A mad scramble to find an affordable home has hit Spokane.
Prices jumped 60 percent in the eastern Washington city in two years, fueled by buyers fleeing the housing boom in cities such as Austin, the New York Times reported. As many as 4,500 people move to the largest city between Seattle and Minneapolis each year, more than double the number in 2014, despite its remoteness and reputation for freezing temperatures.
The influx has been accompanied by a booming employment market that’s boosted wages, turned abandoned warehouses into offices and helped the city recover jobs lost during the pandemic.
One attraction: homes are still relatively cheap. A typical home in Spokane costs $411,000, according to Zillow. That compares with $1.4 million in the Bay Area, $878,000 in Los Angeles, $734,000 in Seattle and $550,000 in Portland.
That’s cold comfort for local residents.
“I never thought I’d see the day where my adult children couldn’t afford a home in Spokane,” Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward said.
A Spokane household that earned the median income could afford about two-thirds of the homes on the market a few years ago, according to Zillow. Now locals say they’re being priced out, sparking a housing crisis marked by resentment, zoning fights and tents.
Five years ago, a bit more than half the homes in the area sold for less than $200,000, according to a recent report commissioned by the Spokane Association of Realtors. These days, less than 5 percent of homes — a few dozen a month — sell for less than $200,000, and under 15 percent of the employed population can afford one.
A recent survey by Redfin showed that home buyers moving to Spokane in 2021 had a budget 23 percent higher than those of its local residents.
While Spokane’s job market is among the strongest in the nation, the scourge of rising prices, particularly for rent and housing, makes it feel less virtuous than advertised.
The Realtors report warned of “significant social implications” if the city doesn’t tackle housing. The issues included young families not being able to buy or taking on excessive debt, small businesses not being able to hire and the difficulty of keeping young college graduates in town.
[New York Times] – Dana Bartholomew