Formerly homeless woman stands by Sen. Cantwell in push for affordable housing

By:  Taylor Graham
Source: KXLY Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. - As housing waiting lists and homelessness have taken center stage during this year's mayoral race, Spokane's lack of affordable housing has become one of the biggest issues at play and Tuesday, it garnered the attention of a U.S. Senator.

Joined by mayor David Condon and city council president Ben Stuckart at a press conference, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) made a push for a piece of legislation she introduced in June, which aims to build more affordable housing nationwide.

"Unless you increase the amount of federal allocation in a tax credit, no matter what a community does, we're not going to solve this problem," said Cantwell at the presser.

With a focus on low income housing tax credits, which are said to be responsible for 90% of affordable housing across the country, Cantwell said her bill will result in 9,700 new affordable units built in Washington. Stuckart believes this kind of housing cannot go up fast enough.

"Last week I sat with a couple whose rent had increased by over 50% in one month. They were homeless by the end of last week," he said. "If we build more units under this program, they may have had somewhere to go."

Cantwell praised Spokane for all the strides it's made in affordable housing, with projects like the affordable apartments on East Sprague and the Home Yard Cottages at Transitions -- where one local woman says she found the stability to change her life for good.

"I'm just, I'm so happy about recovery," said Miriah Payne. "I can never imagine going back to my old life."

When Payne talks about her "old life," she's talking about a life that revolved around homelessness, addiction and drug-induced schizophrenia.

"I was so into my addiction. I never had a chance to spend time, I was missing out on my life. I missed out on my friends, my family, on living the normal life," she said. "The first time I tried to get clean, it didn't work out because I was doing it all for show to make everybody else happy."

This time was different. Payne found the Home Yard Cottages through community court and a newfound passion for her recovery.

"I wake up every morning really happy about the way I'm living life right now. I woke up every morning before when I was out there homeless and I was miserable," said Payne.

If it weren't for low-income housing tax credits, the Home Yard Cottages may not be standing for Miriah to live out her new life. That's why it was important for her to stand by Sen. Cantwell at Tuesday's press conference for affordable housing, where she shared her story with dozens of people.

"It's helped me out a lot and I know it'll help a lot of other people," said Payne. "I was always, just walking around in circles, just wasting my life away and now I look forward to waking up every morning and starting the day."