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Land bank launches in Spokane

Supporters say it will remove barriers non-profits face when starting affordable housing projects

The Spokane area is getting its first land bank. A group of Pacific Northwest credit unions has partnered with a low-income housing group to acquire distressed properties as well as surplus government land for affordable housing.

Ben Stuckart, executive director of the Spokane Low-Income Housing Consortium, said the cost and availability of land is a major barrier for non-profits trying to start new projects.

“A lot of nonprofits just don’t have cash to do that,” he said, “But If they knew there was potential for land that they knew they could get from a land bank, they can go out and get funding for housing based on the agreement with the land bank.”

He said the land bank could buy land from governments, like the Department of Transportation, or work with some of the credit unions that are supporting them, such as STCU, to find land in receivership.

He said it could allow non-profits that have traditionally not provided housing to start offering it, or scale up projects at non-profits that are already doing this work. He said currently, the region is short thousands of affordable units, and even just one, or two new projects a year could start to make a difference.

“There's a great need for us to be doing everything possible as a community to solve our low-income housing crisis,” Stuckart said, “We have a housing crisis where our rents are rising, home ownership is increasing, but we also have a lack of low-income housing and we're seeing that on the streets right now.”

He said currently, the land bank is seeking board members to manage it and funds to start purchasing property.