Cantwell touts affordable housing solution in Woodland

Senator makes rounds touting increase in federal tax credit

By Lauren Dake, Columbian Political Writer

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WOODLAND — U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell said Friday the lack of affordable housing is a nationwide crisis that could be alleviated by increasing a federal tax credit.

“If we don’t increase the tax credit, we’re not going to solve this problem,” Cantwell said, adding that 90 percent of the current affordable housing on the market has been built using this incentive structure.

In Woodland on Friday, the Democrat met with affordable housing advocates at the Lilac Place complex. The complex opened in 2014 and houses 38 families, 28 of whom had been homeless. It has a wait list of more than 200 people, many of whom will likely be on the list for a long time.

Melody Ray, one of the residents who feels “blessed,” in her words, to be living at Lilac Place, invited the senator to view her apartment.

Ray lives in a two-bedroom, two-story apartment with her three young grandsons. Cantwell walked into the apartment, and immediately walked over to a sign hanging on the wall that read, “In this house, we are real. We are happy. We love. We say ‘I’m sorry.’ We forgive. We hug. We are family.”

Cantwell looked at the sign and asked Ray’s two young grandsons, who were sitting on the couch, how they felt about the words on the wall.

She told Keyonne Hill, 10, and Horace Hill, 9, “You’re helping us tell a story.”

“What’s the story?” Keyonne asked.

Before moving to the apartments, the boys bounced around with their grandmother and were not in stable living situations.

Cantwell, said it was a story about how not having a roof over your head makes it “pretty hard to be a family.”

Several Lilac Place tenants shared similar stories of struggling to stay off the streets.

April Anderson, 33, moved to Lilac Place two years ago, escaping a domestic violence situation with her daughter.

“This place, it’s really changed our lives,” she said.

Since 2000, Washington state residents have seen an increase in rent by 7.8 percent. At the same time their incomes have been declining.

The measure Cantwell is championing would create approximately 400,000 new affordable housing units in the nation. About 35,000 of those would be in Washington state, according to information from Cantwell’s office.

Last month, Cantwell stopped in Vancouver to tout her measure to expand the low-income tax credits. She plans to travel throughout the nation to promote the idea and plans to introduce a bill expanding low-income tax credits in Congress in September.