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Site points way to affordable rent

Sat., Oct. 7, 2006

Landlords already are seeing increased calls for rental units, following the launch three months ago of a Web site that helps people find affordable housing in Spokane County.

“Since they put us on the Web site, about 99 percent of the people that call say they found us there,” said Linda Colbert, on-site assistant manager at Cambridge Court on West 8th Avenue in Spokane. The three-story apartment building is advertising one-bedroom, one-bathroom units for $400 to $450 per month.

Colbert said two of Cambridge Court’s current residents found their new homes through, a new venture of Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium. Provided they meet affordability guidelines, units and homes for rent can be posted on the Web site. People seeking housing can search the Web site by location, rent amount, type of housing, school districts, and other criteria.

Since the Web site was created, more than 1,600 units have been listed with about 30 available immediately, said Katy Pike, the program coordinator.

“We were all very surprised at how well it was received,” Pike said. “We’ve known it was such a necessary thing for this community.”

Rental fees are meant to be affordable to residents earning 60 percent of area median income, Pike said. Studios can’t exceed $500 per month. The maximum monthly rent for a one bedroom unit or home is $575, and for two bedrooms, $680, Pike said. That doesn’t include utility fees.

To accommodate people who do not have access to computers, Spokane Public Libraries and the Spokane County Library District allow access to the Web site from the public access catalog computers at their sites, the consortium said in a news release. Other locations that offer computer access to the Web site include the Northeast Community Center, the Coalition for Responsible Disabled, the YWCA and the HUD kiosk in the Spokane Transit Plaza.

“Our goal is to ensure that this is a reliable place where people can go to find affordable housing,” said Cindy Algeo, executive director of the housing consortium.

The new Web site became possible due to contributions from Spokane city and county, Northeast Washington Housing Solutions (formerly Spokane Housing Authority), and the Kiemle & Hagood real estate firm.

Kiemle & Hagood Vice President Larry Soehren said the Web site was born of a collaborative process that started about a year and a half ago.

“We were having some challenges with some of our low-income, particularly elderly, housing,” Soehren said. “How do we market it?”

The Web site created a single location where rental units could be listed, affordable housing service agencies could refer people, and people could find new homes. With all the partners kicking in some money, Soehren said, the housing consortium was able to put the Web site together more quickly than if it had to apply for a grant.


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