HEART Wins - Housing Equity Action Research Team - 2020

The Housing Equity Action Research Team (HEART) was formed by Spokane Alliance to focus on expanding affordable housing in the West Central neighborhood. This effort grew from community organizing work at the West Central Abbey. Guests and volunteers at the Abbey's Wednesday night free Dinner Table identified the lack of stable, affordable, and dignified housing as their top concern. Members of the West Central Development Project, the West Central Abbey, and the Salem Lutheran Church have come together to work on this issue.

In October of 2020, HEART had the opportunity to organize around local HB 1590. HB 1590 is a bill that could be implemented by the city to increase the local sales tax by 0.1%, shifting it from 8.9% to 9.0%, and generating $6M a year for 20 years to fund affordable housing development in Spokane. HEART’s goal was to increase the affordable housing options in West Central, so when FUSE, Washington, and SLIHC (Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium) presented the opportunity to the Spokane Alliance to join organizing forces, HEART was in full support.

HEART hosted an action with 3 city council members and 160 guests to put the 1590 vote on the calendar by the end of 2020, generated over 80 commitments from our members to connect with their city representative held a 1590 Vote watch party which had 33 positive testimonies, and it ended up passing 6-1! Beginning in July 2021, HB 1590 will generate $6 M/year for 20 years to fund the construction of homes that people can afford and thrive in Spokane.

Previous to the successful passing of HB 1590, HEART was focused on the use of the West Quadrant Tax Increment Finance (WQ TIF) money to be spent on affordable housing in the neighborhood. The West Quadrant TIF (WQTIF) is a local financing mechanism to support community developments in West Central, parts of Riverside, and Emmerson Garfield. By 2032, as much as $6M will be reinvested directly into these neighborhoods.

In October 2019, the Spokane Alliance held a candidates forum and invited those running for Spokane City Council and Mayor to the gym at the Salem Lutheran Church. The previous winter, Salem had hosted one of the city’s emergency warming shelters in the same gym. Each candidate was asked to pledge their support to working with the Spokane Alliance to increase affordable housing in the neighborhood. Specifically, to support the use of Tax Increment Finance (TIF) money for affordable housing. In response to our action, the City Council put changing the state TIF law to allow it to be used for affordable housing as one of their top priorities for the state legislative session. 

In the winter of 2019-2020, HEART worked with our District 3 state legislators to change the law in order to include affordable housing in the TIF. Due to our efforts, the law was changed and sets a new precedent for TIFs across the state. 

Check out more information on the WQTIF and TIF.

Check out our current HEART team.