It was just one year ago that then-Mayor Dennis Hession appointed an affordable housing task force in Spokane. Upscale condo projects downtown were forcing low-income residents from inexpensive apartments. The task force’s job: Figure out short-and-long term solutions.
Then the condo craze cooled, and the affordable housing crisis disappeared from media coverage. Fortunately, Mayor Mary Verner asked Mike Adolfae, the city’s community development director, to gather together the area’s affordable housing experts and brainstorm solutions. The task force held its second “formal” meeting Wednesday morning. It plans to meet monthly from here on out.
Representatives from Spokane Valley and the city and county of Spokane sat around the table with developers, real estate brokers and low-income housing experts. They shared information. They agreed on five goals. The most important one: “Establish regional affordable housing goals and an implementation strategy.”
Chris Venne, of Community Frameworks, has been involved in affordable housing issues for years here. “I am optimistic,” he said. “There is a lot of energy behind this. Everybody’s got to be creative about solutions.”
Venne shared the creative concept of community land trusts, in which nonprofit organizations buy property. People own the affordable homes built there but sign 99-year leases for the land underneath. Homeowners receive equity in their houses, but the land remains in the trust, making it affordable housing “into perpetuity” as Venne put it.
Cindy Algeo, executive director of the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium, reported on her agency’s just-released survey. “The public was greatly educated a year ago due to the downtown displacement,” she said. But despite the awareness, voters don’t necessarily support taxes to pay for affordable housing.
Lack of adequate housing is inseparable from other community challenges. Work hard on this one and other problems get mitigated, too. For instance, children who move out of substandard housing do better in school. Their parents participate more in community life. Stable housing generates stable lives.
Kudos to the city for not giving up on affordable housing solutions, even as the immediate crisis passed. This issue strikes closest to home here. The expertise is in place to find some workable solutions.
Let’s stay on it.
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