More than $17M awarded to develop affordable housing across Pierce County

Despite inflation fears, Tacoma will need nearly 10,000 houses ‘For Sale’ to meet expected demand over the next three years, according to the latest forecast from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The department also predicts only 1,300 new homes will be built in that same period. 

With such an unbalanced demand versus supply problem, Pierce County is stepping up to help build solutions for those who would be outbid in such a competitive market.

Pierce County Human Services is awarding more than $17 million for nine affordable housing and low-income housing development projects. The Pierce County Council approved use of the funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. Several local organizations are receiving the money to develop 335 new units across the county.

Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity is one of the developers. CEO Maureen Fife said the developments are steps in a positive direction to help people struggling in a competitive housing market.

"It is an immense lift for families, low and moderate-income families, that are working hard that have not been able to qualify for anything on the market," said Fife.

The dollars will fund a diversified housing need, including houses, townhomes and apartments for disabled adults, senior citizens and those experiencing homelessness.

"We are at an incredible deficit for affordable rentals as well as normal units, on the market units. So, with this huge cash infusion, they have a chance to really leverage that and make a difference," said Fife, referring to Pierce County’s plan.

"I think, one, it creates hope in our community that there is light at the end of the tunnel. And, two, instead of talking about it, we’re actually walking the walk now," said John Barbee, community services division manager for Pierce County Human Services.

To put the plan into action, Barbee explained the county started by hiring a consultant to see what the affordable housing need actually is.

"It told us that we need approximately 2,300 units annually added for the next 20 plus years. So, that’s kind of been our benchmark and we’ve got to figure out a way to get that," said Barbee. "There’s still $12 million of unmet needs of our $29 million ask. So, we’re going to hopefully put some resources into place. We’ve generated that waiting list and we’ll just plug away."

The development projects are at the beginning stages of construction. Habitat for Humanity has two developments in Tacoma, with the goal of finishing at least one of them in two years. 

Though the county is $12 million away from the annual goal, Barbee said at last this new opportunity is an encouraging start. Soon, it will be a new start for families longing for a place to call their own.

"It’s security for their children. Their family won’t be moving every six to 12 months because the rent went up. Those kids will have stability in their classroom, with their peers," said Fife. "Parents didn’t realize how tense they were and how that affected their relationship with their kids, at their jobs. But when they had a chance to actually breathe and know that this house was theirs, it made all the difference in the world."