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Collaboration increases number of affordable houses

Once unaware that many people could not afford to rent a home, Cindy Algeo now fosters collaboration among nonprofits and housing developers to increase the number of affordable homes for renters and homeowners.

Cindy Algeo
Cindy Algeo has been director of the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium for 20 years.

As director of the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium (SLIHC) for six of its 20 years, she believes “communities are stronger and healthier when everyone has a place to call home.”

Since it started in 1990, the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium’s member agencies have developed more than 3,200 affordable rental homes and more than 2,000 home-ownership opportunities for low-income individuals and families.

“In today’s economic environment, the need for affordable housing is as great as ever,” said Cindy.  “We are also working together to build our efforts to provide affordable low-income housing by contacting state legislators to re-capitalize the Housing Trust Fund, a major source of funding for affordable housing.”

She believes the strength needed to face funding gaps comes through member organizations sharing resources.

To reduce homelessness, the SLIHC seeks to identify additional resources, including partnerships with congregations and foundations.  It is also reviewing housing funding options, developing a housing leadership curriculum and suggesting efficiency options to members.

In 1989, a Greater Spokane Coalition Against Poverty (GSCAP) report supported the need “to increase availability and accessibility to appropriate and affordable housing for low-income residents.”

In March 1990, GSCAP’s Housing Task Force initiated a plan to formalize inter-agency collaboration on low-income housing development and advocacy by forming the nonprofit consortium with 10 members.

Today it has 29 full members—nonprofit organizations and public housing authorities involved in developing low-income housing—plus 14 associate members and 13 supportive members.

Full members have a representative on the SLIHC board.

Associate members are nonprofits involved in any aspect of low-income housing—development, ownership, management or support.  They provide input to the board and serve on committees.

Supportive members are individuals and organizations that support the consortium’s mission, projects and activities—offering input to the board and serving on committees.  They include banks, lenders, contractors, attorneys and others who promote their services to consortium members.

The consortium offers such technical services for members as a revolving loan fund, the Housing Opportunity Fund (HOF), for land acquisition and infrastructure.  It has monthly meetings on housing, does surveys, and offers trainings and seminars.  It has bought land and paid for infrastructure costs for 12 home-ownership units.  In 2010, it supported developing 33 low-rent apartments at Market Street Station in Hillyard.

SLIHC’s OneStopHousing.org, is a web-based housing locator resource that connects people with affordable-housing listings.

Online since 2006, the website has more than 4,000 visits monthly.  It is free for rental seekers, service agencies and landlords.  Many access it through computers at agencies and libraries.

The SLIHC also has a three-year project to implement new ways to reduce homelessness, working with 12 community partners—including the City of Spokane and Spokane County—to implement “centralized intake” and “rapid re-housing.”

“Early on, the partners concluded that our regional Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), administered by the city, had the capability to be our centralized database/intake tool,” Cindy said.

To ensure high use of the system, the city convened an HMIS Users Group and increased training.  Now 12 agencies that operate more than 60 programs to reduce homelessness participate in it.

As the quality of data has improved, the region has become more competitive in securing funds to prevent and reduce homelessness.

Cindy said a pilot program that moves people into permanent housing, the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), began in Spokane with funds from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Lessons from this program will help the region implement a long-term rapid re-housing program tailored to Spokane, Cindy said.

Along with it, government funding for shelters and transitional housing programs must continue, because rapid re-housing does not work for everyone. Many options are needed.

The consortium educates people on housing issues through its monthly newsletter and events for low-income housing residents, organizations, interested people and public officials.  It is also on local and state committees on affordable housing to share awareness of common concerns.

For example, when Spokane had to find homes for 200 downtown residents displaced in 2007, the SLIHC served on an ad hoc Affordable Housing Task Force with the nonprofit, public and for-profit communities to help every person secure a new home.

Cindy grew up on a family farm near Cottonwood, Idaho, and was in St. Gertrude Academy’s last graduating class in 1970. She moved to Spokane in the early 1970s to attend Gonzaga University and stayed after graduating.

She married, became a stay-at-home mother and did some volunteering, including delivering food for Meals on Wheels.

“I was somewhat isolated from social challenges,” Cindy said. 

Her awareness of barriers that low-income people face in accessing affordable housing came when she entered Eastern Washington University in the early 1990s to study public administration.

Following a class presentation on the Spokane Housing Authority, she began an internship with the authority that became her master’s degree project.  After graduating, Cindy joined the Spokane Housing Authority’s staff, where she worked 10 years before starting at the consortium.

Cindy said SLIHC members are mission-driven to provide homes and services for low-income residents, and that low-income people are courageous and grateful.

“My father taught me through word and action that it is important to share our wealth with others,” Cindy said. “By serving others we serve the Lord.”

For information, call 325-3235 or visit slihc.org