As the executive director of the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium, Cindy Algeo is less worried about the name recognition than she is about recognizing affordable housing opportunities for area residents.
Since 1990, SLIHC has been providing support, information and advocacy as the umbrella agency for dozens of entities that promote attainable homes. Over the years, consortium members have developed close to 5,500 rental homes and home ownership opportunities for low-income individuals and families.
“They’re like a compass for those of us in housing,” said Michone Preston, executive director of Habitat for Humanity-Spokane. “There are a lot of cities in Washington that don’t have as healthy of a housing agency with such a clear voice.”
While consortium members like Habitat, The Arc of Spokane and the Spokane Housing Authority may be more familiar to most people than SLHIC, Algeo said self-promotion is not a priority when compared to the goal of “increasing the capacity of others to develop affordable housing.”
“It’s OK if people haven’t heard of us,” she said. “We’re here as a collective voice for policies that support affordable housing.”
With a staff of two – Algeo and Program Coordinator Shane Taylor occupy a small office in north Spokane near the junction of Washington and Mission – SLHIC functions as a streamlined resource guide in the modern maze of housing options. Each week, Taylor conducts a free presentation at the Spokane Housing Authority office just to the east of SLIHC. A crowd of around 30 to 40 from all backgrounds gathers to learn about the latest in Housing 101.
“It can be challenging to navigate the housing system,” said Taylor, who oversees SLIHC’s online housing locator (www.onestophousing.org) that typically includes around 300 current listings. “It’s helpful when we’re here to answer those questions.”
The roots of SLIHC go back to 1989 when the Greater Spokane Coalition Against Poverty published a report on the local state of low-income housing. The findings led to a task force which determined that there should be a collaborative effort to promote increased availability of affordable housing in the Spokane area. In June of 1990, SLIHC was established with 10 founding members, including Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army and Spokane Neighborhood Centers, now SNAP.
In May 1991, SLIHC published its first newsletter – now known as the SLIHC Report. The publication has been distributed consistently for the past 21 years.
In the early 1990s, SLIHC was active in developing a number of local initiatives, including the Housing Justice Project which led to the formation of the Spokane Housing Affordability Campaign, a program that educates the community about the shortage of affordable housing as well as the importance of overcoming stereotypes connected to low-income residents and housing.
By 1999, local groups with a stake in SLIHC owned and managed over 1,100 rental units, a 1442 percent increase since 1991.
SLIHC continues to work with local jurisdictions, including the city of Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake, in raising awareness about affordable housing through municipal programs and funding opportunities like the Community Development Block Grant. Algeo applauded the city of Spokane for its efforts to provide incentives to developers who emphasize cost-effective housing.
“We’re trying to point out all the options that cities have to provide affordable housing,” Algeo said.
Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington, a regional advocacy group for local seniors, joined SLIHC as an affiliate member years ago when the need for affordable housing showed up as one of the top priorities in a survey of area elders, along with issues like medical care and transportation.
Nick Beamer, executive director of ALTCEW, said SLIHC calls attention to the housing concerns that affect seniors such as living in a safe, walkable neighborhood or being near reliable transportation.
“We’ve been with them for a long time,” Beamer said. “I think they’ve expanded the availability of affordable housing over the years.”
Want to find out more?
To learn more about the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium, call 325-3235 or visit www.slihc.org.