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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Team of national real estate experts finds potential in meeting future housing needs in Spokane County

UPDATED: Sat., Oct. 2, 2021

Parkvue Hills development is shown earlier this year in Spokane Valley. Home sales in Spokane County dropped 14.8% in October, but the median price increased 17.2% to $375,000, compared with $320,000 in October 2020, according to the Spokane Association of Realtors.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
Parkvue Hills development is shown earlier this year in Spokane Valley. Home sales in Spokane County dropped 14.8% in October, but the median price increased 17.2% to $375,000, compared with $320,000 in October 2020, according to the Spokane Association of Realtors. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

There is “tremendous opportunity” to meet a growing need for housing in Spokane County by changing local government policies to spur development and create vibrant mixed-use neighborhoods, according to a preliminary finding by consultants from the Counselors of Real Estate’s CRE Consulting Corps.

The consultants analyzed the county’s housing and population statistics, in addition to interviewing area policymakers, developers, builders and civic leaders to find solutions for Spokane’s housing crunch.

“Everybody wants more housing,” Jackie Buhn, team leader with the Counselors of Real Estate. “There are minor differences of thought in the details, but everybody’s pushing in the same direction. Everybody wants housing at all income levels in every neighborhood.”

Recommendations included in the team’s preliminary report included a regional update to zoning codes to allow for more infill development and a variety of housing types; collaboration with community groups to create a vision for their neighborhoods; financial incentives to spur development; and revision of local governance to address changes needed to increase housing supply.

Spokane’s population has grown about 1% per year in the past decade, but housing development has not kept up with the influx of new residents. As a result, the median home price skyrocketed to $389,728 in August.

“That’s really unusual to see that sort of growth,” said Paige Mueller, managing director of San Francisco-based real estate consulting firm Eigen 10 Advisors. “We looked at 383 markets around the country, (Spokane) is ranked No. 20 in home-price growth over the past year or so.”

If population growth continues at its current pace, the team cited Office of Financial Management estimates that 28,000 new homes will need to be built in the county within the next decade.

Spokane home sales indicate a lack of workforce housing and supply for first-time buyers. That lack of affordable housing, combined with expiring eviction moratoriums, could increase homeless populations, according to the counselors group.

Nearly 20% of homes in the county sold for more than $500,000 in the past year. For comparison, about 1% of homes sold in the county for more than $500,000 in 2011.

“That’s not a price that your community can support. For most of your citizens to even have the median home price, which is in the $300,000s, they’re going to need two wage earners,” Mueller said. “That’s a significant social issue, especially for those young families.”

Another downside of the area’s housing supply squeeze is that longtime residents may be forced to move to other areas, she added.

Mueller encouraged the community to think about creating safe, vibrant communities with a variety of property types, such as those in Kendall Yards. Similar developments would support local businesses, create retail centers, house intergenerational families, cut commute times and support underserved neighborhoods.

“When we have a functioning community, we have a variety of property types. We have retail. We have local businesses. We have places to work,” she said. “So we want to think about how do we best serve our neighborhoods and uphold projects, and not isolating housing as a part of that?”

The team found land supply could be more abundant under policies that would allow more density and infill development. However, it will require public and private sector collaboration on zoning procedures.

“We heard a lot of opinions that there’s insufficient available supply of land in Spokane,” said Stan Sidor, senior vice president of Kidder Matthews’ Tacoma branch. “But we see that there’s a lot of possibility for infill development. But again, it’s a little more challenging, but it can happen. It’s just going to take the will and the perseverance of all the community.”

The Counselors of Real Estate is an international organization of real estate experts. Its goal is to develop an unbiased, objective review of demographic and housing data, examine barriers to development and present solutions to create housing options in cities nationwide.

The team compiled the preliminary report on a voluntary basis as a result of a collaboration between The Spokane Association of Realtors, Washington Realtors and The Spokane Home Builders Association.

“We are excited to learn of the tremendous untapped potential for housing opportunities in Spokane,” Eric Johnson, president of the Spokane Association of Realtors, said in a statement. “We believe this demonstrates Spokane may have an opportunity for adding to our badly needed housing supply.”

A final comprehensive report from the team is expected in November.Amy Edelen can be reached at (509) 459-5581 or at amye@spokesman.com.

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