The Current Housing Conundrum (in Spokane and beyond....)
Our quality of life is at risk. The costs of housing have skyrocketed in recent years. Rents have increased by 14% in the past year alone!
It has become increasingly difficult to find, and afford, the type of housing needed for all of Spokane’s residents, and for all family types through every season of life.
A healthy community is one that hosts an array of housing options, choices, and price levels. However, the current economy has forced most residents to pay more than 1/3 of household income on housing, pushing vulnerable residents to the edge.
For too long, housing developers in both the city and county have been presented with a binary choice: to build either singular family homes – most larger sizes and larger lots – or to build high density, multi-family apartment complexes in areas unsuitable for density. Due to zoning restrictions and other political-economic factors, the community has had to endure development of multi-plex-units built in unsuitable locations. Often in locations without appropriate infrastructure (eg. Transportation and utilities), and with limited capacity for services such as education or healthcare. No one is truly served under this development framework, and our quality of life is not improved. Nor do these mono-typology developments support efficient and functioning community systems: be they utilities, transportation, services or the regional economy.
The lack of housing diversity is the product of regulations which have not adapted to the region’s growth and maturity. Regulations which have not encouraged housing diversity. These other forms of housing have been dubbed the “Missing Middle”. They include various scales of “plexes”, mixed-densities, townhomes, rowhomes, as well as cottage and accessory homes.
The Missing Middle Housing:
Recent reports suggest that the Spokane community has a deficit of nearly 32,000 housing units. The research suggests that regulations preventing development of “Missing Middle” typologies have cost the region billions of dollars in lost economic production. The solutions to this problem are complex but can be envisioned and realized with bold action by community leaders. There is no way to build out of this deficit under the current development framework. We must update our current zoning and design regs! A healthy development framework would disregard the static choice between high density and suburban sprawl (current Spo Co status quo), but instead implement policies aimed at increasing the 'missing middle' within the current fabric of the region's urban-to-rural places.