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WA Housing Crisis: Lawmakers Promise a Rescue

December 18, 2007

Olympia, WA – Is "housing security" an oxymoron? A quarter-million Washington State families think so. They're in over their heads on housing costs due to the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market and other calamities.

Gov. Christine Gregoire and state legislative leaders are joining to try to help them. They're asking state lawmakers for $57.5 million for programs that aid low-income renters, homeowners and the homeless, as well as victims of recent flooding.

Ben Gitenstein of the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance says it's the first-ever joint effort by state lawmakers to address the troubles many families are facing.

"People need help who didn't used to need help. And that's really an effect of the mortgage crisis, making people really afraid that they're going to lose their homes. It's also an effect of shrinking affordable housing resources and of stagnant wages."

Gitenstein says about 250,000 Washington households can't afford their monthly living arrangements. They have to make choices between paying their rent or mortgage, and buying other basic necessities. He adds that the state does have some good programs in place, but they've consistently been under-funded.

State Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, says he expects resistance from people who will question the cost of some of the ideas, but adds that not everything has to be done in the coming session.

"We're going to look at '08 as an opportunity to get maybe some of the easier, short-term things done. But we know that this is an issue we're going to be facing for a lot of years to come."

Springer is vice-chair of the Housing Committee in the House. He says problems that don't seem directly related to housing, such as transportation and education, also will be improved by updating the state's housing policies.

The new "housing security" proposals can be seen online at www.governor.wa.gov/.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA