Fairchild flight path puts current housing in risk zone
A group of nonprofits is putting finishing touches on a plan to build up to 150 affordable homes and apartments for residents currently living in the landing approach to Fairchild Air Force Base.
Many of the homes under consideration for replacement are substandard manufactured homes south of U.S. Highway 2 between Lundstrom and Russell streets, in Airway Heights.
Officials are in negotiations with landowners in northeast Airway Heights, where the new units could be built.
Nearly 300 residences are located beneath the Fairchild flight path in an area designated as “accident potential zone 2,” a place the Air Force would prefer had a lower concentration of residents in case of an airplane crash. The zone is directly in line with the base’s main runway.
Housing density in that area is twice as high as Air Force guidelines for flight approaches.
Under the plan, Catholic Charities would build 100 townhouse-style apartments in the first phase of construction, which would be intended for families.
In the second phase, Habitat for Humanity would build 30 homes, also for families. The future Habitat homeowners are required to invest 500 hours of “sweat equity” in their homes.
A third phase would have Community Frameworks build 30 duplex-style manufactured homes.
Tobby Hatley, spokesman for the consortium, said residents living in the accident zone have indicated a willingness to move to new affordable housing.
The city of Airway Heights is implementing zoning rules to ensure that housing use comes to an end in that portion of the city once the new homes are built and residents move into them, Hatley said.
The housing project is considered an important step in protecting Fairchild from civilian encroachment. Doing so could help ensure that Fairchild remains an active base as the U.S. Department of Defense decides what bases to close in future years.
Encroachment is also seen as a negative factor in the ability of Fairchild and the Spokane region to secure the first in a fleet of new Boeing tanker aircraft for Fairchild.
Rob McCann, executive director of Catholic Charities Spokane, sent a letter last week to supporters asking them to encourage area lawmakers to support funding for the project in the budget for the state’s Housing Trust Fund.
“The Housing Trust Fund dollars for this project are essential in order for the project to be able to secure tax credits and be built,” McCann said in his letter.
State lawmakers said the Airway Heights project could qualify for trust fund money even if it is not specifically listed in legislation authorizing the spending. Local lawmakers, however, are seeking to have the project named in this year’s capital budget bill.
State funding would be combined with other resources, including possible federal grants as well as city and county housing funds, to build the project.
If funding comes through, construction could start as early as July 2014, with completion in September 2015.
Federal funding is being sought to purchase the existing homes. Work on the proposal dates back to 2011.
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