Cornerstone Helps People Live, Work Downtown

SPOKANE – After concerns were raised that Spokane was facing a low income house crisis comes a step to solve the problem with a facelift for an old downtown building and 50 low-income rental units.

For some time now city leaders have been trying to find ways to get people who work downtown to live downtown but the big issue though is that many of the people who work downtown are in the service industry. They are waiters and cashiers and most make minimum wage.

Combine that with the huge jump in downtown housing prices and many who work downtown believe they can’t afford it. For example, as a struggling artist Kirsten Stobie thought living downtown would break her budget.

“I never thought I’d be able to live down here,” she said.

But Kirsten Stobie is living downtown now in the Cornerstone Apartments, located in a renovated downtown warehouse with a brand new look, new appliances, large rooms, clean bathrooms and most importantly affordable rental rates.

“My friends that see the apartments, they can’t believe it’s low income,” Kirsten said.

Lucy Lepinski with Northeast Washington Housing Solutions says there is a tremendous need for affordable housing downtown and that need was amplified last summer when the city core lost nearly 200 low income rental units with the closure of the Otis Hotel and two other buildings.

Lepinski says that while the Cornerstone won’t replace all of the lost housing units it will go a long way. People living here have to make less than half the median income in Spokane and a family of four has to make less than $29,000 to qualify.

“We have a single father who is a line cook at the Davenport, we have a gentleman with his children who works at Comcast,” Lepinski said, listing a few of the tenants.

Lepinsky hopes those who can now afford to live in downtown will invest in it like Kirsten Stobie, who is able to walk to work and the store from her downtown apartment. As new neighbors are still moving in, Kirsten knows they will all share something in common, a desire to live in a place that had been up until now out of their reach.

“It’s people who really deserve it. They just need some help,” she said.

Northeast Washington Housing Solutions owns the Cornerstone Apartments as well as the building next door which they plan to convert into 35 additional low income units and should be ready for tenants by October of 2009.