Packed In: Stakeholders call on Spokane City Council to revise Housing Action Plan

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- Hardwood lumber:

--- Price increase during COVID-19: 19.6%

--- Jan. 2020 to April 2020 index score: 203.2

--- Jan. 2021 to April 2021 index score: 242.9

- Softwood lumber:

- Price increase during COVID-19: 78.8%

--- Jan. 2020 to April 2020 index score: 230.5

--- Jan. 2021 to April 2021 index score: 412.2

- Indexed year: 1982

Wood has seen a larger price increase than any other homebuilding material over the last year. There are multiple reasons for this jump, according to the National Association of Home Builders, including mill closures and an uptick in DIY projects. At the start of the pandemic, many mills were closed by stay-at-home orders—which obviously cut production—while also leading them to believe that housing would be adversely affected and demand for lumber would go down. Contrary to their predictions, the housing market has boomed, which has only increased demand for hardwood and softwood. This increase, coupled with growing sales at big-box retailers for DIY projects, has sent prices skyrocketing.

The supply shortage and heightened cost of wood and other building materials throughout the pandemic has delayed construction projects, while also driving up the price of building a home. While the outlook regarding building materials for the remainder of 2021 and beyond is still fairly unknown, research group Capital Economics expects that the demand and the price of lumber, for example, will drastically drop once 2022 comes to a close. 

This story was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

SPOKANE, Wash. — A new petition is calling on Spokane leaders to take immediate action to allow for more homes to be built to keep up with the demands of the growing community. 

The petition was put forward by leaders at the Spokane Association of Realtors, Spokane Homebuilders Association, Greenstone Corporation and Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium. 

They say the city’s current housing plan is based on out-of-date information and will not do enough for the severe housing shortage. 

In a letter addressed to the Spokane City Council, the four housing organizations said they formally withdrew their support of the city’s Housing Action Plan, saying they find the needs assessment to be “woefully inadequate, lacking in any necessary pathways for change and failing to recognize the urgency surrounding the severe need for housing” in the Spokane community. 

The letter states the city has failed to build enough homes to meet demands over the past decade, is using old data, and as a result, housing prices are increasing at a “never-before-seen pace.” 

Building codes have become more restrictive and favor a single-family approach, rather than condos, townhomes and multi-family complexes. As a result, the median home price in Spokane County has nearly doubled in the last five years. 

READ: ‘No product is being developed for less than $300,000’: Zoning changes could be possible solution to housing crisis

“This lack of housing has a greater impact on minorities and families. It also contributes to nearly every major social challenge in our community, from racial equity to greenhouse gas emissions, to family stability to homelessness,” the letter says. “The reason is simple: Spokane has suffered from a 94% reduction in available homes for sale since 2010, along with a limited supply of buildable land.” 

The organizations note that, because they are unable to buy or build, thousands of families are renting, which is leading to a dangerously low level of rental vacancies. They also say that a lack of attainable housing has triggered a severe impact on the health of local citizens and that Spokane has high levels of cost-burdened families spending more of their income on shelter than most similar cities in the U.S. 

The letter says that because of this shift in housing availability, the bulk of new homes are being built across the border in Kootenai County, which has resulted in lost economic opportunity for Spokane. 

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“We now call on our local leaders to take immediate action,” the letter states. “Allow more housing types to be built on our dwindling spaces. Expand growth opportunities. Make home ownership a top priority, reduce and rescind regulatory restrictions and fees on entry level new home construction.” 

Read the full letter. 

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