Jeff Humphrey

Jump Starting More Housing Opportunities

Jeff Humphrey, Media Manager, 509.625.6308

Wednesday, January 31, 2024 at 3:45 p.m.

In 2022, the Spokane City Council adopted changes in our zoning codes as a way of immediately increasing our capacity for building new, and more affordable, homes.

“The Building Opportunity and Choices for All (BOCA) program was passed as a response to the housing crisis. We recognized that there was a desperate need for housing, and we also recognized, there was lots of land available, or could be available, for development, if we adjusted the rules to bring them onto the market,” detailed Spencer Gardner, Planning Director for the City of Spokane.

BOCA codes helped to clear the way developing vacant lots inside existing neighborhoods, where utilities are already available.

Randy Palazzo took advantage of BOCA zoning changes to develop a lot on West Nora Avenue in West Central Spokane.

“So, this lot, before BOCA, you could have only put one, single family home on it. But, with BOCA, you are actually able to split it into three lots because of the size, and it’s on an alley, and build three attached homes, all of which can be sold separately to separate homeowners,” explained Palazzo of Urban Empire Homes.

City of Spokane planners feel BOCA allows more types of housing and more options for people of all income levels.

“What I’m really excited about this program is, that it opens opportunities for smaller developers, and even for individual homeowners, to get involved in resolving this crisis by building more housing,” emphasized Gardner.

In fact, during the time period BOCA was in effect from July 2022, through December 2023, there were 34 permits approved under BOCA, in all areas of the city, consisting of 66 total units with a construction valuation of $17.1 million.

And those are all reasons why Spokane is receiving the Governor’s Smart Communities Award.

“The decision to change your zoning ordinances, to reduce setback requirements, parking requirements, allow more housing on a particular lot, is exactly the medicine Washington State needs so we can build more housing,” stressed Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

“This idea started just as an out of the box concept that was added to our Housing Action Plan. And, over the course of 10 to 12 months, thanks to the leadership from Spencer Gardner and Steve MacDonald, we were able to see this idea transformed into BOCA, the Building Opportunities and Choices for All Act,” recalled Spokane City Council Member Michael Cathcart.

And now, that Spokane’s City Council has made BOCA-like zoning changes permanent, developers like Palazzo are planning dozens more housing construction projects.

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