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Housing on the West Plains remains a top priority for city leaders

UPDATED: Thu., June 18, 2020

Airway Heights, shown Wednesday, Mar. 11, 2020, is experiencing an explosion of housing development driven by an influx of new companies, such as Amazon, opening facilities on the West Plains.  (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Airway Heights, shown Wednesday, Mar. 11, 2020, is experiencing an explosion of housing development driven by an influx of new companies, such as Amazon, opening facilities on the West Plains. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

With the recent opening of Amazon’s fulfillment center and many more companies on the way, meeting a growing need for housing on the West Plains remains a priority for city leaders, according to participants in a Zoom conference call Wednesday organized by the West Plains Chamber of Commerce.

“Housing has been a top priority of our Chamber for a few years now,” Toby Broemmeling, executive director of the West Plains Chamber of Commerce, said on the West Plains State of Housing conference call, adding that the Cheney School District is expected to increase by 4,000 students in the next 10 years.

Additionally, in a recent Ignite Northwest Zoom call, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman predicted a shift in people moving from larger cities to smaller markets like Spokane as remote work becomes more prevalent. The West Plains could be well-suited to meet the growing demand if its housing market can provide the supply, according to the Chamber.

Spokane is growing and a number of builders aren’t anticipating much of slowdown during the COVID-19 outbreak, he added.

Spokane County building permits filed in May increased more than 100% compared to May 2019, with a big spike in multifamily permits, White said.

However, there are challenges in the construction industry, White said, adding there continues to be a shortage of labor, not only in Spokane but nationwide.

“There’s definitely a need for housing,” he said. “It’s just getting the industry able to build those homes.”

The West Plains has available land on which to build, but those sites have to meet permitting and water needs, White said.

Lexington Homes, a D.R. Horton company, recently completed its Fairway Greens housing development in Cheney, said Jayson Hunnel, Lexington Homes vice president.

“We have now sold and closed all 55 of those homes, as of last week, in less than two years,” Hunnel said. “We are seeing a major commitment from the community and from industry out in that area, and they need housing.”

Lexington Homes is continuing work on the second phase of its Country View Meadows development in Cheney and is under contract for two additional housing projects, Hunnel said.

Windermere Airway Heights broker Kristy Hamby moved to the West Plains in 2008 and has watched the community’s gradual growth.

Spokane’s real estate market is booming despite an initial slowdown because of COVID-19, she said.

Home buyers are gravitating toward larger properties with more space following statewide stay-at-home orders imposed in March to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There’s also a continuing trend of out-of-area buyers looking to purchase properties in the Spokane area because they want to be closer to family or they are able to telecommute, Hamby said.

The West Plains had 726 home sales last year, compared to 389 home sales in 2010, she said.

However, housing affordability is a concern on the West Plains. The lack of available homes is driving prices up, said Hamby, who noted the median housing price on the West Plains is $278,000.

For comparison, Spokane County’s median home price was $289,900 in May, according to the Spokane Association of Realtors.

Airway Heights is developing a plan for a downtown core that could provide more housing in mixed-use buildings, said Heather Trautman, city of Airway Heights planner.

The city is holding community events this summer to obtain feedback on its plan for a downtown area and will survey business owners to help determine their needs in commercial areas, Trautman said.

Airway Heights is processing several building permits, some of which include 71 lots in the Highland Village development. The city is also in the final stage of approving building permits for the Arrowleaf Townhomes project, which calls for 72 duplexes and single-family homes. The city also anticipates another 85-lot subdivision application to be filed next week, Trautman said.

“The great news is there appears to be a strong desire to move forward with a variety of housing projects in our area,” she said.

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