Packed In: Low-income housing waitlists at 3 years despite millions in federal aid

SPOKANE, Wash. — Currently, the waitlist for low-income housing in Spokane County is three years. It’s partially due to the pandemic, but also because of the growing homeless population and skyrocketing rents.

Despite the community being in dire need of relief, Spokane’s housing crisis is continuing its daunting reign.

According to rent data, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) prices in Spokane are more expensive than nearly 90 percent of other FMRs in the country.

“We saw after COVID that rent skyrocketed. In the last three years we’ve seen rent increase by over 50 percent,” said Bob Stuckart, Executive Director of the Spokane low-income housing consortium.

The average cost of a two-bedroom apartment is roughly $1,300. Those high rent prices restrict many prospective renters, especially those with extremely limited income.

“Then, people can’t afford their rent and so they end up on the streets,” Stuckart said.

It doesn’t help that the line to access low-income housing is at an unsustainable length. Stuckart says the ideal wait time would be three months, but that’s certainly not the case.

“We have three-year wait lists for low-income housing in Spokane,” Stuckart said.

If you qualified for low-income housing today, it wouldn’t be until October 2025 before you could move in.

Stuckart says there’s simply not enough housing supply for those with limited income. To alleviate this situation, the county would have to double the current amount of housing options it has.

“We have a need for about 7,000 low-income apartments in our communities right now. We have about 7,000 to 8,000 right now. So we need to double what we’ve produced,” Stuckart said.

To assist the problem, the county has been awarded over $57 million in rental assistance since 2020. So far, the county’s received $41 million of those funds.

About $37 million has been deployed towards rental assistance to roughly 6,000 households. Around 50 percent has gone towards assisting those categorized as extremely-low income.

Stuckart says whatever money the county receives from the federal government and state is extremely useful, and its being spent as quickly as possible to alleviate the housing crisis.

Even with the relief though, Spokane’s housing crisis remains an uphill battle for the time being.

READ: Yakima, Spokane counties forfeit nearly $2M in federal rental aid

READ: U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development releases Fair Market Rents