(The Center Square) – Spokane County has invested another $8.8 million into rental and utility assistance programs, bringing the total amount to $51 million since 2020.
County officials said that nearly $37 million of these state and federal dollars have already been spent to help tenants and landlords outside the Spokane city limits. About 5,000 households have benefitted from the program administered by the Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners.
“Our goal is to keep as many people housed as possible so that we can avoid the trauma that comes with homelessness,” said Spokane County Commission Chair Mary Kuney in a news release. “SNAP has done a great job with the previous funds allocated for rental assistance and we are excited to continue our relationship with them as we move together forward.”
County funds are intended to prevent evictions by paying past due, currently due, and future due rent and utilities, Kuney said. The program targets people with limited resources and the greatest need.
Strong housing demand and dwindling supply have pushed home prices to record-breaking highs, according to the Spokane Association of Realtors.
Spokane’s median closing price for homes and condos on less than one acre in April exceeded $425,000 for the second consecutive month.
By comparison, the National Association of Realtors reported the median price for all housing types in the same month as $391,200.
That situation has driven up rents and lowered the available number of units, realty groups said. More people are being priced out of homeownership and staying in apartments longer.
As a result, RentCafe reports the average monthly rent in Spokane for an 890-square-foot apartment in Spokane as $1,273.
To afford higher rents, a Spokane County household needs a $50,000 annual income. However, 46% of households in the region have an annual income of less than that amount, according to a New York Times report.
While the county is working to help struggling families outside Spokane with rental needs, the city has set up similar programs. Spokane’s Community Housing and Human Services Department recently announced plans to distribute $10 million among entities that can help address residential needs.
Of that, $6 million comes from American Rescue Plan funding and the remainder from local sales and use taxes dedicated to housing and support services, according to city reports.
During 2021, the city dispersed $9.3 million for rental assistance to help both landlords and tenants.
The county recommends that people wanting to apply for funds through SNAP provide all requested documentation to speed up the process. Landlords may also apply on behalf of their tenants and are encouraged to work with renters to obtain required information.
Eligibility criteria, applications and assistance with pending applications can be found at www.snapwa/org/snap-rental-assistance.