Housing, Affordability and Homelessness
Affordable housing and homelessness are like first cousins: closely related but different enough to notice. As a person with a disability and who has also experienced homelessness, I understand the relationship.
Affordable housing means you can pay the rent or mortgage (and utilities) with no more than 30 percent of gross income. So if your family makes $50,000 a year, “affordable” means rent at $1,250 a month. Which is the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Tacoma today.
A lot of people can’t afford $1,250 a month unless they skip meals or don’t buy new shoes for their children. That’s the affordable housing problem.
And that’s why the City encourages private sector builders with tax incentives: the more apartments and houses we have, the slower rents go up. It’s basic supply and demand.
That’s also why the City supports nonprofit developers like the Tacoma Housing Authority, Mercy Housing, and others. These builders focus on housing for very low-income people.
But there’s not enough low-income housing, and sometimes low-income people experience homelessness. The City, the County, and many nonprofit agencies work hard to re-house our homeless neighbors, and the programs are pretty successful. With a few months of help, most people get back on their feet.
Now comes the really hard part: some homeless people would be homeless even if housing were free. These folks suffer from behavioral health issues – addictions, a mental health disorder, or a combination. They can’t just move into a vacant apartment. They need help, sometimes for the rest of their lives.
They need what’s called “supportive housing” and there’s not enough of it. I’m committed to working with all of our partners to fund supportive housing. Only then can we get a grip on homelessness, so that the nonprofit sector and for-profit builders can create more affordable housing.
To keep our economy growing, and to be sure everyone can participate, we need several things. One, a business-friendly environment, with sensible, predictable regulations and solid infrastructure. Two, City support for apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs in the building and construction trades, -a key sector of the economy. Three, coordinated education for people starting their own businesses. Four, effective business recruitment with our partners in the Port, the Chamber, and the Economic Development Board. Five, continued emphasis on arts and culture to build our appeal as a visitor destination. And six, a fair share of public works for people in each Council district. As the population of our city increases, I will work to ensure that residents in my district are able to live, work and thrive here.
Working for a Safe and Just City
As the Chair of the City of Tacoma’s Community Vitality and Safety Committee, my top priority is to ensure that District 3 is safe and just for all of its residents. Feeling safe in our neighborhoods requires all of us working together to build a strong community. I will continue to ensure that the Tacoma Fire Department has the resources it needs to maintain being a first-rate municipal fire department. I will continue to advocate for community-oriented policing — meaning police who are on the ground and working are also getting to know the neighborhoods and their residents. I will stand up and fight for solutions that will help keep gun violence in all its forms out of our communities. I will also commit to ensuring that our existing gun responsibility laws are effectively implemented. I will continue to advocate to ensure that Project PEACE is funded and remains a priority for our city. I will work to increase funding for youth employment programs; and I will continue to advocate for funding to provide additional support for drug treatment and mental health services.
Each neighborhood has different needs; we must provide responsible and sustainable services according to the diverse needs of the residents in District 3.