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Nonprofit focuses on governmental cost inflation of housing at Spokane meeting

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(The Center Square) – Affordable housing was on the agenda at the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights annual meeting, held Saturday in Spokane.

Poverty and regulations are the key issues driving the affordability crisis, according to Steve Corker, president of the Landlord Association of the Inland Northwest, noting, “26% of all renters in Spokane County spend more than 50% of their income on shelter costs.”

The Citizens Alliance for Property Rights is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organized in 2003 with a mission “to protect and restore property rights by identifying, training, and mobilizing members in effective action during the legislative and election seasons to ensure political accountability toward our pro-property agenda.” The organization has chapters in Washington and California.

Corker emphasized the role government plays in driving up housing costs. He cited as an example the business license and inspection fees adopted by the Spokane City Council as part of a tenant protection package in February 2023. The fees collected from landlords are intended to cover the costs of the inspection and registration program.

Spokane’s recently passed ordinance requiring advanced notices for rent increases was another cost driver example given by Corker.

“The state requires 60 days,” Corker said. “The Legislature failed to pass a bill increasing notices because the state realized their actions were making low-income housing worse but the city went ahead anyway.”

He believes the 180 day notice requirement for a rent increase of more than 3% will lock in rent increases by requiring landlords to predict costs including taxes and fees up to five months in advance.

“I’m the first Democrat to take over leadership of the landlord association and our membership has worked hard with agencies to keep people in their homes,” said Corker. “And now the Spokane City Council wants to pass a $200,000,000 police and fire levy to fund programs for the homeless that will cost every property owner.”

The Spokane City Council voted 5-2 on April 29 to put Mayor Lisa Brown’s proposed five year levy of $1 per $1000 of assessed value on the August ballot.

Corker pointed out the 2024 Legislature had failed to pass any rental assistance except for those who were currently homeless.

“Evictions in Spokane County are up 273% in the first quarter of 2024,” he said. “My own property taxes have gone up 19% in the last two years. This is devastating to families.”

Corker said as a Democrat he sees a role for government, but government can’t do it all, noting, “90% of people who are landlords and 90% of tenants do the right thing. We keep writing laws that penalize them. Things have got to change.”

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