SPOKANE, Wash — Around 74% of families in Northeast Spokane are "worried" about losing their housing, according to a survey done by The ZoNE. In total, 24% of respondents said they were "hopeless."
The ZoNE is a community organization in Northeast Spokane that partners with other organizations to shed light on and address disparities in health, education and economic outcomes among children, youth and families.
The ZoNE administered the survey to families with students in the Garry and Shaw Middle Schools, as well as to households within a one-mile radius of the Northeast Community Center. Those families live in the in the Chief Gary Park, Logan, Shiloh Hills, Bemiss, Minnehaha, Nevada Heights, Whitman and Hillyard neighborhoods.
Northeast Spokane is home to the ZIP code with the highest rate of poverty in Washington state. It is also home to 68% of the students of color in Spokane, 70% of the free and reduced lunch population and 20% of the English Language Learner student population.
"We have concentrated poverty and more diversity than any other part of the city," said The ZoNE Associate Director Jene Ray.
The ZoNE's survey found that 23% of families in Northeast neighborhoods are behind $2,000 on their rent or mortgages as the eviction moratorium expiration date approaches.
Residents in the Northeast neighborhoods have also been disproportionately impacted by job losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, further amplifying the issue.
"Many of the jobs the residents here have are service sector," Ray said. "I've seen 50% or 60% of the jobs are service sector. Everything that got shut down was really impacting that service sector worker the most, and we have a lower education attainment in the northeast which means there's less options to hop on to something else."
Steve Corker, President of the Landlord Association of the Inland Northwest, estimates about 1,400 low-income families citywide are challenged with large amounts of rent due. County-wide, there are another 1,200 families who are struggling.
As of Jan. 31, landlords were facing a $31 million shortfall, according to Corker. He estimated the shortfall would grow by $10 million every month that goes by without funding.
Around $15.2 million in funding will be available for rental assistance in community block development funds and another $9 million dollars is expected to come from the Department of Commerce, Corker said. However, depending on what happens with the federal COVID-19 relief bill, there could be a deficit and some renters left with debt.
Ray told KREM 2 that current aid is not enough to keep all families in their houses. There are also several barriers to families accessing those programs like eligibility requirements, language barriers, and access to Wi-Fi to name a few. However, Ray said preventing families from becoming homeless in the first place is the less expensive option.
"We can't ignore the impacts of mass evictions and families being homeless," Ray said. "That cost to us is going to be a multiplier effect over right now addressing how to keep families housed — so no matter when that moratorium lifts, because it will, our work right now should be on how to prevent the trauma and stabilize those families."
The ZoNE recommends removing barriers to all households accessing funds in order to stay in their houses and providing enough funding for households to significantly catch up on back rent and utilities to reduce stress on families with children.
"Housing is that basement level component that is necessary to take care of your family," Ray said. "We can't take care of these other pieces without addressing that underlying stability."