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Washington Legislature authorizes Department of Transportation to lease land in East Central for affordable housing

Vacant lots on either side of Interstate 90 could be revitalized if a new passes.
Rebecca White
Vacant lots on either side of Interstate 90 could be revitalized if a new passes.

Washington lawmakers signed off on a bill that would authorize the state Department of Transportation to lease out land to affordable housing providers, or for other community purposes on Wednesday.

Interstate 90 split a Spokane Black community in two, and demolished a stretch of affordable homes. Land purchased to construct the North South Freeway also displaced many of the city’s lowest-income residents.

State legislators hope to address the loss of community by allowing the Department of Transportation to lease surplus and vacant land along those highways to affordable housing providers, and for other community purposes. The bill is sponsored by Senator Andy Billig, and shepherded through the House by Representative, Marcus Riccelli – both of Spokane.

“So this bill really is a unique opportunity to work with the community to provide some options for affordable housing and help basically undue some of the historical injustices that has occurred,” Riccelli said.

The bill is supported Spokane City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson and many of the city’s other Black leaders. It now awaits the governor’s signature.

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.