‘Rethinking the relationship’: How Spokane’s new planning director says he’ll make housing more affordable

SPOKANE, Wash. — The City of Spokane hired a new man tasked with finding solutions to the housing crisis.

Spencer Gardner is the city’s new Planning Director. He’s an urban planner by trade with years of experience in the private sector. Most recently, he contributed to the city’s Sustainability Action Plan. Now, he says current housing regulations need to be updated so developers can build projects easier.

“First of all, we need to see developers as partners,” Gardner added. “I’ve had to bump my head against the ways in which development is difficult to accomplish.”

He says a lot of our unaffordability issues stem from the severe housing shortage we’re in. He’s confident that by getting more homes on the market, costs will level out. He welcomes Spokane’s growth but is committed to preserving the character of already established communities.

“Let’s also recognize that we live in a fantastic place that a lot of people want to come to,” he said. “The question is how do we create that supply in a way that enhances our neighborhoods rather than degrading from the character of those neighborhoods.”

While he says he can’t update zoning laws on his own to increase density, he wants to start conversations with affordable housing advocates, developers, and city leaders to reframe how the city approaches planning for the future.

“Rethinking the relationship between government and developers and neighborhoods and trying to create that conversation. that’s the important part,” Gardner said.

What he also says is important is updating the current role homeowners play in housing. He’d like to see people be able to use extra space in and around their home to create more housing opportunities in the form of accessory dwelling units (ADU) people can rent out. You can learn more about what an ADU is and how they’re used here.

“We want to try to bring everybody and not just the big out of town developers but bring everybody into the housing picture.”

READ: New development coming to Liberty Lake will be similar to Spokane’s Kendall Yards