Woodward Proclaims Housing Emergency

Brian Coddington, Communications Director, 509.625.6740

Monday, July 26, 2021 at 4:10 p.m.

Mayor Nadine Woodward proclaimed a housing emergency in Spokane today and announced a lengthy set of actions to address the need for additional inventory and access.

Woodward proposed more than two dozen priority actions that can be taken administratively and in partnership with the City Council to immediately improve housing availability. The recommendation are easily achievable this year and a precursor to potential subsequent strategies, Woodward said. Actions related to staffing, code requirements, and community engagement are among the initial steps.

“We are at a crossroads in our community and with this proclamation I am taking immediate action to address the critical housing needs in our city,” Woodward said. “These initial steps will take advantage of some existing market momentum and help sustain it.”

Notable administrative actions include:

  • Reducing the full-route plan review timeline for residential projects from about six weeks currently to two weeks by September 30
  • Prioritizing hiring to focus on delivering housing outcomes
  • Expanding the use of consultants to augment staff and more quickly accommodate the record volume of development and building activity
  • Developing a framework that streamlines and incentivizes the conversion of commercial spaces into residential and mixed use
  • Enhancing assistance for navigating regulations on smaller units and infill development in the form of a concierge service
  • Maximizing the use of existing revenue sources made available through recent state legislation

Woodward’s proposal also contemplates working with the legislative branch of government on budgetary and municipal code solutions, among them:

  • Staffing additions to support permitting review needs
  • Amending land use requirements, including parking and setback considerations, to increase the number of attached residential units to greater than two outside of a planned unit development
  • Reducing fees on simple plan review processes
  • Appropriating funds to continue and expand incentive programs to meet strategic investment needs
  • Loosening restrictions on accessory dwelling units to reduce parking requirements, remove owner-occupancy requirements, add flexibility for size and dimensions, reduce some fees, and allow them in all residential zones

The announcement follows months of gathering ideas, input, and feedback from experts and stakeholders.

Woodward has also worked with the City Council to develop a joint list of priorities. Many of the priorities outlined in Woodward’s plan are expected to be considered by the City Council during its legislative meeting tonight.