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Spokane poised to allocate millions toward affordable housing

Rebecca White/SPR

The Spokane City Council is poised to spend millions in federal Covid relief funds to address the region’s housing crisis.

Spokane is expected to receive more than $80 million from the American Rescue Plan. Next Monday, the council will vote to spend about $14 million of that award on housing matters.The biggest-ticket item is about $6 million to build affordable housing. Spokane City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson says that money will go toward projects that are already in the pipeline, but have a funding gap. She estimates more than 100 low-income units could result. She says the city will require all the projects to be completed in the next 18 months.

Next on the list is helping people make down payments. About $2 million will help low-income first-time buyers overcome the upfront cost of home ownership. Wilkerson says the city is also proposing hiring staff to plan for denser neighborhoods along centers and corridors.

“A lot of neighborhoods had started some sort of planning process, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t completed,” she said. “My example is the North Monroe Corridor has started a planning process, but somehow, it got put on the back shelf. So, we are actually designating money to hire people, and go out to neighborhoods.”

In addition to housing programs, the proposal includes $1.5 million to improve playgrounds and restrooms at parks in low-income neighborhoods, and childcare funding. Wilkerson says Monday’s proposal is the first of several waves of funding. She says she hopes the next will include small business grants.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.
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