Explaining Spokane’s high rentals and low supply

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Spokane County’s average rent prices increased 14% in the past year and 5% in the past month, according to Spokane’s Low-Income Housing Consortium.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Local experts are calling Spokane’s housing situation a crisis, because of high prices and low vacancy rates.

According to the Executive Director of Spokane’s Low-Income Housing Consortium, Ben Stuckart, apartment prices have increased 14% from 2020 to 2021. In just April of 2021, prices increased by 5%.

Stuckart said the prices have forced the average Spokanite to pay more than the recommended 33% of their monthly income on housing. The stem of the issue is Spokane does not have enough housing for the people living here.

Over the past five years people have been moving here, but the county has not been building enough housing, according to Stuckart. That has led to less than 1% of rentals in Spokane being available.

“We’re never going to stop people from moving here, so we have to adjust,” Stuckart said.

To adjust, Stuckart said the county needs to start building multi-family housing. Washington state passed a Growth Management Act 30 years ago, restricting urban growth. That forced Spokane County to stop building into rural areas.

Now, the county’s only option is to increase density in areas already populated. Currently most of Spokane County is single-family housing, and proposed apartments, condos and townhomes are being rejected by locals.

Stuckart said its a “not in my backyard” issue. Spokanites are not interested in the housing growth for their specific neighborhoods. His solution is to build more housing downtown. Five to ten thousand more people could live downtown if apartments are built in the vacant parking lots, Stuckart said.

“We would see those prices start to flatten out right away if we put that many more apartments on the market,” he said.

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