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City Housing Initiative Earns Governor's Smart Communities Award

Interim ordinance has drawn interest from across the country

Brian Walker, 509-625-6765


Wednesday, November 1, 2023 at 12:56 p.m.


The City of Spokane earned the Governor’s Smart Communities Award for the Smart Housing Strategies Category in the statewide competition organized by the Washington State Department of Commerce.

The City won the award for its Building Opportunity and Choices for All (BOCA) interim ordinance, approved in 2022 as a zoning program that modified residential zoning to accelerate construction of more housing types. The award category recognizes creative plans, policies, programs and/or actions.

Presented annually since 2006, the Smart Communities Awards program recognizes local governments and their partners for exceptional land-use planning and development. The awards showcase effective implementation of the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA).

“The Smart Awards continues a long-standing tradition in our state of excellence and leadership,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “This year’s winners are tackling everything from housing affordability to environmental restoration, proving that our state can do anything it sets its mind to.”

BOCA represents a “forward-thinking step” in response to a statewide housing crisis, a Commerce announcement of the award states. The program implemented a middle housing zoning model ahead of the recently-enacted state middle housing legislation (HB 1110). Meeting many of the goals of the GMA, the new ordinance encourages urban development, reduces sprawl, focuses on multi-modal transportation and most importantly, lays the groundwork for housing affordability.

“The City of Spokane’s innovation and initiative to tackle the housing crisis and add more affordable housing options for ownership and rental shines through with this award,” Mayor Nadine Woodward said. “Thanks to this tool that paved the way for similar state legislation, more housing opportunities have been created during this critical time. I’m proud that Spokane has been such a wonderful example with the Building Opportunity and Choices for All interim ordinance.”

Planning Services Director Spencer Gardner said the City is honored to be recognized for its BOCA interim ordinance.

“We’re thrilled that our program is already creating new choices for housing in all areas of the city,” Gardner said. “The ordinance has drawn interest from other jurisdictions, the media and decision-makers from across the country. Spokane set an example for a meaningful increase in housing options for people at all stages of life.

“We are returning to our roots of small-scale development and flexibility for meeting the demands of an evolving market for housing — the same ethic that led to the creation of many of our most cherished neighborhoods. The City team appreciates the many community members, organizations, and stakeholders who are helping to make BOCA and its follow-up work a success.”

This is the second award this year for BOCA. Last spring it earned a state Excellence in Planning Award in the Comprehensive Plan-Large Cities and Counties Category. It was presented during the Planning Association of Washington (PAW) and Washington Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-WA) Conference in Chelan.

BOCA in July was extended through the end of this year. City staff is working with the public on creating permanent comprehensive plan amendments and development code changes that ensure housing choice for all of Spokane. The City’s Housing Action Plan, adopted in 2021, identified a desire to streamline permitting and simplify processes for the approval of new housing across the City.

There were 11 total winners of the Governor’s Smart Community Awards.

“Making Equity a recognizable achievement in our communities and celebrating the kinds of projects that take years if not decades to reach fruition are both admirable additions to the governor’s annual program,” said Commerce Director Mike Fong. “I am excited to share the community engagement and innovative problem solving each winner used to address today’s challenges.”