Fewer people can afford a house in Spokane, keeping middle and low-income residents stuck renting

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane is one of the fastest growing cities. More people are moving in, creating a rippling effect on an already hot housing market.

Candace Martin moved to Spokane from Denver five years ago. She loves the city and the life she’s created here, but one thing’s still missing — she wants to own a home.

“Moving to Spokane, I thought it was a place that buying a house would be in my future,” Martin said. “I’ve always looked forward to that as part of my future, and again, it’s seeming less and less like a possibility, but it’s something I still hope for.”

She has hope, but hope’s hard to keep when houses are getting snatched up extremely fast and at thousands of dollars above the asking price. Another problem is these prices are just too high for buyers. Almost 70% of Washington buyers are priced out of homes on the market, according to the Building Industry Association of Washington. The median home price in the state is $522,023 which means a household has to make a minimum income of $112,295 to qualify for financing.

“What’s happening is those folks who are middle income and lower income are no longer able to purchase a home. They’re stuck renting,” said Greg Lane, the Executive Vice President of the Building Industry Association of Washington. 

It’s what’s happening to Martin. She’s been saving and is nearly ready to start to process searching for a home, but she doesn’t even want to try because she knows she’ll be outbid by someone else and can’t afford to offer tens of thousands of dollars over a house’s asking price. If she can’t buy a house, she’ll have to leave Spokane which is something she never wanted to do.

“I feel like [Spokane] is a really special place, and I want to stay here, but I’ve been feeling more and more recently like maybe that’s not on the table because I do want a house,” Martin said. “It is a thing I want for myself, and if I can’t do it here, I’ll be forced to look elsewhere.”

Home ownership is the main way someone can build wealth and is a household’s largest asset, according to the The National Association of Home Builders. Wealth creation that renting can’t equate.

“If you force people to rent their entire lives, they don’t build up wealth that they can live on, support their families on and end up retiring on,” Lane said.

“I don’t think buying a house as a middle class person now is the same as it was when my parents bought a house,” Martin said.

Lane says some of the issues stem from over regulations in the state that have been around for decades. Because the population is growing at such a high rate, the supply can’t keep up with the demand.

“Regulation has kept a lid on supply now for a number of decades, and so we are paying the price of overregulation in Washington state, and we’re now seeing the impact of that built up for homeowners.” Lane said. “When you place a restriction on land supply, cost goes up, and that drives up the prices.”

His association is urging local and state lawmakers to hold back on regulations for the time being and make changes to current legislation to loosen restrictions and allow the supply to catch up with the high demand in Washington’s housing market.

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