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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Rejoice, mothers-in-law: Council waives accessory unit fees

Nov. 15, 2021 Updated Mon., Nov. 15, 2021 at 8:57 p.m.

With the housing crisis still top of mind, the city of Spokane will encourage residents in certain neighborhoods to build additional housing on their properties.

The Spokane City Council passed legislation Monday that will waive the city fees to build an accessory dwelling unit, such as a mother-in-law suite, for homeowners close to one of the city’s several centers and corridors, such as Garland Avenue or South Perry.

The fee waiver is expected to save the builder about $5,100 in fees for a unit valued between $50,000 and $100,000.

The fee waivers will automatically expire at the end of 2024, at which time the City Council can decide whether to extend the program.

The legislation was sponsored by Councilwoman Lori Kinnear, who said she plans to introduce a suite of housing reforms – the ADU ordinance was just the first.

“It’s the easiest to do, that’s why it’s the first,” Kinnear said.

Although noncontroversial – the ordinance passed unanimously – Kinnear stressed that it would have an impact. ADUs, because they are small, are generally affordable, she said.

“It’s a step for us to take in trying to get more affordable units into our system,” Kinnear said.

The legislation does not waive the city’s requirement that the owner live on the property in order to receive an ADU permit.

The city’s Housing Action Plan, which the council adopted earlier this year, contemplates many ways to make it easier to build an ADU. Among its suggestions are increasing the maximum square footage of an ADU and reducing the required parking.

Councilman Michael Cathcart said he was happy to support Monday’s legislation, but said the City Council still has “a few other reforms we have to address on ADUs.”

Council President Breean Beggs called Monday’s vote “an important step, (but) not the last one.”

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