Washington politicians push for federal affordable housing legislation

Senator Maria Cantwell stands at a brown podium alongside Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown, while two other affordable housing advocates in winter jackets stand behind them.
Washington Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell held a press conference at the Mother Theresa Haven in Spokane, Washington – a 48-unit complex built a few years ago with funding from the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. (Credit: Sophia Swain / Senator Cantwell's office)



Washington Senator Maria Cantwell made a stop in eastern Washington this week to push legislation to build more affordable housing.

Joined by Northwest housing advocates and Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown, Senator Cantwell called on her colleagues in the Senate to pass the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. 

The tax credit was part of the nearly $80 billion dollar tax package passed by the U.S. House in January. Cantwell said it has helped to build most of the affordable housing for populations like veterans, retirees and people on fixed incomes, since its creation in 1986.

“If you don’t have that tax credit, chances are you’re not going to get the housing to be built. It’s not affordable enough for developers to take you up on that opportunity,” Cantwell said. 

If passed, the bill would fund 200,000 affordable housing units nationwide. In Washington alone, 7,000 units would be built, said Cantwell. 

Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown said the Low Income Housing Tax Credit could help build more units as the city grows. 

“The city is already working on our own efforts to increase affordable housing supply and we’ll have a few announcements on that in the weeks ahead. But we can’t do it by ourselves. We need this legislation.”

The legislation could help Spokane by updating existing units and providing incentives for developers to build new ones, said Brown. 

“There are more people on waiting lists in Spokane County than we have total units of low-income housing,” said Ben Steiger, who spoke at the event representing the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium. 

Despite boasting the possibilities of big housing numbers, previous NPR reporting has found that the LIHTC has produced fewer units than it did decades ago, while costing taxpayers more.

If the bill doesn’t pass, Cantwell said she’ll try to add the tax credit to future legislation.