VANCOUVER, Wash. — This week, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee made a big announcement, saying that he wants to spend $4 billion over the next six years to build affordable housing in the state. With a shortage of housing there is certainly a need — but the governor will also need voter support to make it happen.
Inslee's plan has a lot of support among affordable housing advocates, because of the sheer cost to build new affordable housing. Fourth Plain Community Commons, one such example, is set to open next spring.
Just six weeks ago, Gov. Inslee visited Vancouver to see what was being done to create affordable housing. He toured the Fourth Plain Community Commons development, which will include 106 units of affordable housing on the upper floors and community space for a variety of uses at the ground level.
Before that, he toured one of Vancouver’s Safe Stay Communities, made up of 20 tiny homes and supportive services for people who'd been living on the streets. There, the governor met a resident who made quite an impression on him, showing off his shelter.
“What he told me is, 'This is not a lot to look at, but this has saved my life,'" Inslee recounted. "Literally, he said 'It saved my life,' and he kind of teared up when he told me this.”
Inslee shared the exchange as he announced the $4 billion plan for comprehensive affordable housing, enough to create more than 26,000 units of various varieties over six years.
The governor said the state needs to increase efforts dramatically.
“We’re not going to solve the problem of more than 20,000 people (in) homelessness, unless we build and build quickly.”
That statement and the spending proposal behind it is getting a good response from those creating affordable housing in Vancouver, like Vancouver Housing Authority executive director Roy Johnson.
“Well, what was not to like in that? I mean, we need the full range and he hit every one of them within that proposed budget — that goes all the way from affordable housing and assistance all the way up to affordable home ownership,” said Johnson.
The need is great: the city needs to add 2,500 housing units a year to fill the current housing gap; including 700 homes considered affordable housing, like the ones going in on Fourth Plain Boulevard. The governor's plan could help do much more.
“I was thrilled that as the housing manager, this is what we really need in the community. It could mean a lot more affordability for families that are working hard and can’t find affordable housing right now in Vancouver,” said Samantha Whitley, housing programs manager with the City of Vancouver.
The four billion dollars is part of the governor’s $70 billion, two-year budget plan. But the money for affordable housing would have to be approved by the legislature and voters because of the nature of the funding source. It’s unclear at this point how much of the money would flow to Southwest Washington.