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'I would not be happy': Spokane City Council allows multi-family homes on single-family lots

Spokane City Council voted unanimously to approve a one-year pilot program that allows duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes to be built on single-family lots.

SPOKANE, Wash. — More multi-family housing is now an option across all residential zones in the city of Spokane after Spokane City Council unanimously passed a new ordinance that allows multi-family housing to be built on single-family plots of land.

The one-year pilot program will allow for duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes to be built on lots that traditionally were zoned for single-family homes. Some Spokane residents are concerned about what the program will do to their neighborhoods. Mary Gence, who lives in Lincoln Heights, said she would not be happy if multi-family homes were built near her.

"Certainly, the traffic changes. The noise level changes. If you've got one family versus four families, you've got four times the amount of cars. Your living style is affected," Gence said.

Gence understands the city needs more housing, but she wants other options to be considered, like building on existing vacant lots. But the Executive Director of Spokane's Low Income Housing Consortium, Ben Stuckart, said the city needs to pursue every solution in order to solve Spokane's housing crisis and lower prices. He says this program will open up a "missing middle" of housing in the city.

"We've seen rents rise over 50% in the past two years, and that's really a supply problem. This will help address that," Stuckart said.

According to Stuckart, a city with a healthy housing market has a vacancy rate of 5-10%. Spokane's vacancy rate sits at about 2%, which means high rental rates.

Stuckart said the multi-family housing ordinance is a step towards alleviating Spokane's housing crisis, and it won't impact residents as much as they might think.

"In 2018, Minneapolis passed a similar measure and they saw an increase of maybe 50 fourplexes citywide in a much larger city," Stuckart said.

He said it's a gradual process, and residents won't see drastic change overnight. Once the year-long program is over, the city council has the option to vote to extend the program.

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