Kevin Freibott

Permit History Shows Missing Middle Housing Gap

Kevin Freibott, Associate Planner, No Phone Number Available


Thursday, September 8, 2022 at 4:58 p.m.

Permit History Shows Missing Middle Housing Gap

Source: City of Spokane Permitting Data, April 2008 to April 2021.
Notes: The number of dwellings shown indicate how many units were completed, not the number of structures. 5+ unit buildings can have any number of dwellings within them from 5 and up.

For many decades, the environment for building housing has not been designed to offer a variety of options within each neighborhood. Barriers exist across many levels of government and within the financial realm as well. City of Spokane Planning Services and Economic Development continues to provide an increase of inventory in housing options and opportunities.

The City has been exploring ways to reduce barriers to housing variety and choice within City code through Shaping Spokane Housing work. Starting with the Housing Action Plan and continuing through various code and policy updates, this ongoing effort seeks to build opportunities and choices in our future land use and zoning decisions.

Much of this discussion has been around the concept of the “missing middle” in housing. Plainly put, the missing middle represents those housing types that fill the gap between the single-family house, which is common in neighborhoods throughout the City, and taller apartment buildings like ones you might see in Downtown Spokane. Duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes and townhomes were popular in the first half of the twentieth century but have since become harder to develop, largely due to changes in regulations and policies around housing.

Shaping Spokane Housing is a tool chest we are assembling make townhomes and residential-scale missing middle homes easier to build. These types of homes have a double benefit. They can fit well in neighborhoods with predominantly detached single-family homes while also providing housing options for young families, older couples looking to downsize, and others who need or want a smaller yard or less living space to care for. As a side benefit, “missing middle” housing types tend to be less expensive than other alternatives.

Data going back to 2008 shows the City has permitted very few of these housing types in comparison to single-family homes and apartment buildings. The chart featured at the top of the page shows the number of dwelling units completed in the City each year. As you can see from the table, the City has permitted many detached single-family homes (shown in green) and many larger apartment buildings (shown in blue), but so few “missing middle” units that they almost disappear in comparison.

The lack of missing middle housing production illustrates where new or updated policy may increase our capacity for housing and result in some new housing that caters to the diverse needs across our community. This is exactly why the City is working to build more choices and opportunities into our policies and codes. To learn more about the Shaping Spokane Housing program and the various code and policy amendments being considered, please visit our webpage at ShapingSpokaneHousing.com.

We want your feedback!
We would love to hear your thoughts on how to provide more equitable and flexible housing in the City.

The public is invited to a public hearing for the Building Opportunity and Choices for All interim zoning ordinance and one-year pilot program on Monday, Sept. 12 at the Spokane City Council legislative meeting. You can find meeting details and public comment instructions on the City Council agenda webpage.

You can email questions and comments, or request community outreach events, by emailing developmentcode@spokanecity.org.

More About...