December 3, 2008 in City

Affordable housing crisis bearing fruit

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The displacement of low-income residents two summers ago by upscale developments in downtown Spokane became a civic emergency. Meanwhile, the region’s business leaders, especially those in North Idaho, were brainstorming ways to house lower-income workers who support the region’s tourism.

The real estate boom that forced some from their homes seemed unstoppable. But stop it did: Monday, the country was officially declared in a recession. The boom became a bust.

But good news surfaced at Tuesday’s annual meeting of the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium. The affordable housing crisis of 2007 forced the region’s best housing experts to work together on solutions. They are now committed to sharing resources, and they plan to lobby together for increasingly limited state and federal housing funds.

“The infrastructure is in place now to deal with this crisis,” said Cindy Algeo, executive director of the consortium. It is estimated that 400 units must come online every year for 10 years to meet the region’s affordable housing needs.

Within the next few months, plans will be announced to meet that demand:

•On Dec. 17, a regional affordable-housing task force will present its final recommendations for addressing low-income housing. Among its expected recommendations: Ten percent of all new housing in the region should be set aside for affordable housing.

•At the end of January, a regional 10-year plan to reduce homelessness will be completed. One expected strategy will be to get homeless people in permanent housing as quickly as possible, reducing time in transitional housing.

None of the housing experts Tuesday downplayed the challenges.

“People are skittish,” Algeo said. “There isn’t much incentive for investors. It’s very challenging to put together financing for low-income housing.”

Rebecca Nappi can be reached at rebeccan@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5496.

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