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Spokane nonprofit to build upscale, yet affordable low-income housing

Community Frameworks is starting construction on 46 rental apartments for low-income families. Rent starts at $250 a month.

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash — Spokane’s housing shortage has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, but a nonprofit is starting construction on a low-income rental home development that will let low-income families live affordably. 

Sinto Commons is being built by Community Frameworks and their partners. 

The Spokane City Council just approved a small sales tax increase to pay for incoming affordable housing, which could take place in April 2021. This project has been in the works for multiple years.

"A project like Sinto Commons is going to be one part of the larger solution, but we obviously need way more housing," Community Frameworks CEO Deb Elzinga said. "Literally thousands of units are needed to fill the gap that exists."

Sinto Commons is being made possible by multiple partner agencies, including the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, the Washington State Department of Commerce, Transitions, PNC Bank, Banner Bank, the Spokane Housing Authority, City of Spokane and Spokane County. 

Community Frameworks team led by Senior Housing Developer Mary May, along with Walker Construction and ZBA Architecture, are the primary development partners in this effort.

With the help of federal and state funding, Sinto Commons will be for individuals or families making between $16,000 and $40,000 a year. 

"We've dedicated half of the apartment homes to go to people who have been experiencing homelessness," Elzinga added. "People who have already been struggling - the poor, Black people, and communities of color have been particularly hit hard."

Credit: Community Frameworks
Sinto Commons

Since they have received funding, they are able to keep rent costs low. 

"Rent starts at $250 a month," Development Director John Chatburn said. "It will probably cap at $1,150." 

This may sound too good to be true, but Chatburn said there is a reason for that.

"The way that we structure funding for properties that serve low-income people is we try to make sure that it isn't a heavy debt burden," he said. "That allows us to keep the rents low."

This allows them to have flexibility with the rents and to keep them at a manageable level.

The company says even though the rent will not be extremely expensive, it will not look like stereotypical low-income housing. They say it will be indistinguishable from other apartment buildings, so people can feel proud of where they live.

"If we can't help those that are in difficult situations to have a better quality of life," Elzinga said. "I just don't think we are doing well as a community." 

The development is scheduled for completion in December 2021, but applications to move in will come out a few months prior.

Sinto Commons will feature eight studios, 11 one-bedroom, 25 two-bedroom and 3 three-bedroom apartments, indoor common areas, outdoor play areas, and onsite parking.