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Rising rent costs are pricing many locals out of their homes

As prices go up in the Spokane area, residents and city leaders are demanding more affordable housing options.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Rebekah Mason and her family moved to Spokane six years ago from Los Angeles with the intention of saving up to buy a home in a cheaper housing market.

"Now with having to pay higher amounts for rent," Mason said "We don't have as much to put aside to save, and I don't know that I can see purchasing a home in my near future anymore."

Recently, Mason's landlord announced that their rent was going up hundreds of dollars on March 1. 

"Six hundred dollars if we do not sign the year lease, and $400 if we do," Mason said. "We're not planning on signing that year lease and are hoping to find other housing at this point."

In a survey conducted in November by The ZONE at the Northeast Community Center, 852 people in the City of Spokane were asked about their cost of living expenses. Fifty-nine percent said their rent went up in the last six months and 43 percent said they saw an increase of up to $500.

Shannon Corrick who lives in Cheney says her landlord increased her rent so much last year that it forced her family to move out of their home. 

"We had lived there for years," Corrick said. "Then last year, he said he was going to raise the rent. If we signed a lease, it would be a 30 percent increase. If we did not sign a lease, it was going to be a 50 percent increase, and we could not find anywhere to move that was at all affordable."

That same survey conducted by The ZONE asked 133 people who live in Spokane County about their rent. Fifty-four percent said they had an increase in the past six months of up to $1,000.

Many local leaders, including Spokane City Councilman Zack Zappone, believe one solution to the rising rent prices is building more affordable multi-family housing in and around the city.

"Last year, we passed the BOCA which is a Building Opportunity and Choices for All act," Zappone said. "And that changed to allow more middle, missing middle housing."

Zappone recently spoke to the state legislature in favor of passing a similar law statewide, that would allow for more multi-family housing units to be built in places that have been zoned for single-family homes.

"Spokane alone cannot build enough units within city boundaries," Zappone said. "So we need adjacent cities in the county to increase their density too. We can't solve the problem all alone, that takes a regional approach."

Right now he is working on a proposal that would turn some of the empty parking lots in downtown Spokane into multifamily housing units.

"There's a lot of land downtown that is just not being utilized," Zappone said. "And we have this great need for housing in our community. So the legislature is allowing the city and the state to defer taxes on those properties if they build housing and build affordable housing. So there's a requirement that 50% of these units have to meet the affordability threshold of extremely affordable."

That proposal is on the agenda for Monday's city council meeting, but for now, Rebekah, Shannon, and hundreds of other local residents are being forced to make tough decisions. Either come up with more money or move out of the home they love. 

"At this point in time, I'm taking that rent increase and taking time to look around," Mason said. "And even though that is such a huge increase when I look at the cost of applications and those pet deposits, and that cost of moving along with paying another deposit on a place, and having to time that perfectly with moving out from an apartment into another place. That is not the best option for us."

Help is available for people struggling to make rent payments. For more information contact the Tenants Union of Washington State. You can find more information on their website or you can call the Spokane officer at 509-464-7620.

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