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Maren Murphy

Understanding Housing Displacement Risk in Spokane

Maren Murphy, AICP – Assistant Planner, 509.625.6737


Tuesday, January 19, 2021 at 2 p.m.

Understanding Housing Displacement Risk in Spokane

How do we nurture development without displacing existing communities? Who is at risk for displacement in our community and where? The City of Spokane is asking these questions and more to help identify our community’s risk factors related to displacement. This is part of the part of the process to assess housing needs of all Spokane residents.

Displacement refers to instances where a household is forced or pressured to move from their home against their wishes. As high demand for homes drives up housing costs and increases pressure for redevelopment, many Spokane residents are concerned about the potential for displacement.

The City of Spokane is creating the Housing Action Plan to help increase housing options that are affordable and accessible for people and families of all incomes. As part of this, City staff conducted a displacement risk assessment. Some residents are at much greater risk of displacement than others. The assessment looked at risk factors related to social vulnerability, including socioeconomic status, household composition and disability, minority status and language, and housing type and transportation qualities.

The Washington Department of Commerce identifies three main types of displacement:

  • Physical displacement: Displacement as a result of eviction, acquisition, rehabilitation, or demolition of property, or the expiration of covenants on rent- or income-restricted housing.
  • Economic displacement: Displacement due to inability to afford rising rents or costs of homeownership like property taxes.
  • Cultural displacement: Residents are compelled to move because the people and institutions that make up their cultural community have left the area.

Displacement can have a life-changing negative effect on households that are directly impacted. It can also disrupt the social fabric and networks of trust and support that exist within a community. Lower-income households and renter households are often at a greater risk of displacement when housing costs increase. Vulnerability to displacement can also disproportionately impact communities of color. In the City of Spokane and across Washington state, communities of color experience higher rates of housing cost burden when compared to White, non-Hispanic households. Cost burden is when a household is paying more than 30% of its income for housing and utilities. This disparity is even wider for African American households.

These disparities have roots in a history of housing discrimination and legacies of racial and economic inequality. The Spokane Tribe of Indians were displaced when the City of Spokane was founded over 140 years ago and continue to face disparities in housing. Practices such as ‘redlining’ and restrictive covenants on property, continued by policies such as exclusionary zoning, have had long-lasting impacts on neighborhoods and homeownership for African American communities and other communities of color. These inequalities are reproduced across generations, leading to continued patterns of inequality today.

Many communities across Washington State are struggling with displacement due to rapidly increasing housing costs as well as pressure for redevelopment. Identifying who is at risk and the circumstances that shape their vulnerabilities is an important first step for the City of Spokane. With this, the City can better consider the most relevant and effective strategies for minimizing and mitigating displacement in the Spokane Housing Action Plan and future policy discussions.

To view the draft displacement risk assessment and learn more about the Spokane Housing Action Plan, visit the project page.

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