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Wake-Up Call 

by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & "W & lt;/span & e are a little challenged," said Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession this week after he announced that he has appointed a 21-member task force to study the city's short- and long-term problems related to affordable housing.

Hession acknowledged he created the group because of worries that a few hundred low-income residents of the Commercial building, the New Madison Apartments and the Otis Hotel will soon lose their living spaces because their homes will be converted to other uses. He says the task force will be asked to write a policy that governs emergency situations, such as the one that now reigns on a two-block section of West First Avenue. "We've announced to our task force that they have 60 days to study the problem and give us a status report," says Hession.

Then, he says, the group will be charged with taking a bigger look at Spokane's housing situation and developing a 10- to 20-year plan to create more affordable housing.

Might the city require builders to designate part of their developments for low-income housing, as a few cities do? "I don't know yet," says the mayor, although he says the city has adjusted its policy of deferring property taxes for targeted multi-family developments to give longer tax breaks to projects that include housing for poor people.

"It is clear that a solution will require funding from multiple sources -- local, state and federal agencies along with social service providers and the private sector," says Rep. Timm Ormsby (D-Spokane), who will serve on the mayor's task force.
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