Spokane City Council approves property tax exemptions for multi-unit housing projects



(The Center Square) – Over the past two weeks, the Spokane City Council has approved 10 applications for property tax exemptions to spur development of multi-family housing in the community.

Allowed under state law and city code, the exemptions are intended to encourage affordable housing opportunities with new construction and rehabilitation of vacant or underutilized buildings.

In all, the 10 granted applications are expected to result in an additional 376 housing units, ranging in size from four- to 192-unit structures.

Council members on Monday approved a tax exemption sought by Douglass Properties of Spokane for the 192-unit apartment complex in the 8600 block of North Nevada Street in the Shiloh Hills neighborhood.

Exemptions were also okayed for nine other applicants during the council’s Feb. 26 meeting. Of those, the three largest called for 51-, 42-, and 36-unit developments.

Those latter approvals did not attract any public comment at the time. However, during the March 4 meeting, two local residents – Megra Flatman and Dennis Flynn – criticized the exemption provided for Douglass Properties, which Flatman said needlessly benefitted a “billionaire family” at taxpayer expense.

In response, Councilmember Jonathan Bingle said the late Harlan Douglass, a well-known real estate mogul who passed away last year, and his family had “invested heavily in the community.”

Both Bingle and City Council President Betsy Wilkerson noted the tax exemptions were being applied to developments as small as four units – the minimum qualifying number – to address the city’s need for more affordable housing.

While not a perfect solution, Bingle called the city’s exemption program “a useful tool for the community” and he hoped more would take advantage of it.

The Douglass Properties application was approved in a 7-0 council vote.

Under the state law, once construction is completed, the city files a final certificate of tax exemption with the county assessor’s office that takes effect on Jan. 1 of the following year. Exemption length can vary:

For 12 years if the applicant is renting or selling at least 20% of the multi-family housing units to low- and moderate-income households, or if exclusively intended for owner occupancy. Toward the end of 12-year exemptions, applicants must provide tenants of rent-restricted units with notice of rental relocation assistance in an amount of one month’s rent.For 20 years in a community with population up to 65,000 if the property is located within one mile of high-capacity, regularly scheduled transit frequency and at least 20% of dwelling units are for low-income households.

Local governments also have discretion to limit the tax exemptions to dwelling units that meet municipal guidelines. At the end of the exemption period, the construction will be considered new for valuations by the county assessor.

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