid-level executives who live in Spokane enjoy a lower cost of living than they would in most other Western cities, according to a quarterly poll by the Council for Community and Economic Research.

The survey looked at regional differences during fourth-quarter in the costs of consumer goods and services, excluding taxes, for the top 20 percent of wage earners. It showed Spokane’s cost of living to be less than the national average, too.

The study assigns a total score for each city based on respective costs of housing, utilities, transportation, healthcare and miscellaneous goods.

Spokane’s composite score was 97.9, indicating it’s more affordable than San Francisco (172.9), Los Angeles (147.0), Portland (121.1), Denver (103.4), Albuquerque (98.9) and the national average (100.0).

“One of the things that keeps us more affordable here is housing,” said Grant Forsyth, an economist at Eastern Washington University. “If you consider what you can buy for $200,000 here, it’s still relatively affordable. In some of these other markets, you’d be lucky to get into a 600-square-foot condo for that.”

However, folks in the Inland Northwest paid significantly more in transportation costs last quarter, with a composite of 113.6. That’s even higher than Los Angeles (112.6) and Colorado Springs (109.1).

“It’s no secret that for months Spokane had some of the highest gasoline prices around,” said economist Patrick Jones, executive director of EWU’s Center for Public Policy and Economic Analysis.

At the same time, health care costs in Spokane (108.8) ran higher than Denver (107.5), Los Angeles (100.3) and the national average (100.0).

Head hunters, executives and employers primarily use the poll to compare cost of living differences in various metropolitan areas, said Randy Barcus, regional economist with Avista Corp.