SPOKANE, Wash. — U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Spokane leaders and housing advocates on Tuesday as part of her push for new federal resources to address affordable housing.
Cantwell spoke alongside of Spokane Mayor David Condon, City Council President and mayoral candidate Ben Stuckart, and epresentatives from Volunteers of America, the Washington State Housing Finance Commission and Community Frameworks at noon on Tuesday.
The visit comes as Cantwell is trying to raise support for dual bills about the Affordable Housing Tax Credit, which would create nearly 1.9 million new affordable housing units over the next decade – including more than 9,700 in Washington state.
She, and other lawmakers, would like to expand the credit to boost construction.
The bill was introduced in June, and lawmakers said it could help to build 10,000 units in 10 years in Washington state. It has bi-partisan support, but Cantwell and other lawmakers acknowledge there will need to be more for the legislation to become a reality.
Stuckart said on Tuesday that Spokane has a "housing crisis at all levels," noting in particular the 2% vacancy rate in the city and 800 individuals with housing vouchers.
Stuckart added that he sat down last week with a couple whose rent increased by 50% in one month.
"They were homeless by the end of last week," he added. "If we built more units under this program, they might have had somewhere to go."
Condon added that Cantwell's legislation is personalized and unique to certain areas throughout Washington state.
"Often, with all due respect to the government, it seems to be one size fits all," he said.
According to Cantwell’s office, nearly 220,000 Washington families pay more than half their monthly income for rent and there are currently only 29 available affordable homes for every 100 extremely low-income renter households in the state.
On Tuesday, Cantwell asked the National Conference of Mayors to join her and Condon in advocating for the passage of a larger increase in the Affordable Housing Tax Credit.
“The tax credit is flexible and we’re providing even more flexibility in our new Senate bill," Cantwell said. "In this legislation, we now make it possible to have veteran-only housing. Second, we make it easier for formerly homeless youth to be placed in affordable housing and we make it easier for women who have been victims of domestic violence to find shelter.”
Spokane residents cannot afford affordable housing because it is often equivalent to 33% or more of their income, Cantwell added.
“Spokane is also seeing a rise in economic activity and because of that you’re seeing a rise in that and you’re seeing a rise in people who can’t afford housing," she said.
“Housing needs a boost at a time in our economy when many people can’t find affordable solutions," Cantwell added.