Council of Governments Focuses on Housing Demand

By September 10, 2018Blog

The Spokane County Council of Governments which includes the County Commissioners and Mayors and Councilmembers from each city and town met on Friday September 7th to kick off the Interstate Fair and meet on issues of regional importance.

Housing was a key topic throughout the meeting. 92nd Operations Group Commander at Fairchild AFB Colonel Russel Davis noted the arrival of 12 additional aircraft which in turn will bring 1,000 new Airmen plus their families. Specifically, Colonel Davis pointed to a need for more single family housing for military service members.

Commissioner Al French gave a county housing update which included updates on an upcoming study of the market factor deduction, opportunities for urban growth area expansion, reviews of area development regulations to encourage density and increasing growth projections directly related to new major employers locating in Spokane County.

Commissioner French pointed to several reasons for a hard look at area growth and housing demand. The Pentagon recently sent a letter to all 50 Governor’s with criteria for military operations in each state. High on that list was attainable single family housing. As Spokane County’s number one employer and poised to welcome more airmen and their families, home ownership availability must remain attainable to sustain our economic development growth and keep Spokane’s business community competitive.

SHBA has pushed Spokane County to conduct a study of its market factor rate. When the county performs its land quantity analysis for available developable land, a 30% deduction is made for land considered to be not available for market reasons such as private investment. Spokane County with funding from Spokane and Spokane Valley will soon be hiring a consultant to conduct a survey of landowners to determine whether an adjustment needs to be made to show that land considered buildable is not necessarily available for development.

While the county entered into a settlement agreement in 2016 with no-growth activist groups to restrict UGA expansions until 2025, certain triggers including nearing adopted population projects allow for the opening of a review on urban growth area expansion.  Commissioner French pointed to expansion at Fairchild and the impending arrival of Amazon and other secondary employers that follow major employers as a definitive indicator of major in-migration.

For example, Spokane County’s adopted population projections from 2017-2037 predict less than 10,000 people moving to Airway Heights and Cheney by 2037, however ongoing economic development in the West Plains could bring several thousand new people to the region in just the next 18 months. Without an ample housing supply and the development regulations that encourage it, housing inventory will remain low, driving costs up, and making Spokane County less competitive for the businesses that locate career positions in our community. SHBA thanks Commissioner French for ensuring housing was a key component of this year’s Council of Governments.

Your Association’s Government Affairs staff and committee will continue to engage the County on housing and development issues before the local building industry. SHBA works to defend the dream of home ownership through the advancing of public policy that encourages a variety of attainable housing options.