‘That’s the dream’: New ideas to help the housing crisis in the 2022 legislative session

SPOKANE, Wash. — State lawmakers are back to business trying to find ways they can address housing issues. As home prices rise and vacancies dip, families are looking for stability they can count on.

“It’s just really difficult,” said Paige Damaskos, a single mom of twin boys. “A two-bedroom is just unfathomable. There’s just no way I would be able to afford a two-bedroom and be able to go to school and work full time and do all that. It’s just impossible.”

What is possible for her is to rent a home with other women. She lives in transitional housing, has a room for her family and shares the common spaces with everyone else. It provides her with something stable, but she wishes she could find a space of her own.

“As a single mom of twin six-year-old boys, I’d like to have my own space,” she added.

Space she’s looking for is hard to come by as Spokane’s vacancy sits around 1-percent, and rent’s gone up more than 28-percent in the past year, according to Apartment List.

“You may have one, two sometimes three jobs just to be able to pay the rent on a two-bedroom apartment for you and your kids,” said John Stovall. He’s the Special Policy Projects Manager for Washington’s Low Income Housing Alliance.

The Housing Alliance is asking the state to invest $500 million in affordable housing projects. Stovall wants to see American Rescue Plan funds from federal Covid relief packages used to address the need for more housing in Washington.

The Alliance is also pushing for:

  1. A limit on drastic rent hikes
  2. Increased funding for affordable housing
  3. Housing justice when it comes to criminal convictions impacting rental opportunity
  4. Greater enforcement of landlord-tenant protections

“We’re asking lawmakers to go bold this year,” Stovall added.

Local stakeholders also have big goals for the new session. In Greater Spokane Inc’s 2022 agenda, the growth management act is a top priority.

“We’re looking for a solution to how the Growth Management Act is run and operated in Washington state that allows for local flexibility and local control and helps us build more homes to address the critical housing shortage we have in our community,” said Jake Mayson, the Director of Public Policy for Greater Spokane Inc.

They want local leaders to have more power about where and what we can build in our region to keep up with increased population growth and create more supply to ease pressure on the market.

As stakeholders and lawmakers enter 2022 with new ideas to help families, Damaskos can only dream of better days ahead.

“That’s the dream to have affordable housing but also be around people that are safe and sober and that I know my kids will be safe playing with,” Damaskos said. “That’s all I want.”

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