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Spokane City Council to Discuss Housing, Development Incentives Monday

Rebecca White/SPR

Spokane City Council will discuss a series of housing, and development incentives during their meeting Monday that could spur new affordable housing projects, and preserve the existing supply of housing in Spokane.Housing costs for both renters, and prospective home buyers, have skyrocketed in Spokane this summer, with many reporting rent increases of 50% or higher. Many first-time homebuyers have also been shut out of the market due to escalating prices.

Spokane City Councilwoman Lori Kinnear said the city is trying to address those issues, with a housing action plan, and a list of incentives she plans to introduce Monday.

“It’s almost a perfect storm, it’s not just rising prices for rent, there’s a reason because housing is more expensive, it’s more expensive to build right now, and that has to part of the equation and a factor in everything.”

Kinnear said many of the incentives she is proposing already exist in a smaller capacity in the city of Spokane, or have been done before in other cities. She’s suggesting the city use a small portion of the $80 million in American Rescue Plan funds the city received from the Federal Government, to expand them.

The proposal includes an incentive for businesses that own commercial buildings to transform their property into affordable housing and a proposal to waive and reimburse some fees for developers who build affordable housing.

There is also a proposal to restore facades of businesses or apartments that may look dilapidated, a proposal to use American Rescue plan or Housing and Urban Development dollars to renovate houses owned by low-income homeowners, and a property tax exemption for low-income first-time buyers who have lived in Spokane for three years.

Shauna Harshman, the manager of neighborhood connectivity initiatives for the city council said the incentives were designed to spur development, restoration and affordability along the city’s centers, and corridors.

“I think the overarching goal is more and better housing, and each of the programs gets at a different target audience, the developer, the homeowner, the potential new homeowner, the business owner who is potentially thinking of changing property into housing from a commercial use.”

Kinnear said the list of incentives is a non-binding resolution, but if the city council members sign on, they can start drawing up ordinances, and getting them into the city’s code.

“I don’t want to leave office with this mess, and I think it is fixable, I think it’s going to take a little time, I would just ask for everybody’s patience while we sort this out.”

She said she’s hoping to have a few of the incentives signed into law before the end of the year.

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