The Palouse is short roughly 340 single-family homes and the region will need about 270 single-family units per year through 2027 to fulfill the demand, according to the recently released Palouse Regional Housing Assessment.

The Partnership for Economic Prosperity worked with the Indianapolis-based consulting firm Thomas P. Miller and Associates the last nine months to put together the study.

The report was intended to gain a full understanding of the Palouse’s housing issues, uncover potential solutions, provide a forecast of regional demand and identify a network of stakeholders who want to help address the local housing issues, the assessment states.

Brian Points, formerly of TPMA and currently president of Points Consulting in Moscow, said a shift from multi-family housing to single-family construction is needed.

“If you want to be average, just keep on building apartments forever,” Points said.

But he said apartment rentals don’t root people in the community and don’t allow renters to build equity in their home. Also, renters don’t have the ownership pride that comes with owning a home, and many people don’t want to rent an apartment but choose to because it is more affordable and accessible.

Points said he recommends a push toward smaller single-family homes rather than the typical 3,000-square-foot homes that typically spring up on the Palouse.

“We’re talking about a shift in the paradigm of how housing is built,” he said.

While developers tend to build larger homes to make a greater profit, Points said developers also build big because it’s more difficult to build small. He said multiple developers told him they aren’t able to build developments as dense as they would like because of zoning regulations and other building codes.

“For the sake of safety and community aesthetics, there does need to be some rules,” Points said. “But if you incrementally lower some of those minimums, you can suddenly open up some opportunities that weren’t there previously.”

For example, Points said cities deciding to reduce the minimum lot size in a residential zone will free up space to build more housing.

The assessment says home builders nationally are facing some of the highest development costs in decades because of increased material costs and labor shortages. Palouse builders’ costs are exacerbated because of their distance from major metropolitan areas, which possess larger labor pools, more vendors and material suppliers.

Points said building more homes could drive down marginal costs.

With the report complete, action is the next step.

One of the recommendations from the report is forming a Palouse Housing Leadership Team that can discuss among themselves and collaborate with other entities to implement housing strategies in the report.

“I think that the next steps is where the rubber kind of hits the road,” said PEP Executive Director Gina Taruscio. “We know where we are. We know what we have and we have some recommendations for how to go forward. Now, we as a region need to step up.”

The full report can be found at www.pepedo.org.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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