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Spokane Housing Authority sees three-year waiting list for rental assistance program

SPOKANE, Wash. - A new report shows just how much it takes to afford rent in Washington, which is home to some of the biggest gaps between wages and housing costs in the country -- and local experts say making rent payments is just half the battle. Finding a place to live is just as, if not more difficult.

Right now, the Spokane Housing Authority has 2,000 people on the waitlist for its rental assistance program.

"It hasn't been open for three years so we haven't taken an application in three years, that's how long the wait is," said executive director Pam Tietz. "Spokane is growing much faster than it was anticipated and we have not been able to catch up."

Many renters in other Washington and Idaho counties can't seem to catch a break either.

According to data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, you'd have to make $27.78 an hour to afford a two-bedroom unit in Washington without being rent burdened. That's more than double the state's minimum wage.

In Spokane County, a worker has to earn at least $17.02 per hour to afford a two-bedroom place. The report placed the average wage in the Spokane area at $13.76 per hour.

"We know there's a challenge out there and that there's just not enough housing to house the population in Spokane in general, whether they can afford rent or not," said Amber Johnson, director of mission support at SNAP.

Whitman County, home to WSU, where many students work part time, is also home to a $5.25 gap per hour, based on 40 hours. The estimated hourly wage for workers there rings in at $10.83 an hour, whereas the wage needed to afford a two-bedroom comes in at $16.08 an hour.

In Idaho, the gap is a bit smaller, but it's still a gap nonetheless. In Kootenai County, the average worker makes $12.75 an hour -- that's $3.60 short every hour of the money needed to pay for a two-bedroom.

"There are a huge number of people who are scrappy and innovative and creative out there trying to figure out how to put together enough funds to keep their rent paid," said Johnson.

Making those payments is one thing. Finding a place is another.

While you wait, Johnson and Tietz recommend reaching out to as many local non-profits as possible, like SNAP, the SHA and the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium (SLIHC) to get help with finding housing and financial planning.

"I think sometimes if you just have somebody to sit down with you and go through exactly what's going on in your situation, they may be able to pull something out of there that you didn't think of," Tietz said. "Getting some professional assistance is never a bad idea."


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