An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Spokane City Council candidates call for density to address region's housing crisis

Courtesy of Zack Zappone and Mike Kish

Spokane is in a housing crisis. Apartment vacancy rates are historically low, and many are priced out of home ownership.

Here’s how candidates for Spokane City Council say they will address Spokane’s housing problem.

Spokane City Council Candidates in every race say they’re concerned by Spokane’s housing issues. Several call for changes to zoning, or ways to promote affordable housing.

In a KSPS debate earlier this month, Northeast Spokane City Council Candidate Jonathan Bingle argues the current city council could be doing more.

“The first thing I would do at city council is not be voting down developments,” he said. “We have developments that are trying to be built all around the city and unfortunately what’s happening is we have a city council that seems to be opposed to the housing going in that we need. Unfortunately, what ends up happening, when you don’t have the supply to meet the demand, you have an increase in prices.”

He’s referring to a development off Palouse Highway the City Council voted down earlier this year. Council members say it was rejected because it clashed with the city’s comprehensive plan, which calls for multi-family housing to be built along centers and corridors.

Bingle says he would support changes to zoning that would allow more dense development, similar to Kendall Yards. Bingle is a former pastor who currently owns a construction business and an events business.

His opponent, Naghmana Sherazi, also called for zoning changes. Sherazi is a renter, and says the city council could up zone the area around Northtown Mall, which is predominately single-family.

“I am one of those folks who can’t afford a mortgage, having 400,000, 300,000 homes is not going to work for me, like a lot of people in my district,” she said. “ We are very similar, and the reason why I’m connecting with people around the doors is we know they’re not that much money going around.”

Sherazi most recently worked in the diversity and inclusion office at Gonzaga University, and is an immigrant from Pakistan. 

In addition to up zoning areas in her district, Sherazi also called for the city to use its Federal American Rescue Plan dollars for rental assistance to help keep struggling tenants housed.

Candidates for the Northwest Spokane City Council District are both focused on density.

Zack Zappone, a Spokane Public Schools teacher who has previously ran for a seat on the state legislature, says the city should be building in the few empty lots it has left. He says multi-family development should be focused in the city’s centers and corridors, the approach the city’s master planning document also calls for.

“We should be developing along the corridors and centers that make sense, and not have spread throughout our entire city, but rather on neighborhoods and transit lines that make sense for our community,” Zappone said.

Zappone also called for the city to allow rentals often called the “missing middle” such as accessory dwelling units, or smaller lot sizes for homes.

His opponent Mike Lish called for housing diversity in single-family neighborhoods.

“When people think density, they automatically think apartment complex,” Lish said. “That’s not what we want to do. Nobody wants that big apartment complex in their back yard. Enhancing single family zoning. Let’s talk about, can we put some townhomes in a neighborhood. We don’t have to go crazy, and build everything, but we could start supplementing those things.”

Lish owns D.Lish’s Hamburgers in Spokane and is a first time candidate. He says allowing people to rent out mother in law apartments, or build accessory dwelling units, could provide more workforce housing in Spokane.

Betsy Wilkerson, who is running to represent South Spokane, says she also supports zoning changes.

She says the city’s centers and corridors plan, which allows for multi-family units to be built a half mile on either side of designated corridor, has worked. But says its time to expand density further.

“That’s a different mindset for Spokane because this is the way it’s always been,” she said. “People feel their quality of life will be challenged or threatened, and I don’t believe that’s true. I believe we can have more vibrant neighborhoods. When those neighborhoods are activated, especially those empty lots that do attract crime and trash, it will be better for the neighborhoods.”

She says other cities have managed to add density, and businesses, apartments and homeowners have all been able to co-exist.

Wilkerson is running to retain a seat she was appointed to in January of 2020. Her opponent, Tyler LeMasters’ name was struck from the ballot after a judge found he didn’t meet the residency requirements to represent the district.

Ballots have already gone out and must be postmarked by November 2. 

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.