Senator Maria Cantwell addresses affordable housing crisis

By:  Kyle Simchuk
Source: KXLY News

SPOKANE, Wash. - The biggest payment every month for most families is rent, or a mortgage, and it's hard to get ahead if your entire paycheck is eaten up by that one single cost.

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell has made affordable housing one of her missions. Cantwell created a provision to the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress in March to increase Low Income Housing Tax Credits by 12.5 percent over the next four years with a price tag of $2.8 billion.

Sen. Cantwell says Washington is in the middle of an affordable housing crisis. She believes those increased tax credits could provide some relief, by generating more low-income housing.

Jupiter Bennett went from surviving to thriving.

“I don't know what else to say other than that I'm grateful to have a place to call home,” said Bennett. “It's not just a house, it's a home.”

She's one of the lucky few to find affordable housing, based on her income, in Spokane. She pays $360 a month to live at the 1 South Madelia apartments - built primarily using tax credits.

“This is a crisis that is going to continue to grow, and that we need to be serious about what level of investment will help us dig our way out of it,” said Sen. Cantwell.

In Spokane, only 25 percent of the affordable housing units needed, exist.

“People are having trouble bridging the gap between what they earn, and what they can afford to pay for rent,” said Pam Tietz, Director of Spokane Housing Authority.

You can see those tax credits at work in downtown Spokane at the Ridpath Hotel.

"I can guarantee you projects like the Ridpath Hotel are the envy of places like Seattle," Sen. Cantwell said. "The fact that that much workplace housing is going to be located in downtown Spokane, because of the tax credit, is a great story."

A low-income apartment complex is also on the horizon for Airway Heights - on schedule to be completed by next fall.

The increased tax credits are making a small dent in a growing crisis. Lawmakers like Cantwell are looking into the future, and so is Bennett.

“I'm able to actually pay off some of my debt and eventually I'm going to be looking into buying my own house,” she said.

The Washington State House Financing Commission said it's hard to estimate how many units will be built with the increased tax credits - executive director Kim Herman said there could be between 600 and 1,000 depending on the economy.