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Looking for a Spokane apartment? Demand for homes is driving up rental prices

Less than 1% of rentals in Spokane County are currently vacant. Experts say the lack of supply and increased demand are driving up rental prices.

SPOKANE, Wash. — On a Facebook group for Spokane rentals, there is post after post of Spokane residents who are desperately in search for somewhere to live. But there are few posts advertising vacant homes available in the county. 

One of the many people searching for a home is soon-to-be Spokane resident Stephen Cartee. He is moving from across the country to Spokane to pursue an art career but he is struggling to find availability. 

“It’s either been no return calls or no response from the website or just it’s already rented. Really no luck at all,” Cartee said.  

That has been the pattern for many people on the hunt for rentals. Cartee said an additional issue is pricing. He doesn’t feel like he is getting his money’s worth for the places that do have availability.  

Edie Rice-Sauer, director of the local nonprofit Transitions, said finding a well-priced home to rent in Spokane County is particularly hard right now due to the low vacancy rate. Less than 1% of all rental properties in Spokane County are currently vacant, she said. 

The lack of supply and increased demand for housing has driven up prices on rental properties.  

“Then you layer on top of it COVID and the eviction moratorium, and you’ve got kind of a perfect storm of things getting in the way of people being able to find housing. It’s awful,” Rice-Sauer said. 

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Spokane is currently $945, according to rental-listing website Zumper. This is a 15% increase compared to the previous year. The Riverside, Moran Prairie and Emerson Garfield neighborhoods are among the most expensive for rentals, according to the company.

There are two main reasons why Spokane is in this housing crisis. 

First, the county’s population grew significantly over the past few years without sufficient housing built. Two, the county’s zoning favors single-family homes over apartments or condos, which would have potential to house more people. 

Rice-Sauer said she sees a lot of families sharing homes. In this tough market, her advice is to stay put if in a stable situation. Unfortunately, that leaves people like Cartee in a frustrating situation. 

“I don’t know. I’ve looked on craigslist -- all the websites and apps you can think of. Nothing,” he said.