"The number of homes developed in our community has not kept pace with population growth.
We lack homes at all income levels."
This is part of a short series about the affordable housing crisis facing Spokane. To re-cap, it requires a three-prong approach to effectively end this crisis:
1. Increase supply of available housing;
2. Provide incentives and subsidies to encourage non-profits and builders to create workforce and senior housing; and
3. Strengthen protections for of renters of all ages and incomes.
Read the introduction to the series at www.benstuckart.com. Thank you!
Increasing the Supply of Housing
The number of homes developed in our community has not kept pace with population growth. We lack homes at all income levels.
New market-rate homes allow expanding families to stay in Spokane, instead of having to move outside the city limits. New homes and apartments help reduce the disproportionate demand that is causing rents to skyrocket and putting starter homes out of reach.
So, how do we get more homes and apartments built to meet the need?
Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE) Program
I am a huge proponent of the MFTE program. It is one of the few policy tools we have to encourage the building of affordable homes in our community.
Without this tool, some projects simply do not get built (so we are not getting the housing we need or the future property tax revenues that help pay for critical services like police and fire). The MFTE tool can be quickly abused as a tax cut for developers in times when housing is not in such critical demand. Unfortunately, this is not ordinary times. Our citizens need housing. We need to build, and the MFTE program is one of the only tools provided to local governments to incentivize multi-family homebuilding.
Land Use Efficiency
City government should allow you to do more with your property. Zoning and design regulations could allow property owners to use more of their property for housing such as mother-in-law suites (known as Accessory Dwelling Units or ADU’s).
We must be considerate of our neighbors, and neighborhoods, but there are context-sensitive changes that could make better use of our land while increasing the supply of housing. An example of a small change that could have an impact is allowing town homes on corner lots. This is a change I will strongly champion over the next year.
People vs Parking
We have to choose people over parking. We need to review our regulations that require parking in areas that simply do not need it. As our transit system expands and improves and neighborhoods become more developed with everyday amenities, some citizens are forgoing cars. Our laws should reflect the changes in this behavior. We shouldn’t force homebuilders to build parking that isn’t going to be used. We have to choose the housing of people over the temporary storage of an automobile.
The Comprehensive Plan
We need to recognize the Comprehensive Plan as both a vision document and an action plan. Thousands of citizens have spent many years building this plan.
The Comprehensive Plan spells out how future Spokane should look. It is filled with suggested policies to make this vision a reality. We have to implement them.
For housing, we need to concentrate our growth in our Centers and Corridors. That’s the vision of the citizens, and that is exactly where our strongest growth should focus.
If we carry out the vision of the Comprehensive Plan, I believe our small businesses will thrive, our streets will be safer, and our quality of life will be unmatched in the Inland Northwest.
Tomorrow, our campaign will roll out another strategy to help our community regain control of the frantic and imbalanced housing market that puts all of us at risk.
As always, I want to hear your ideas for ending the housing crisis in Spokane. Thank you!