Housing Action Plan Code Changes Phase 2


July 10 City Council Approval: Short-term rentals and associated fees

  • City Council unanimously approved code changes to the regulation of short-term rentals, and their associated fees, on Monday, July 10th.
  • New permit fees and platform fees are effective August 18, 2023.
  • New regulations on short-term rentals go into effect on September 1, 2023.
  • Property owners or other applicants interested in submitting a short-term rental application should contact Current Planning on application requirements. You can visit the Development Services Center on the 3rd Floor of City Hall, call 509.625.6188, or email Current Planning at planningreview@spokanecity.org.
  • City to start monitoring short-term rentals in January 2024.

Carrying Out the Housing Action Plan

Spokane has been working for years to address housing need while preserving community character and livability. To make changes based on the well-informed strategies in the Spokane Housing Action Plan (HAP), the City has identified several code amendments that could be adopted as changes to the Spokane Municipal Code. The proposed changes have been guided by Mayor Woodward's July 26, 2021 Housing Emergency Proclamation and the City Council's HAP Implementation Plan.

Phase 2 Changes

The Shaping Spokane Housing program kicked off in November of 2021, and initially proposed changes that would increase housing supply, variety, and affordability by allowing greater flexibility for developing attached homes (townhomes) and accessory dwelling units (ADUs), as well as development regulations to encourage construction of duplexes, in addition to improvements to codified permit processes.

Phase 1 increased flexibility of development standards for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), removed the Lot Size Transition requirement that forced some lots to be larger than required, and modified Short Plat notification requirements in addition to reducing application fees. Code changes related to attached homes, duplexes, and design standards were folded into the Building Opportunity and Choices for All interim zoning ordinance that City Council approved on July 18, 2022.

The Housing Action Plan Code Changes Phase 2 focus on changes to environmental reviews required under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and how the City regulates short-term rentals. Proposed changes for environmental review would increase the threshold that permits minor new construction without requiring a SEPA review in line with the allowances listed in WAC 197-11-800. For changes to short-term rentals (STRs), the City is proposing new code language which would allow STRs in commercial zones as well as limiting total number of units that can be permitted for a short-term rental use in both residential and commercial zoning districts.

Phase 2 Code Topics

Short-Term Rentals

A residential dwelling unit or bedrooms in a residential unit that are rented to overnight guests for fewer than 30 consecutive days.

Approved changed have updated regulations to:

  • Create a path to compliance for short-term rentals (STRs) currently operating outside of regulations;
  • Permit STRs in any zone where residential uses are allowed;
  • Establish a cap on how many STR units can exist in a building:
    • For detached and attached houses, accessory dwelling units, and duplexes 1 STR is permitted in the structure;
    • For structures with 3 or more units in residential zones, 20% of the units may obtain a STR permit (e.g. a 12-unit building would be permitted 3 STRs);
    • For structures with 3 or more units in non-residential zones, 30% of the units may obtain a STR permit without having to complete a Change of Use/Occupancy (e.g. a 33-unit building would be permitted 10 STRs);
  • Create a provision to grandfather currently permitted STRs in residential zones, so long as they maintain their permit and do not expand their use;
  • Require a notarized Life Safety Compliance Form with permit submittal;
  • Establish and require a life safety inspection to be completed by the Fire Department;
  • Remove permit notification requirements for STRs located in commercial areas;
  • Increase permit fees to $200 in residential zones, with a $100 annual renewal fee; $300 in non-residential zones, with a $150 annual renewal fee; $105/hour for fire inspections; and
  • Establish a $4 per unit per night booking fee to be collected by a vacation rental platform, with collected fees to be utilized specifically to support affordable and supportive housing.

During the 30-day effective window, City staff will be working on sending letters to property owners or STR operators outlining the steps to obtain a permit and come into compliance. If you have questions, please contact Current Planning at 509.625.6188, planningreview@spokanecity.org, or visit the Development Services Center on the 3rd Floor of City Hall.

Environmental Review Thresholds

Building on recommended strategies contained in the Housing Action Plan, and grant funding from the Department of Commerce to implement HAP recommendations, city staff started work on proposed changes to the adopted SEPA exemption thresholds outlined in WAC 197-11-800 which would streamline permitting processes. The proposed changes align with recommendations contained in RCW 36.70A.600(1)(r), the Legislatures directive on how to increase housing.

Following outreach with the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) during the required 60-Day Public Comment period, staff determined the City’s SEPA regulations could be better updated by aligning language with the City’s Transportation Impact Fees area outlined in Section 17D.075.190 SMC. City Council passed updates to this section of code on March 13, 2023 (Ord. C36368).

Additionally, as directed by SSB 5818 (2022), the Department of Ecology adopted amendments to the SEPA Rules in Chapter 197-11 WAC to address the exemption from SEPA for housing proposals within incorporated urban growth areas (such as the City of Spokane). Categorical exemption levels in WAC 197-11-800(1) were increased for:

  • Up to 200 multi-family residential units within incorporated UGAs
  • Up to 100 smaller 1,500 square foot homes within incorporated UGAs
  • Exemption added for attached homes such as duplexes and fourplexes to current exemption for residential single-family homes within all geographic areas

You can review the most up to date proposed draft text (PDF 696 KB), which does not incorporate the changes permitted by SSB 5818. City staff will bring forward new proposed changes that align with the recent changes passed by the Legislature in 2023.

Given these changes, and the recent passage of E2SHB 1110 (aka, Washington’s Middle Housing Bill), city staff have decided to pause the proposed code amendment to be able to review how recently passed legislative changes need to be incorporated into updated SEPA regulations for the City of Spokane. To comply with the Ecology changes to WAC 197-11-800, the City will complete a new review with WSDOT and 60-Day Public Comment period at a future time.

Public Hearing Process

Plan Commission Workshops

Find upcoming agendas on the Plan Commission page. Follow the following video links to view and listen to recordings of the Plan Commission workshop presentations and discussion:

Email Updates

Past Open Houses

The City of Spokane Planning Services has hosted open houses to provide information about proposed code amendments.

Contact Information

Current Planning
Development Services Center
3rd Floor City Hall
808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.
Spokane, WA 99201