Packed In: ‘We’re losing time’: Permitting delays back up builders by months on home construction

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane needs more homes, but the pandemic’s still putting a pinch on the housing market. Builders want to complete more homes, but piles of paperwork are delaying the process.

Before COVID, Jim Warner, who owns Solid Structures, says he could push permits through in about two weeks. Now, he could wait up to 16 weeks before he breaks ground. These delays are hurting people like Ginger Schutt who just want to move back to the city she loves.

“Something always draws us back,” she said. “We’re losing time with our grandkids.”

She’s from the Inland Northwest but lives in Florida now. She’s eager to be closer to her 17 grandkids but is starting to lose hope.

“It’s kind of frustrating, and it’s kind of like is it going to be impossible to move back?” she asked.

She said she’s getting priced out because there aren’t enough homes to go around. Builders like Warner want to get more homes on the market, but he’s stuck waiting around longer then he’d like.

“We hope to get a permit within 8, 12, 16 weeks,” he said.

This complicates the process because he can’t hire contractors or plan projects in general. It also means the final product will cost more for buyers because the projects are taking longer to finish.

“It’s an expense until you close that project,” Warner added.

The city said it’s seeing a record number of permits taken out, but they don’t have the resources to process them fast enough.

“Permitting is being speeding up somewhat. That’s going to take more staff to do that,” said Lori Kinnear, a City Council Member for District Two.

Everyone just hopes the process will speed up in time so people can move back home and more families don’t have to leave.

“There are people still getting married and having children needing a place live,” Schutt said. “They’re having to rethink, should I stay there or leave their families?”

“I have a daughter that’s going to be graduating Gonzaga. Where is she going to live?” Warner asked.

Builders are not only dealing with permitting delays. Employee shortages and rising material costs are also affecting the trade.

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