“It is obvious from our findings that Spokane has a substantial (and acute) housing shortage problem. Solving this problem will require direct action and community support, with the cooperation and participation of all local community and market participants, with a particular focus on addressing the “missing middle” housing component.”

-CRE Committee Report

Counselors of Real Estate release Action Steps to Increase Spokane’s Housing Supply

Over the summer, a team of renowned real estate and policy experts from across the country came to Spokane to work with policy makers, developers, and civic leaders across Spokane to address our growing housing crisis. As a result, The Counselors of Real Estate’s CRE® Consulting Corps has released its critically needed Action Steps to Increase Spokane’s Housing Supply.


The team was brought to Spokane in collaboration with the Spokane Association of REALTORS®, Washington REALTORS® and The Spokane Home Builders Association. The goal of the CRE® Consulting Corps is to bring innovative proven solutions from similar cities across the country, develop an unbiased, objective review of relevant demographic and housing data, examine barriers to development, share best practices, and present implementable solutions to increase housing options that will meet the full range of the city’s housing needs.

The Counselors of Real Estate is an international group of accomplished leaders solving complex real estate challenges. Experienced and credentialed problem solvers, Counselor’s practice in 20 countries and offer expertise in more than 50 real estate disciplines across all asset types and classes. Each has earned the CRE® designation.

Among the team’s findings:

  • Spokane’s housing challenge lies primarily in a lack of “Missing Middle Housing.”
    Defined as, “a transformative concept that highlights a time-proven and beloved way to provide more housing and more housing choices in sustainable, walkable places”
  • Only 0.5% of new housing built in Spokane for homeowners over the past decade was attached housing. This rate is only a quarter of the rate of the state of Washington and significantly less than the U.S. average. As a result, Spokane is left with few entry-level homes that allow renters to move into homeownership.
  • Due to unacceptable returns, it is not currently reasonable to expect housing construction from the private market in Spokane.
  • Spokane’s population is increasing but there is a dwindling supply and lack of diversified housing type.
  • The limited supply and increased demand caused sales prices to escalate exponentially.
  • First time buyers, young people and “the missing middle” employed population are suffering due to rapidly rising prices and not being able to find affordable alternatives. One of the troubling consequences for these groups is not having the ability to build equity and subsequent wealth.

Critical Challenges

  • Major growth controls exercised by Washington state;
  • Neighborhoods resistant to change
  • Failures to acknowledge social and economic benefits of new housing initiatives;
  • Complex and circuitous process of local approvals;
  • A lack of urgency from officials regarding approving entitlements
  • Signals supporting but limiting actions advancing more affordable housing; and
  • Lack of coordination among area governments that might benefit from actions supporting more affordable housing initiatives.


  • Implementation! Implementation! Implementation! A plan without an implementation strategy is not a plan. It’s a wish. There are viable recommendations from previous plans that should be implemented.
  • Create and implement zoning changes that support diversity in housing type and lot sizes. There are numerous examples of how this can be achieved to benefit the sustainable growth and development of Spokane.
  • Increase the density allowance to provide for more efficient development and greater participation in the future of Spokane.
  • Decrease average lot sizes and modify transition rules.
  • Encourage the City to hire a Planning Director as soon as possible to lead and provide direction and prioritization to the department staff and fill other vacant positions in the planning department.
  • Look at best practices in other cities and states (see case studies in this report as examples) and adopt expedited processes to maximize the opportunity for increased housing development
  • Formalize and prioritize community engagement to provide education on the issues in housing to the general public in order to build trust and understanding for future cooperation and collaboration
    • Prioritize affordable housing near jobs to support businesses and employees alike.
    •  Provide certainty when possible. Incentivize the development of product types that support rentals, entry-level housing and “the missing middle.”
  • Work with government agencies on growth management plans that supports denser, environmentally sound development.
    • Resident-Led: New Orleans approach, e.g. The California Association of Realtors created the Californians for Homeownership, a non-profit 501- (c)(3) organization that works to fight unlawful policies and practices that limit access to housing foundation.
    • Because Spokane city is part of a Consolidated Statistical Area that spans multiple counties and two states, housing must be considered in a regional context
  • Create Success through Community Engagement


Population is projected to grow in Spokane County over the next 10-year period by nearly 50,000 more persons, based on a “medium growth scenario”. Assuming an average household size of 2.01 persons and allowing for the loss of some older housing units by applying a typical “market factor” of 1.15, this indicates that 28,552 more housing units will be needed in the county in the coming decade, or an average of around 2,855 new housing units per year.

It is obvious from our findings that Spokane has a substantial housing shortage problem. Solving this problem will require direct action and community support, with the cooperation and participation of all local community and market participants, with a particular focus on addressing the “missing middle” housing component.

A number of recommendations have been made to address many of the issues pertaining to the housing issues noted in this report. It is important to immediately start implementing as many of these recommendations as reasonably feasible. We are hopeful that substantial progress can be made soon to solve the housing shortage issues in the City of Spokane.


CRE Consulting Corps Spokane Housing Recommendations