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Spokane legalizes density, fourplexes in all neighborhoods

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Rebecca White | Spokane Public Radio
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A fourplex located in the Cliff Cannon neighborhood on Spokane's lower South Hill. More dense housing types could soon be legal in many of Spokane's neighborhoods.

In response to a growing housing crisis - the city of Spokane has legalized density in all neighborhoods.

In a unanimous vote Monday, city council members approved a one-year pilot that will likely become permanent. It allows duplexes, fourplexes, townhomes and smaller lot sizes anywhere single-family homes are allowed.

City councilman Michael Cathcart, one of the sponsors of the pilot, said this change will increase the quality of life for people who have been priced out of homeownership.

“Suddenly there's options, you can live in the lifestyle that you want to live in because we're creating a pathway to all these different options,” he said, “As we build these houses, there's a compression effect and people are able to move up and down that ladder as result of the increased supply.”

City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson said this change will give people at every stage of life option they can afford.

“We live on a continuum in our housing,” Wilkerson said. “We start out living out home, and then we get out, then we're renters and then we hope we can buy. And then we age and have children and we get a bigger house and then by the end of our cycle, we're looking to downsize again. It is that circle of life, and I think this will provide opportunities at different price points that meet different needs where people are.”

City Councilwoman Lori Kinnear said she had reservations about the proposal, saying she would have preferred fourplexes only be allowed near transit corridors. She said she supports it overall, and hopes to work with the Spokane Transportation Council to address challenges that could arise if more density is built in outlying neighborhoods.

The vast majority of community members who called into a public hearing about the pilot supported the measure. City Council President Breean Beggs said he hopes Spokane will be an example for statewide zoning change. Over the last three years several bills have been introduced in the Washington Legislature, but none have made it to the floor for a vote.

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.