It’s been a quieter Spring Break week at the Council offices. We took Monday, April 3rd off to allow Councilmembers with school-aged children some vacation time (although everyone thought we had canceled the meeting to watch Gonzaga play in the National Championship Game!). What an exciting March for Spokane and Gonzaga University. Congratulations to both the Men and Women for making the tournament and for the men’s incredible run at a championship!
On March 20th, Council held our southside neighborhood Town Hall Meeting at the East Central Community Center. I very much appreciated hearing from all the neighborhoods who are working, each in their own way, to develop new connections, address safety, and improve quality of life. I was particularly impressed by the work of the East Central and Rockwood neighborhoods to prepare welcome packets and update their meetings to better accommodate more participation.
On Monday, March 27th, Council approved Gary Kaesemeyer as the new Director of our Streets Department. I look forward to working with him on addressing potholes, updating our Snow Plan and working to maintain and update our streets over the busy upcoming construction season. The major item on our agenda was an update to our Human Rights ordinances at the City. After over 90 minutes of public testimony, the Council adopted the update on a 6-1 vote (CM Fagan opposed). Many thanks to CM Karen Stratton for her work in creating a new “Title 18” in our municipal code and collecting all the human rights-related protections in one place. This will make it much easier for people to access information and ensure their rights are protected.
One new protection that I worked on with CM Stratton was housing non-discrimination based on source of income; that is, you cannot discriminate against renting to a tenant solely based on how they pay (cash, housing voucher, etc.).
Several years ago, through the work I had been doing with community partners to address homeless families in our school system through Priority Spokane and homeless families in NE Spokane through the Zone Project, I became painfully aware that individuals and families who receive housing assistance have a lot of barriers to being able to access safe and affordable housing in our community, especially with the low vacancy rates right now.
I interviewed a local resident, Melissa, for my Council Connection show, which is now airing. She and her partner and son have been searching for housing with their voucher and they are almost up against the 4 month mark. She has a good credit history, she has a good tenant history. She has researched apartments all over the city and county that are in the price range allowed by her voucher.
If a tenant is able to pay the full rent with a voucher and other sources of income, has good credit and no poor tenant history, is it right to reject her outright before she has had a chance to present herself and sources of income? That is, solely on her income status? I don’t believe that is who we want to be in Spokane. I know we believe in choice and opportunity for all and in breaking down barriers to even low-income members of our community to access quality, affordable housing, which is why I strongly supported this addition to our municipal code. I did make a motion to hold off on making this particular section enforceable until July 1st, which will allow a few more details to be worked through with tenants, landlords, the Housing Authority and the City to ensure the new rules are easy to understand and enforce.