Fast-track housing projects among task force recommendations for Spokane

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(The Center Square) – Recommendations to improve health and housing options in Spokane were among the topics presented Thursday by five transition committees tasked by new Mayor Lisa Brown to identify needs and opportunities in the city.

The housing recommendations spoke of coordination between the mayor’s office and the city council to create a “moonshot” plan using grant funds to fast-track 65 low-income housing projects, supporting public policy and ordinances to protect tenants from rent increases and evictions, identifying land and commercial space conversions for downtown housing, and establishing a capital infrastructure plan with “fiscal investment commitment.”

Other recommendations within that category include developing an audit of existing shelters and their capacities, resources, and funding; a “homeless management dashboard;” and a task force to integrate behavioral health and mental health services.

Specific timelines, costs, or funding sources aren’t identified in the report’s recommendations and guiding principles.

The health and housing options category was among the study areas addressed by Brown’s task force committees, which were comprised of nearly 100 people who included community organizers, small business owners, environmental leaders, public safety representatives, educators, and others.

Other areas of study included enhancing public safety and building trust; investing in economy and workforce; building a resilient future; and enriching families and communities.

Their recommendations were presented Thursday during a city council study session.

“I tasked these five transition committees to not only identify challenges facing our community, but to offer recommendations on the positive change they wish to see,” Brown said in a press release. “I am excited at the opportunities they have presented to help build up our city. Together, we will build resiliency, increase affordable housing, improve childcare, support the arts, and so much more.”

The recommendations ranged in scope and topic, but shared themes of partnership, collaboration, and community engagement, according to the city.

Overall, there was an esoteric mix of suggestions: from reducing wet organic waste which is harder to burn in Spokane’s waste-to-energy incinerator to reorganizing the city’s Office of Neighborhood Services to better partner with community-based organizations and nonprofits.

“I was excited to learn that recommendations from the Mayor’s transition committees were centered around community engagement,” said Council President Betsy Wilkerson. “I believe that to serve the city and our citizens, it requires understanding community concerns and incorporating all of these into the work to move Spokane forward.”

The committees’ membership and reports can be viewed at https://static.spokanecity.org/documents/mayor/transition-committees-report-jan-31-2024.pdf

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