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Program offers options for residents living near base

Airway Heights has announced a program to build new affordable housing in an effort to clear out a neighborhood directly under the runway approach to Fairchild Air Force Base.

Manufactured housing and apartments in the area pose a safety risk in what is considered an “accident potential zone,” officials said.

The area covers about 10 residential blocks on the south side of U.S. Highway 2 just northeast of the runway. It has several hundred residents, and much of the housing has structural deficiencies.

The city has put together a partnership with several nonprofit organizations to develop new housing so that residents in the accident zone can relocate to a safer neighborhood.

“The safety and welfare of the residents is a top priority in our city,” Airway Heights Mayor Patrick Rushing said in a statement.

“The residents living in the blight and substandard homes deserve better. Creating more affordable housing and educating the residents of those options will allow people with limited means to substantially improve their quality of life,” Rushing said.

The city announced on Thursday that it will request an estimated $31 million in state and federal funding to finance the new housing outside the accident-risk zone.

The Fairchild Preservation and Community Empowerment Project would build 180 affordable units, city officials said.

In addition to improving housing standards and increasing safety, the relocations would dovetail with communitywide efforts to protect Fairchild from encroachment caused by residential and commercial development.

Community leaders, including officials in Airway Heights, want to make sure that Fairchild survives expected rounds of base closings forced by federal budget cuts.

Airway Heights is working with Catholic Charities, Community Frameworks, Habitat for Humanity, Greater Spokane Incorporated, the city of Spokane, Spokane County and Greenstone Corp.

Airway Heights officials said that Spokane’s federal Housing and Urban Development office and the Spokane Housing Authority support the effort.